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Match your building with new HVAC technologies

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B.C. businesses are spending more money than they need on their heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Outdated, inefficient systems can waste significant amounts of energy, meaning they cost more than they need to.

BC Hydro's innovation and technology team has developed a roadmap process that matches building types with new HVAC technologies. BC Hydro is encouraging businesses to improve their energy performance and lower their operating costs at the same time.

Options for HVAC energy efficiency

The innovation team focused on two types of HVAC systems: rooftop units and chillers.

The non-food retail sector and some office buildings often use rooftop unitsThe team identified a range of components that can be added to the modular units to increase efficiency. Each "tweak" not only improves energy performance and saves money, but also extends the life of the system.

"We are retrofitting some rooftop units at Power Smart demonstration sites," says Irfan Rehmanji, innovation and technology manager. "One technology uses adaptive controls that could result in up to 50% reduction in energy use."

Office towers and institutions often rely on large centralized HVAC systems, often called chillers. These systems are expensive, but they too can realize enormous energy savings through retrofitting with new technologies.

"Building managers tend to just maintain the chiller system until it dies," says Paul Seo, (senior program manager for Power Smart). "So if it has a 15 year life expectancy, they'll keep it for 25 years, and in the last 10 years they'll just use bandaid solutions to maintain them. It saves money in the short term, but it can make the system very inefficient."

There are several options for retrofitting chiller systems. Adding a variable frequency drive (VFD) on the motor allows the system to modulate to any desired operating point between its minimum and maximum, rather than working only on a few set operating points (which tends to over- or under-condition the air in the space). A VFD more precisely matches the system's operation to the need, extending the life of the chiller, and saving electricity and money.

"We're also testing a new Central System compressor (Turbocor) that has an integrated VFD, and is oil free with magnetic bearings," says Rehmanji. "It not only has the potential to be more energy efficient, but it's also smaller and quieter."

HVAC retrofits offer improved energy efficiency and better operation to individual businesses and institutions. And province wide, they offer something more: a significant opportunity to save electricity. The innovation team estimates that non-food retail and office buildings in B.C. collectively could save up to 120 GWh of energy through HVAC improvements alone. That's enough to power nearly 11,000 B.C. homes.

Participate in an HVAC trial

BC Hydro's roadmap model helps assess conservation opportunities and forecasts future technological trends. A joint effort by various electrical utilities on the west coast is expected to help lead energy efficiency change across business sectors based on the key opportunities identified in the roadmapping process.

If you would like to help lead the change in B.C. by participating in an HVAC retrofit trial, contact your Key Account Manager or call 604 522 4713 in the Lower Mainland or toll free 1 866 522 4713.