Sustainability and environmental impact are core issues of the HVAC market in 2020 or any year. During the last year, HVACinformed.com has addressed multiple facets of sustainability in some of our most popular articles.

This retrospective will highlight some of the sustainability articles published during 2020 at HVACInformed.com. An HVACInformed.com Expert Panel Roundtable commented on various aspects of sustainability, including the responsibility of HVAC manufacturers to develop more sustainable, energy-efficient products that can reduce a building’s reliance on fossil fuels.

Energy consumption pattern

Honeywell has launched a platform that incorporates newer technology. Combining self-learning algorithms with building automation, Honeywell Forge Energy Optimization is a cloud-based system that analyzes a building’s energy consumption pattern and adjusts its settings.

Heat networks, or district heating, are becoming an ever-greater part of the industry’s involvement

Pete Mills of Bosch Commercial & Industrial outlines how cities are using ‘heat networks’ to achieve carbon emission targets in the United Kingdom. Heat networks, or district heating, are becoming an ever-greater part of the industry’s involvement in larger-scale schemes. The ability to help the decarbonization of heat both now and in the future has made them an attractive solution to the new-build sector, as well as those undergoing deep renovation works.

Centralized heat generator

Generally, heat networks are defined as a system of supply pipes with a centralized heat generator (Energy Center) that serves multiple domestic or non-domestic dwellings. These are usually in different buildings, but sometimes within a single large building like an apartment block or a university campus.

Some U.S. cities are taking the lead to make building performance standards mandatory, thus providing additional incentive for customers to invest in new, more efficient and climate-friendly HVAC technologies. New York City has deployed its Carbon Mobilization Act, which will cut six million tons of CO2 annually by 2020. Washington D.C. adopted the first Building Energy Performance Standard, which will reduce energy use in buildings by more than 20%, thereby lowering carbon dioxide emissions by a million tons annually.

Improving environmental performance

Newer buildings tend to be designed to be ‘green’, but what about older existing buildings, which still represent the largest share of environmental impact? There is more work to be done in the retrofit sector; and improving environmental performance of older buildings often involves ‘deep retrofits’ that are costly and impact multiple factors inside a building. In the COVID-19 era, there is also growing concern about needs such as circulating outside air, increasing humidity, and improving filtration systems even as older buildings seek to become greener.

The consistent theme is a need to work toward better-designed, more energy efficient and healthier buildings

The consistent theme is a need to work toward better-designed, more energy efficient and healthier buildings. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is moving forward with rulemaking that sets limits and deadlines to decrease the use of refrigerants with global warming potential (GWP) in the commercial refrigeration market and in the residential and commercial stationary air conditioning equipment markets.

Air conditioning systems

California regulations are widely expected to influence the direction of other states seeking to regulate GWP of refrigerants. The addition of biodiesel lowers the carbon content (and thus the environmental impact) of heating oil. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says biodiesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions, including nitrogen oxide.

The process of making biodiesel from renewable and organic sources also boosts the environmental profile. The Wyss Institute at Harvard University has developed an evaporative cooling system that uses a specially coated ceramic to cool air without adding humidity. Researchers say the approach can yield more affordable and environmentally friendly air conditioning systems for the future.

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Carbon Dioxide Levels In Buildings Correlate With Airborne COVID-19 Spread
Carbon Dioxide Levels In Buildings Correlate With Airborne COVID-19 Spread

The amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in a poorly ventilated indoor space depends on the number of people who exhale their breath in that space. And aerosol virus contained in exhaled breath is a common way that COVID-19 germs are spread. Therefore, might the CO2 level in a given space serve as an approximation of the likelihood of coronavirus spread? Broadly speaking, poor ventilation of indoor spaces can increase the likelihood of aerosol transmission, and a higher CO2 level is an indicator of insufficient ventilation. In indoor spaces, the CO2 concentration should not exceed 1,000 parts per million (ppm), which is higher than the 400 ppm concentration in the fresh air. Deployment Of CO2 Sensors Measuring aerosols in the air is complex and expensive. However, measuring CO2 is inexpensive. Using low-cost and compact CO2 sensor devices can help to warn against high concentrations of CO2 in the air, and by extension, the likely higher levels of aerosols and greater virus spread. Seeking to provide a warning of high CO2 levels (and thus a likely higher concentration of aerosols) points to a need to increase deployment of inexpensive CO2 sensors in a variety of applications. The simplest implementation might be a CO2 traffic light that signals air quality changes with red, yellow, and green lights. Data Analysis, Remote Access, & Monitoring CO2 sensors tied to the cloud for data analysis, remote access, and monitoring and linked to other IoT devices CO2 sensors can also be tied to the cloud (along with other sensors) for data analysis, remote access, and monitoring. They might be linked to other Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as air purifiers and thermostats. CO2 sensors that are the most accurate tend to be bulky and expensive. However, using a microelectromechanical system (MEMS) technology, a CO2 sensor based on photoacoustic spectroscopy (PAS) can analyze CO2 concentration in parts per million. It provides precise results in a small format. CO2 Levels Proxy For COVID-19 Transmission Each person in a building will exhale approximately 8 liters of air per minute. The air has been in contact with lung tissue and contains tiny liquid droplets (aerosols) that can float in the air. Exhalation air also has a concentration of about 40,000 ppm of carbon dioxide, which increases the CO2 levels in a room. In effect, CO2 levels can be used as a proxy for COVID-19 transmission risk. Evidence shows that long-range aerosol-based transmission routes play an important role in transmitting the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Therefore, analyzing aerosol concentration provides an indicator of the safety of an indoor space. Because of the close link between indoor CO2 concentration and aerosol density, using CO2 sensors to monitor an indoor environment can help to monitor possible indoor spread. CO2 Monitoring The Federation of European Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning Associations (REHVA) in Germany has published guidelines for schools to use CO2 monitoring, including the use of a traffic light indicator. In addition to CO2 levels, other factors should also be considered when determining infection risks, such as the number of infected people in a region, activity type, air filtration, and mask-wearing. Activities such as talking, singing, or shouting can increase risk. Ventilation using outdoor air dilutes both CO2 and virus concentrations. Germany’s Federal Environment Agency’s general guidelines for health assessment of carbon dioxide in indoor air include advice relevant to COVID-19. The guideline classifies any CO2 concentration between 1,000 and 2,000 ppm as questionable; anything above 2,000 is unacceptable.

2021 Technology Trends In The HVAC Industry
2021 Technology Trends In The HVAC Industry

As we look back at 2020, we are all reflecting on the year that was, and what we have learned from it. In the HVAC space, the year provided us with opportunities for growth and change, as we adjusted to our “new normal.” Here’s a look at some of the HVAC trends we see happening now taking hold as we head into 2021. Advancements and applications in indoor air quality - especially in HVAC space (SF / MF / CRE) 2020 was filled with starts and stops with regards to innovation. Covid-19 halted work in some facilities altogether earlier in the year. The pandemic has brought with it a re-energized interest in the air quality around us, especially in the public sector. There has been a newfound imperative in creating indoor air quality solutions that ensure that air is circulated, sanitized and purified to reduce the likelihood of the spread of sickness. This is a massive issue and 2021 will see growing efforts in these areas and the increased introduction of systems that will purify air quality. HVAC building systems Continued push toward energy efficiency (mainly SF but also CRE) Energy efficiency will be an ongoing issue into the foreseeable future. Once we have looked back at 2020’s carbon emission reductions (because fewer people were flying and driving) there will be no turning back. The same can be said for HVAC. Increased efficiency will continue to be an ongoing pursuit in 2021 and beyond. On average, HVAC appliances consume 48% of a household’s total energy usage. The latest generation of smart thermostats that use the newer 410A refrigerant have brought about reduced energy consumption by up to 35% optimizing how HVAC building systems are operated (reducing the possibility of leaving the AC on too long, and when it’s not necessary to use). convenience and energy savings Increase in supply chain management / platform services HVAC services such as those that collect and manage data including HVAC unit age, efficiency and condition at the property and portfolio level will continue to see increased adoption. These convenience and energy savings they provide is being seen in the multi-family and commercial space, especially with some building owners having been grounded by the pandemic in 2020. New construction had a role in expanding interest in HVAC asset tagging and helping it gain traction in the industry The data gathered by these services can be used in the future to predict HVAC system failures with significant accuracy before they happen. The convenience and potential cost savings acquired by implementing these services will continue to push their popularity into 2021. Additionally, it is interesting to note that new construction in 2020 had a role in expanding interest in HVAC asset tagging and helping it gain traction in the industry. Cataloguing HVAC assets ensures the follow up and guarantees that warranty registration holds and can help track future maintenance during a hold. At the time of sale, the current owner can present true data of the maintenance of these systems, which can increase the current value of the property and can also be used as a tool in negotiation. performing regular maintenance Remote monitoring can be the end to end solution that completes the action behind the alert (CRE mainly) Remote monitoring will continue to see adoption in 2021. Service providers will continue to rely less and less on clients identifying and reporting a problem a heating/cooling issue. The complaint from the tenant may come in some hours after the problem actually starts, and then by the time they get a service request completed, several hours more. And by the time the contractor is on the scene, it is likely more time has elapsed. Remote monitoring also results in regular maintenance, extending the lifetime of a HVAC system. By proactively performing regular maintenance, the overall costs of maintaining a system can be reduced by 40 percent, in addition to ensuring that units are always using the least amount of energy necessary. seamless customer experience Consolidation of HVAC services and equipment - the way people buy - turnkey integrated services One stop shopping for HVAC services and equipment gained popularity in 2020 One stop shopping for HVAC services and equipment gained popularity in 2020 and we will continue to see increased traction in 2021. There are many reasons why developers what to buy equipment directly from the manufacturer, such as convenience, working with a supplier because of its reputation, cost and guarantees on product and services. As more developers buy equipment directly, these manufacturers are responding by helping out with mechanical drawings. This process cuts down the supply chain, allows certainty that correct equipment is quoted, and saves money. The HVAC industry is also turning the corner in becoming more proactive in remediating failing assets and contractors are redoubling their efforts to provide a seamless customer experience increasing customer satisfaction for multi-family communities as well as other means of optimization of services that positively impact tenants, helping increase retention. HVAC providers that can manage the entire process from installation, to job request to invoicing, even reporting and tracking for each job, will be increasingly in demand in 2021.

Start-up and Inspection of Factory-Assembled Cooling Towers After Unplanned Shutdown
Start-up and Inspection of Factory-Assembled Cooling Towers After Unplanned Shutdown

Until very recently the concept of unplanned shutdowns of HVAC systems and other evaporative cooling equipment in facilities was foreign to most building managers. Shutdowns would usually occur on a wholly scheduled basis, when equipment required planned maintenance, component repair, or replacement. But, with the occurrence of the global COVID-19 pandemic which saw hundreds of thousands of workers asked to work remotely literally overnight, we have seen thousands of buildings effectively mothballed with no time for planned system shutdown operations to take place. In this article, we will highlight best practices to follow after an unplanned shutdown of factory-assembled (package) cooling towers as well as inspection and start-up activities. As resources, we recommend following industry best practices as outlined in ASHRAE Standard 188 – 2018 and ASHRAE Guideline 12 – 2020. Additionally, your Water Management Plan, cooling tower user manual, and the advice of your cooling tower manufacturer and water treatment professional are essential resources. Follow HVAC safety protocols We have seen thousands of buildings effectively mothballed with no time for planned system shutdown operations to take place Before beginning inspection and start-up activities, consult with your safety officer and follow all safety protocols. Always shut off electrical power to the tower fan motor prior to performing any maintenance using lockout/tag out procedures. When planning to start up any cooling loop system after an extended period of shutdown, operators must consider the potential hazards that may exist in the stagnant water within the system. One concern is the potential growth of microorganisms, including legionella bacteria. Microorganisms, including Legionella bacteria, can grow in water distribution systems containing water that has been stagnant for longer than five days, as cited in ASHRAE Guideline 12-2020. These systems include community water supply pipes, building plumbing, and evaporative cooling equipment. First steps in starting up a cooling system The first step to a safe evaporative cooling system restart is to confirm that the quality of the water coming into the system is acceptable. That may mean flushing the facility’s feed lines as well as checking for “dead legs” throughout the distribution system. Microorganisms can grow in water distribution systems containing water that has been stagnant for longer than five days For the cooling tower specifically, fully draining and thoroughly cleaning all elements, including the cold and hot water basins and all mechanical equipment, is recommended. More on this later in the article. After cleaning, the cooling tower must be thoroughly flushed with fresh water and refilled. Your water treatment professional may recommend operating the cooling tower at elevated chemical levels verified via biological test before returning the system to standard chemical levels. Upon verifying acceptable water chemistry and biological activity, and documenting the treatment steps, the cooling tower components are ready for inspection before re-starting. Inspections and checks to do before restarting your cooling system Tower casing: Inspect the exterior of the tower for leaks and cracks. We recommend walking around the tower twice. First, be aware of trip points and focus on the lower portion of the tower. The second time look higher for cracks and leaks, signs of vibration and loose hardware, and presence of rust that may have been caused by an overflowing hot water basin. Louvers, Fill & Drift Eliminators: Check louvers for deterioration and excess scale build-up. Inspect the fill media for build-up of scale, algae, and other contaminants. Some light scale is typical on fill and can be easily removed with brushing. If the fill is heavily scaled and damaged, tower performance will be adversely affected. Drift eliminators should be clean and free of debris. Ensure the seals are in place and in good condition. Cold water basin: It is vital that your cold water basin and anti-vortex screens are clean, free of debris, and properly in place. If you have other equipment in your cold-water basin such as basin sweepers that go to side filtration, check nozzle placement to ensure proper water flow. Inspect water level probes, whether manual or electronic, for corrosion. When the basin is clean and operational condition of components is confirmed, refill the cold water basin to the recommended operating level. Hot water basin: Remove the basin covers to clean the water distribution system basin and nozzles. Then properly secure the covers. Piping: Check all supply and return piping to and from the tower; confirm valves are open and the water treatment system is operational. Mechanical Equipment – Fan, Motor, Gearbox, Belt Drive and Driveshaft Fan: Check the fan; blades must turn freely with proper tip clearance between the blade and the shroud. Verify blade pitch to eliminate vibration. Check the fan; blades must turn freely with proper tip clearance between the blade and the shroud. Verify blade pitch to eliminate vibration Motor: Turn the motor manually and confirm hardware is tight and free of corrosion. Moisture and heat are detrimental to motors. Check that open drain holes match motor orientation. Belt drive: Check tension on your belt drive. Inspect pulleys for corrosion and loss of metal in the grooves. Geardrive:  Check oil level. Check oil appearance for cloudiness or particulates, signs of water and other contaminants. Check and lubricate bearings. Driveshaft: Check alignment of driveshafts and couplings. Inspect for corrosion and damage. Check rubber components for cracks and brittleness. Start-Up Procedure Start pumps only with fans off. Check water level in hot water distribution basin and avoid overflow. Confirm water flow through the cooling tower is clean. Check cold water basin. If using a mechanical float valve, ensure that it is functioning correctly. Confirm water level sensor is operating correctly and that make-up water flows when required. Check below and around basin perimeter to rule out leaks. Start the fan motor at low speed – 25-30%. Observe fan operation and listen to confirm free movement with no obstructions. If fan operates freely, increase to full speed; Continue listening for unusual noises and monitor vibration levels in the cooling tower and on the fan deck. This article provides an overview the many considerations necessary to safely restart a factory-assembled cooling tower after an unplanned shutdown. These guidelines are merely a starting point for the process. Always consult the manufacturer and the cooling tower user manual and follow the recommended practices before proceeding. By Stephen Andrew, Parts & Service Manager - EMEA, SPX Cooling Technologies, Ltd., Worcester, UK and Robert Swafford, Aftermarket Channel Manager, SPX Cooling Technologies, Inc., Overland Park, KS, USA.

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