The increasing use of IT equipment, the employees to operate them and the office spaces to house them has led to a surge in demand for energy efficient air conditioning installations.
Office complexes and retail outlets account for the vast majority of installations and for good reason too. Businesses need their staff to be comfortable for maximum productivity. In retail stores and outlets, temperatures are controlled for staff and customers’ benefit. The cost of maintaining optimum temperatures… well, that can get out of control and fast.
Do you know much about your air conditioning units?
Not many do. The bill comes in and it’s accounted for as energy, alongside the heating, and other utility bills. Most go about their business completely oblivious to the amount of money being thrown at energy suppliers that could be kept in the business bank account, just by having an economical air conditioning system running.
Given the climate of the UK, there’s really no need for all that much of a sophisticated system. We have cool temperatures most of the year, which allows for HVAC systems to make use of “free cooling coils”. With these, the air is drawn from outside, and then circulated to cool the indoors. The systems that waste energy don’t pull air from outdoors, but instead draw the heated air from indoors, only to cool it with a “fan” coil unit, thus wasting electricity.
There’s no point having your heating running to heat the air up, only to have your air conditioning system kick in to cool it back down again. That’s what causes energy bills to double. Yes, operating an air conditioning system can see your energy bill rise by 100%. Often is the case, it’s because of heating and air con competing to maintain temperatures.
It’s not always the system that’s at fault as it can be the installation. Energy efficiency with heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems is best done with a dead band. That means that the heating and the air conditioning co-operate on the same network with a temperature differential between them for when they’re programmed to start and stop. They’re programmed to operate automatically to maintain a consistent temperature. They do need to work together, on the same network to prevent two systems competing, one heating, and the other cooling at the same time.
As a rule, air conditioning systems should not be operating in temperatures under 24o C. Where the dead band comes in is when the heating is set to maintain that same temperature or very close to it. The Energy Saving Trust recommends a temperature gap (dead band) of 4 OC. This will prevent the two systems operating simultaneously.
For that reason, every air conditioning system must have variable operating temperature controls, otherwise, it would need manual oversight to operate, which would never be efficient for any business.
The Importance of System Zoning
Premises operating super old air conditioning systems are likely to lack this feature. System zoning is the most precise way to control temperatures indoors. And it’s pretty simple too.
The construction of air conditioning systems uses dampers. They open to allow air in to circulate it, and close when the room is warm enough. It doesn’t matter whether it’s using free coil or fan coils to cool the air, when the temperature heats above the pre-set level, the dampers open and the system kicks in to reduce the temperature.
With zone controls, there’s multiple thermostats installed throughout the building, which are all connected to the systems control panel, operating the dampers. The thermostats monitor the temperature of different zones, allowing one area that’s heated to be cooled down, but not in other areas of the building where it’s not needed. For example, in the canteen, where everyone is congregating for lunch, hot cuppas, microwave dinners etc.
For that reason, cost-efficient air conditioning systems will have system zoning unless you’re installing it in a factory or warehouse where zoning is going to make little difference.
That said though…
The Added Incentive
The government is adding incentive’s to businesses to have co-efficient air conditioning units installed through the use of your “Enhanced Capital Allowance”.
Here’s the thing though…
You can’t just take the word of any supplier, or independent contractor who comes along to offer you a system with claims of 20% reduced energy consumption. There are fraudulent claims being made on some systems, and the simplest way to avoid them is to check the official “Energy Technology List” (ETL) which lists all the tested and proven energy efficient systems. You can even search on there to find systems, manufacturers, and if you get a quote on a system you’re interested in having installed, you can verify the model number is listed to back up the claims being made.
If a product isn’t on that list, the ECA claim is void. Air conditioning systems that are proven to reduce your energy costs will be listed. If it’s not listed, it’s likely it’s not as efficient as the manufacturers marketing materials are claiming.
Now, discussions for these purchases can be long, so before ordering any, be sure to re-check the Energy Technology List to ensure it is still listed as it does get updated periodically.
For those looking for a cost-efficient air conditioning system, by using the ECA, the entire cost of the installation can be written off through the allowance in the year of purchase. That can provide a positive boost to cash flow right away, and then cost savings throughout the life of the system.