Winter can be a tough season but Summer can also be hard on office buildings and the people in them. Moreover, as temperatures soar, so do energy bills, especially with air-conditioning. Here are four tips for building and facility managers to keep their buildings cool and energy efficient while saving on running costs.
1. Use shading and blinds
Sunlight invigorates commercial spaces such as the workplace but too much of it can decrease productivity with glare and over-heating. Regulate incoming daylight and unwanted heat gain with a shading solution designed to optimise comfort and lower energy costs.
Select your shading system as a key element of your façade performance. Properly designed blinds reflect direct sunlight to reduce the demand on air conditioning systems, not only in the Summer but all year long.
Fabric matters, so choose well. Fabrics can affect glare and visual comfort. They also play a role in reducing solar heat gain: dual-sided fabrics with a white or silver backing deflect more sunlight. Selecting opacity and colour is key to balancing glare, daylight, views and heat gain.
2. Reduce heat from lighting using LEDs
Not only can LED lighting reduce energy use, it can also reduce air-conditioning costs as it generates less heat compared with other types of lighting such as incandescent lamps. Remember, heat from electrical devices such as lighting and computers must be removed by the HVAC system.
LED lighting can also be dimmed when needed, for even more energy and cooling savings.
As a building or facility manager, if you have been struggling to obtain the green light to upgrade your lighting to LEDs, try calculating the potential air cooling energy savings. When cooling, 1 watt of cooling power is needed to remove 3 to 5 watts of lighting heat, based on the efficiency of your system.
3. Adjust your Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC)
To manage room temperatures, keep an eye on the weather forecast as outside temperatures obviously have a significant impact. If scorching hot weather is expected, start your HVAC system earlier to allow enough time to reach the desired temperature. Avoiding maximum cooling during the peak heat can even provide cost savings if your utility includes peak demand or time of use charges.
4. Automate your HVAC and light control systems
Finally, how do you systematically ensure that your air-conditioning is not running in vacant spaces? That lights which are not required are switched off to reduce the heat load? Or that blinds are in the right position throughout the day? In other words, do you have the level of automation you need in your building?
With the right control systems in place, you can automatically adjust blinds or electric light levels in response to daylight:
Wireless shading systems can be used to automatically control any type of blind (roller, Venetian, traditional curtain, Roman...). They are a perfect retrofitting and renovation solution due to the elimination of communication wiring between components. Note that having all blinds work together on one system does not eliminate personalised control if the needs of a space change throughout the day.
Many motorised shades can also use solar-adaptive shading software to automatically adjust blinds throughout the day in response to the changing position of the sun, thus reducing glare and heat gain whilst saving energy. Customised blind schedules based on building location and façade orientation can be combined with wireless sensors on the windows to properly balance glare, daylight, and heat gain.