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It is said that the COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the single biggest driving forces behind the digitalization of industries ever seen. And although not new within HVAC infrastructures – especially within the food retail environment where it has been rolled out extensively – remote management and automation of HVAC systems is increasingly being used to support supermarket responses to COVID-19. From air filtration through to dynamic scheduling, digitalization of HVAC within the food retail sector is going through something of a renaissance. Pre-COVID Digitalization Software solutions that use Internet of Things (IoT) technology to analyze data from HVAC infrastructures, for example, are common in food retail stores. These solutions work by monitoring mission critical aspects of HVAC systems, from simple temperature data through to complex asset monitoring. This data can then either be fed back to the retailer for them to perform their own analysis or, using more advanced IoT technology, can be used to enact automated HVAC outcomes. Software solutions that use IoT technology to analyze data from HVAC infrastructures are common in food retail stores From preventing HVAC asset’s overworking – and therefore expending too much energy – through to detecting the first stages of a fault and alerting the relevant maintenance engineers, automation has been shown to deliver numerous benefits. These combine to serve the retailer’s primary purposes; enhancing the consumers in-store experience, improving the bottom line and decreasing energy usage to lower carbon footprint. But not only is the digitalization of HVAC helping food retailers drive down costs and energy, advances in areas such as air filtration and dynamic scheduling have meant that it is also being seen as a potential solution to COVID-19 related issues. Filtering Out the Virus Air filtration is a primary focus when looking for ways to keep internal spaces free from pathogens. While not exactly a new feature for HVAC systems, food retailers have been increasingly working towards implementing or improving their existing air filtration techniques in their stores. The solution to keeping air clean and fresh is actually quite straightforward and relies on the same technology that many stores already use to monitor CO2. Advances in areas such as air filtration and dynamic scheduling have meant that HVAC is being seen as a potential solution to COVID-19 By connecting CO2 monitors to a central controls panel (the technical way of describing the place where all of the sensor data is collected and, in some cases, analyzed), sensors are able to detect the CO2 levels instore, signal if they begin to drift past a pre-determined base level, and automatically alert the HVAC systems to provide more fresh air into the store. This is a simple process of optimization. Additional sensors detect when fresh air is either too humid, hot or cold to be filtered into the store and rectify this by automatically adjusting the HVAC. Essentially, monitoring CO2 and air quality levels makes sure the air in a store is constantly fresh and filtered to keep the chances of airborne transmission as low as possible without causing the HVAC systems to expend any more energy than is necessary. Research has shown that COVID-19 spreads through small respiratory droplets that are released into the air from an infected person when coughing, talking or even breathing. Within a store environment therefore, where surface contamination and proximity to other people are likely to increase the chances of transmitting the virus, optimized fresh air flow to dilute indoor air is desirable. By detecting higher levels of CO2 within the air which in turn increases the chances of pathogens floating around, food retailers can automate their HVAC systems to filtrate the air and significantly reduce chances of transmission. Dynamic HVAC Response Air filtration isn’t the only way that food retailers are combining digitalization and HVAC systems to help them navigate the ‘new normal’. With store opening times continually changing, fewer people inside a store at any one time and staff performing additional and stricter clean regimes after hours, the requirements for optimum store temperature have moved from static to dynamic. Before the pandemic, HVAC systems would have to keep an average non-24 hour store at the optimum temperature for between say, 7am and 11pm, and would have to work a little harder to deliver more air into the store during the lunch time rush and post-work peaks – a mostly predictable routine. Research has shown that COVID-19 spreads through small respiratory droplets that are released into the air from an infected person Now, however, with adjusted store schedules and social distancing regulations, the footfall and peak traffic times have changed dramatically. Through digitally enabled remote management of HVAC temperatures and schedules, new schedules could be deployed across the estate at the touch of a button. Real-time monitoring of in-store temperatures and the volume of people inside also enables HVAC systems to run more efficiently by stopping them from filtering in more outside air than is necessary in a shop that contains fewer customers than normal. IoT solutions are ensuring HVAC infrastructures are running efficiently, saving energy, helping a retailer’s bottom line and most importantly, ensuring the comfort and safety of customers and colleagues. However, as retailers look for solutions to the challenges posed by the post-COVID landscape, digitalized HVAC is breathing fresh air into the industry. From improved air filtration to dynamic schedule monitoring, digitalized HVAC systems are proving to be an important tool in a food retailer’s arsenal as they navigate the new normal.
Effective heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems have always been part of maintaining a healthy building environment, and with the impact of COVID-19 and the unique way the virus is spread, it has never been more imperative that HVAC plays a vital role in keeping occupants of buildings safe, especially as people begin to return to the office and other commercial environments. COVID-19 has three known contamination routes. First of all, there is person-to-person transmission, which could be indirect too, if the virus travels from someone to a surface they have touched, which is then touched by another person. Then there is airborne transmission. The British Council for Offices (BCO)’s Thoughts on Office Design and Operation After COVID 19 document talks of large droplets, greater than 10 micrometres, “expelled by sneezing and coughing and in still air, typically within about 2 metres of the infected person.” But Dr Linsey Marr, the Charles P. Lunsford Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech, speaking to the New Scientist says that people emit thousands of times more smaller droplets than larger ones. She thinks that it is these ones that infect people with COVID-19. Then there’s the third contamination route: faecal to oral whereby particles from the toilet can enter people’s respiritory systems when using WCs. Counteracting COVID-19 transmission There are several methods to counteract these routes of transmission. The risk of the virus spreading from person-to-person can be lessened where there is a focus on smart technology. This begins upon arrival at a building, with the use of touchless entry systems, for instance harnessing facial recognition technology. Once inside, staff could then be directed to an area of the office that isn’t already occupied via digital signage or an app. And instead of manually pressing a button, information from the employee’s ID pass about which floor they work on can be read by a card reader, activating the elevator. As for transmissions via surfaces, scientists have emphasized copper’s antibacterial properties, with COVID-19 surviving just a few hours on copper, compared with a number of days for steel or plastic. William Keevil, a senior microbiologist at the University of Southampton, has recently suggested that the UK is behind other countries in using this material on communal areas like handrails and doorknobs. Copper-based nickel would perform better than chrome in certain parts of the office too. The risk of the virus spreading from person-to-person can be lessened where there is a focus on smart technology To dilute airborne contamination, the Chartered Institute of Building Service Engineers (CIBSE) recommends running ventilation systems at a higher flow rate. “This may require changes to C02 set points for both mechanical ventilation and automated windows,” it states in its COVID-19 Ventilation Guidance. Airborne Particles and the need for ventilation Chinese and American academics looking at outbreaks in the Chinese province of Zhejiang found that airborne transmission of the virus may have taken place in 48.3% of people in a badly ventilated office. Essentially to stop the spread of COVID-19, ventilation needs to be increased and more fresh air needs to be brought in. The risk of contamination via recirculated air can be mitigated with a higher level of filtration such as F9. This is a very fine system that will catch nanoparticles of 70nm but does involve greater energy use to overcome the resistance. The alternative is to keep these systems on for much longer – typically two hours before people arrive and then two hours after they leave. CIBSE’s COVID-19 report also states that, “Recirculation of air within a single room, where this is complemented by an outdoor air supply, is acceptable.” Getting abundant fresh air in the system is key. This could be as simple as just opening the windows. The BCO’s report goes so far as to say, “Actively use operable windows and openings to boost ventilation to occupied spaces as much as possible, even if this is at the expense of thermal comfort.” Fan coils and Chilled beams Getting abundant fresh air in the system is key The BCO also recommends that fan coils, which recirculate air locally in the occupied space, “should be frequently and thoroughly cleaned and where condensation occurs, drain pans and traps should be maintained frequently to prevent growth of bacteria and mold.” It is also a recommendation that HepVo traps are installed on condensate systems that drain into waste pipework. As far as chilled beams are concerned, CIBSE says that active chilled beams can be operated as normal, while with passive chilled beams there should be a good supply of air. I would be interested to see some further research on the performance of underfloor and low level air distribution. The lower velocities and laminar air flow associated with these systems causes less air turbulence, particularly in the zone where air is breathed. This would seem to have an obvious advantage in reducing the risk of virus spread in an office environment. Mixed Mode Ventilation The ‘mixed mode’ of ventilation will become more commonplace. When it is not high summer, the cooling can be turned off so windows can be opened. This could even eventually replace the familiar sealed building model. This system can happen automatically with sensors, after all, fresh air is good for people: There are several recent examples of this being done successfully, other building such as London Wall Place, have been designed future proofed for ‘mixed mode’ use to be adopted if this is preferred by a tenant. Meanwhile, to combat faecal-oral transmission, bathroom extraction fans need to be kept on high and again perhaps running the systems for 24 hours a day. Toilets that automatically shut and touchless flushes can also help to stop the spread of the virus. The same goes for anti-bacterial coatings on bathroom doors. Some of clients are considering motorized doors that are effectively ‘touch free’. Post-COVID Ventilation Strategies Toilets that automatically shut and touchless flushes can also help to stop the spread of the virus There is definitely set to be more access to outside air moving forward and there is a strong sustainability argument to be made for this method. However, some of the changes to ventilation strategies being deployed for a post-COVID world will inevitably have some compromises for carbon emissions. If systems are run at a higher rate and for longer, if not continuously, throughout the day then that has implications for a larger carbon footprint, as the buildings become less energy efficient. However, in the middle of a global pandemic, it’s a price worth paying. As energy saving methods (thermal wheels and plate heat exchangers) also present a risk, CIBSE recommends that these are bypassed and not used in the current environment Of course, some of these solutions are temporary but other, smart office elements like touchless versions of door handles, room/desk booking systems (wayfinding) and reception sign-in procedures look set to be with us for the longer term. These all affect the M&E, as well as the architecture and design of buildings. We will overcome COVID-19 but we need to listen to the lessons that we are learning, and some will most certainly become permanent before the next virus that hits the human race comes along!
Challenged to propose a creative summer energy savings tip, Kortney Gaura of Le Claire, Iowa, chose to implement "Anything Can Happen Sundays" in her household, and her submission led her to be named Lennox’ newest "Energy Savings Superstar." The Lennox 2018 “Energy Savings Superstar” Contest offered an opportunity for consumers to think about how they devote their time and energy, and invited them to suggest simple but creative solutions for saving money on their energy bills during the steamy summer months. Gaura’s idea of filling a jar with several energy conserving tips to be implemented as a family created an opportunity for her family to spend more quality time together and save energy at the same time. home comfort solutions This is exactly the type of energy- saving advice Lennox Industries, a renowned provider of innovative home comfort solutions, was looking for when it launched the North America contest, which ran from July through August. "This year, we received hundreds of original yet innovative and creative submissions; however, Kortney Gaura suggested a relatable tip that can easily be implemented in any household wanting to save money and energy, while creating an opportunity for more family time," said Brittani Youman, Energy Efficiency Expert at Lennox. indoor air quality products Participants were encouraged to be clear, creative and above all, have fun with their submissions "Since Lennox is a recognized leader in energy-efficient heating, cooling and indoor air quality products, the Gaura family can rest easy knowing they are receiving world-class Lennox innovations that will maximize their energy savings and will keep them cool for many summers to come." For a chance to win, contestants had to describe their energy-saving tip in 1,000 characters or less, and submit a photo demonstrating their tip in action. The more creative and action-oriented the tip and photo, the better. As the grand prize winner, Kortney Gaura received: $10,000 in Lennox cooling, heating and indoor air quality equipment (including installation by J.L. Brady Company in Moline, Ill) A one-year supply of ice cream Four tickets to a water park near her home heating and cooling system As part of Lennox’ summer-long consumer education initiative on energy savings, hundreds of contestants submitted their tips along with photos of their advice in action via the Lennox Energy Savings Superstar Contest Website. Participants were encouraged to be clear, creative and above all, have fun with their submissions. Lennox selected four finalists to compete in a head-to-head public vote on the company’s website to decide the grand prize winner. "It’s exciting to know we are teaching our children at an early age how to be energy conscious and help save both money and the earth, and it’s something every family can easily do," said Gaura. "Winning a new heating and cooling system has already made a difference in how comfortable our home is, and I’m looking forward to even bigger savings with equipment that is much more efficient than what we had before."
While class has been dismissed for the summer, Lennox, a renowned manufacturer of innovative home comfort products, put homeowners to the test one more time before the official start of summer, and found that while most would pass when it comes to energy efficiency know-how, many may want to hit the books to learn more about how to save money on energy bills and stay cool this summer. Lennox Home Energy Report Card Survey The Lennox Home Energy Report Card Survey, commissioned by Lennox International and conducted by GfK Roper, asked about how people use and conserve energy at home and what they’re willing to do to save money on summer bills. The survey found that homeowners have mixed reactions when receiving a high summer energy bill The survey found that homeowners have mixed reactions when receiving a high summer energy bill. In fact, close to one-third (31 percent) of homeowners would turn up or off the thermostat, while another 28 percent said they would search for unused appliances to unplug. Others start turning off lights or research ways to save energy. Getting a Gold Star in energy efficiency practices Homeowners gave themselves above-average marks in energy conservation. When asked to grade their household on how well they conserve energy at home, nearly two-thirds of homeowners rate themselves above average with an ‘A’ or ‘B’ letter grade (62 percent). Fifteen percent of homeowners gave themselves an ‘A,’ (a 6 percent decrease from 2017), 47 percent gave their household a ‘B’ when grading their household energy efficiency, and 31 percent gave themselves a ‘C.’ Although a large majority (92 percent) have taken steps to conserve energy, it’s clear that a number of homeowners see the opportunity for increased efforts. Taking steps to conserve energy in homes More than 90 percent of homeowners are taking steps to conserve energy in their home. Fifty-five percent of homeowners are programming their thermostats to automatically adjust the temperature when they’re away, and 46 percent of homeowners bought new, more efficient air conditioning and heating systems. “Most homeowners recognize that improving the energy efficiency of their household to save energy and reduce electricity bills doesn’t have to take a lot of time and effort,” said Lennox Energy Efficiency Expert, Brittani Youman. Using low-energy consuming appliances Brittani adds, “Fortunately, there are a few simple steps that can make a big impact on controlling costs, conserving energy, and beating the summer heat, starting with doing some basic things, like changing the air filter on your cooling system, using low-energy appliances and conserving by taking advantage of home automation.” Changes in weather aren’t the only reason homeowners are motivated to crank up (or down) the A/C While homeowners show that they are willing to take steps to conserve energy, they are not likely to sacrifice their comfort over savings. When asked how willing homeowners are to turn the thermostat up to save US$ 50 dollars a month on their utility bill, 37 percent would be willing to raise their thermostat three to six degrees, while 26 percent would not go any higher than one or two degrees. Changes in weather aren’t the only reason homeowners are motivated to crank up (or down) the A/C. The survey found that 46 percent of homeowners will turn on their air conditioning system for the first time of the year in May or June, while 9 percent of homeowners run their A/C system year-round. Conserving energy to lower power bills When asked to name the family member who complains most about hot or cold temperatures, the female head of household was identified 52 percent of the time, while 26 percent chose the male head of household. While many people proactively take positive actions toward lowering energy bills, some do earn a failing grade for doing more harm than good. Twenty-three percent of homeowners said they have turned off their cooling system completely during hot days or heating systems on extremely cold days to conserve energy. Regulating thermostat temperature settings “While turning off your air conditioning system completely seems like an effective way to conserve energy during the summer, it is actually forcing the system to work overtime to get back to a comfortable temperature,” said Youman. She further adds, “Doing so uses more energy and results in higher bills. Instead of turning off your system, we recommend lowering or raising the temperature of the thermostat or better yet, install a smart thermostat to do it for you.” Lennox Energy Savings Superstar Contest The grand prize winner will receive up to US$ 10,000 in energy efficient Lennox heating and air conditioning products Luckily, homeowners have an opportunity to improve their grade by entering the Lennox Energy Savings Superstar Contest. Between July 1 and August 31, 2018, Lennox invites homeowners to go to their official website to submit a unique and innovative home energy savings tip, along with a fun photo depicting their suggested tip. The grand prize winner will receive up to US$ 10,000 in energy efficient Lennox heating and air conditioning products, along with other ‘cool’ prizes to help them beat the heat this summer. ENERGY STAR Manufacturing Partner of the Year The results of the Lennox Home Energy Report Card survey are based on a telephone survey that was conducted by GfK Roper on behalf of Lennox Industries among 734 homeowners (ages 18 and over) within the U.S. during April 2018. Lennox has been honored four times by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy as an ENERGY STAR Manufacturing Partner of the Year for its outstanding contribution to developing and promoting energy-efficient products.
The dog days of summer are here, and Lennox, a renowned provider of innovative home comfort products, is looking for some cool ideas for saving energy. Most American homeowners believe they deserve a passing grade when it comes to energy efficiency, according to the annual Lennox ‘Home Energy Report Card’ survey, but many also recognize that there is room for improvement. Lennox is giving U.S. homeowners a chance to demonstrate their efficiency I.Q. by sharing their best energy-saving advice for a chance to win up to $10,000 in new, energy-efficient air conditioning (or heating) equipment for their home. Creativity is the key Lennox is accepting entries from homeowners for the contest via the Lennox official website To participate in the Lennox Energy Savings Superstar contest, a homeowner must submit his or her most creative and effective tips for saving energy at home, along with an original, creative photo depicting the tip. Lennox is accepting entries from homeowners for the contest via the Lennox official website. The contest will remain open through August 31, 2018. PureAir S whole-home air purification system included in prizes A panel of judges will select four (4) homeowners with the most unique advice and creative photos to participate in a head-to-head public vote on the Lennox website to determine the winner of the ultimate heat-busting grand prize, which includes: Prize package includes a PureAir S whole-home air purification system and/or other Lennox heating, cooling and indoor air quality equipment selected by winner, not to exceed $10,000 USD in total value (including installation costs) A one-year supply of ice cream Four one-day tickets to a water park near the winner’s home Lennox Home Energy Report Card Survey “The annual Lennox Home Energy Report Card survey was just released. We found that there are many U.S. households that still need to take their energy efficiency efforts to the next level by taking proactive steps, such as replacing an old, inefficient air conditioning system with a new energy efficient model, which will ultimately lead to significantly lower energy bills,” said Brittani Youman, Energy Efficiency Expert at Lennox. Brittani adds, “The Lennox Energy Savings Superstar contest, gives homeowners the opportunity to share their best energy savings advice in order to inspire others to improve their grade in Energy Savings 101 - and win the most reliable, quiet, and energy efficient home comfort products available on the market today.” How to Enter the Lennox Energy Savings Superstar Contest Interested individuals can visit the Lennox Energy Savings Superstar contest website and complete the online entry form by August 31, 2018. Provide a unique and innovative tip for saving energy at home (in 1,000 characters or fewer) Upload an original, creative and interesting photo showing how homeowners save energy at home. Creativity of the energy-saving tip The grand-prize winner will be judged on the originality and creativity of their energy-saving tip The grand-prize winner will be judged on the originality and creativity of their energy-saving tip and their photo depicting how they save energy at home. The official contest rules are available on the Lennox website. The contest is open to legal residents of the U.S. and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 years or older as of July 1, 2018 and who own their own non-mobile home with an existing central heating and air conditioning system that includes installed ductwork that is part of the permanent infrastructure of the home. The official winner of the contest, based on online votes, will be announced on or before Oct. 3, 2018. Facts from 2018 Lennox Home Energy Report Card Survey: When asked to grade their household on how well they conserve energy at home, nearly two-thirds of homeowners rated themselves above average with an ‘A’ or ‘B’ letter grade (62 percent). When asked to name the biggest energy hog in the home, female and male heads of household were nearly equally identified (33 percent versus 32 percent); while 22 percent of homeowners said it was the child/children who are the most wasteful. When asked to name the family member who complains most about hot or cold temperatures, the female head of household was identified 52 percent of the time, while 26 percent of respondents named the male head of household. The results of the Lennox Home Energy Report Card survey are based on a telephone survey that was conducted by GfK Roper on behalf of Lennox Industries among 734 homeowners (ages 18 and over) within the U.S. during April 2018.