If you were to tell most people that heating and cooling can account for up to half of many buildings’ energy costs, they would not believe you. But that’s exactly what the U.S. Department of Energy has found. Because of this, actively reducing HVAC usage can drastically lower a facility’s energy costs. Here are four ways to begin cutting down on the need for running your building’s heating and cooling.
Protect the Building Envelope
Ensuring that your building envelope is secure is an important step to prevent heat from escaping during the colder months. This can come in the form of replacing old insulation, or ensuring that windows are double-pane. One major source of winter heat loss is poorly insulated skylights. These canallow 35-45% more heat to escape during than vertical windows. When replacing these systems, search for skylights with a low U-value, which represents the heat these systems will allow to pass through them to the outside of the building envelope.
Reduce Heat Gain
On the other side of the equation is thepotential for heat gain. Poor ventilation or windows and skylights which are not designed to prevent this will necessitate running HVAC systems for longer hours. When replacing windows, consider windows treated with glazing which will deflect some of the sun rays. Because the sun often shines straight down into them, skylights also absorb as much as four times the heat that vertical windows do. This massive heat gain can be avoided, however, by integrating skylights with a lower Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC).
Plan for Weather Patterns
While it may not seem related, weatherproofing can have a distinct effect on HVAC costs. Particularly in areas which experience extreme weather patterns, including snow, sleet, and heavy winds, a lack of weatherproofing candrastically reduce interior temperatures. Particularly if moisture penetrates the building exterior, it can be almost impossible to keep climate control usage down.
Minimize Electrical Lighting
Another unexpected cause of high cooling costs is actually artificial lighting. Many artificial lighting methods, from incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescents, actually generate waste heat. This can often times increase HVAC costs without occupants even noticing. One study of this phenomenon by the Energy Center of Wisconsin found that replacing artificial lighting with well-integrated daylighting has the potential toreduce cooling costs by as much as 25%.