Sustainable HVAC design is an important innovation for the industry, as well as for the planet and economy. Business owners, homeowners and HVAC contractors can all benefit from learning more about it. Here’s a look at the reasons why sustainable HVAC design concept is taking off in such a big way, along with some design tips for getting it right.
1. Reduces Emissions and Fossil Fuel Use
The global call to divest from fossil fuels, drive down energy consumption and reduce greenhouse gases are three of the most urgent reasons for engaging in sustainable HVAC design. In New York City alone, providing hot water and heating for the built environment represents 42 percent of the city’s entire greenhouse gas footprint.
The governor’s office has committed to generating one-quarter of New York’s heat from heat pumps by 2030. Heat pumps have been around since the 1940s, but they’re enjoying renewed appeal as an alternative to boilers and furnaces that rely on fossil fuels. Beginning in 2020, they’ll also be subjected to more stringent DOE regulations for operational efficiency and energy use.
In the colder months, these pumps transfer heat from the air or the ground into the building. In summer, they move warm air from indoors to the outdoors to cool the space instead. Their straightforward, energy-saving operation can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 54 percent over the system’s lifetime.
2. Saves Energy and Money
As much as 30 percent of the energy generated for use in commercial buildings goes to waste. As building managers and HVAC engineers find upgrades and investments to make in the name of saving power, they inevitably help realize cost savings at home and in the workplace. It’s also important to remember that sustainable HVAC design doesn’t deliver cost savings once — it does so over the entire lifecycle of the system and the building.
Choosing the right designs and technologies could reduce the cost of climate control by millions or even billions of dollars over a building’s entire lifecycle. HVAC systems typically last on average for around 10 to 15 years, which is a long time to have to deal with higher-than-necessary energy expenses and greenhouse gas emissions.
It’s important to remember that sound HVAC design must be matched by architectural features like insulative window glazing, weather-stripping and other efforts to tighten the building’s climate envelope, plus a building orientation that allows for passive solar heating and cooling.
3. Delivers Convenience for Residents
Sustainable HVAC designs tend to incorporate comfort-minded and productivity-boosting technology features, such as learning thermostats and room occupancy sensors. For business owners and homeowners alike, sustainability and cost savings go hand-in-hand with modern conveniences and automation features.
Knowing home or building systems won’t be activated unless they’re needed helps households and businesses engage in more accurate energy modeling and budgeting. According to Google, the Nest learning thermostat can save users 10-12 percent on heating costs and up 15 percent on cooling. Property owners get rooms that are the right temperature all the time.
As far as design tips go, it’s important to remember that smart lighting, heating and cooling systems aren’t a silver bullet. All the automation features in the world won’t make an oversized or undersized heating or cooling system cost-effective or efficient. Architects and HVAC engineers must work closely with digital models and simulations to “right-size” the network for the amount, shape and orientation of the area in question.
4. Encourages Long-Term Planning
One of the most welcome effects of sustainable HVAC design is that it unites each building system discipline under the banner of long-term planning.
For instance, choosing sustainable and efficient equipment and materials isn’t about delivering the lowest day-one bid for a project any longer. It’s about providing a holistic design that will stand up to the rigors of the chosen climate and deliver cost-effective operation over the long term.
The material sciences and the principles of sustainable HVAC system design dovetail in some interesting and convenient ways. For example, one of the keys to ensuring a building remains energy-efficient over its lifetime is to ensure that future renovations and additions don’t compromise the designs already in place and reduce the efficiency of the space.
With that in mind, waterproof and fire-resistant recyclable ductwork is a great addition to sustainable HVAC systems. They’re cheaper and use less material than sheet metal ductwork while requiring 20 percent less insulation, and they allow much easier alterations as needs change. It's vital to learn as much as possible about how each building system relies on the others and how one material or equipment decision today can cause problems or create opportunities down the road.
For the best results, it’s also important for contractors and architects to know about which emerging technologies provide the best return over time compared to their initial expense. Energy and heat recovery systems for commercial locations are a great example of a system with a higher initial price but substantially lower lifetime costs.
5. Aids in Data Analysis and Energy Management
Efficient and sustainable HVAC systems can become vital parts of the smart electric grid. A smart grid allows the two-way flow of energy and data between every node. They are also more resilient in the face of potential blackouts and storm conditions, since outages are localized and easier to trace to their source by utility companies.
Homes and buildings with modern, efficient HVAC systems can communicate more effectively with utilities about their current energy usage and projected requirements. This helps power companies automatically balance the grid by activating and deactivating power generation sites and matching the power-generating ability of each node with current grid capacity and the amount of energy stored in on-site batteries.
The choice of HVAC and energy equipment in the home or workplace helps contribute to a more efficient and stable energy grid and market overall. Modern HVAC equipment builds on the Internet of Things. It improves our ability to understand the built environment, how it impacts its inhabitants and surroundings, and how best to go about changing it without undermining energy-saving efforts.
Sustainable HVAC Design for a Healthier Planet and Profits
Individuals and companies can choose for themselves what sustainability means to them. Still, it’s clear that rethinking our current approaches to HVAC system design must be a major part of it. If it’s time to upgrade or replace your system, remember the benefits of choosing sustainable products, materials and building designs. Your bottom line and the planet will thank you for doing what you do while keeping the future in mind.