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Places to Look for Energy Losses in Commercial Buildings

Data from millions of businesses, institutions and manufacturers show that sustainability issues fall into four main categories: rising energy costs, growing disposal costs, limited water supply and health concerns over the quality of indoor air.

Energy is often the largest line item in an operations facility management bill. So, monitoring and reducing excess energy use throughout your facility can lead to savings. My company worked with one of our 3,000 supplier partners, Fluke Corporation, to identify these top places to look for energy losses in commercial buildings.

According to Fluke Corporation, a significant amount of energy loss is actually temperature-related. Hot or cold air leaks from a building are obvious examples. It took energy to condition that air, and when it dissipates due to a leak, you’ve wasted that energy. Many other systems and pieces of equipment also manifest their energy in terms of heat. Motors, pumps and electrical boxes will generate heat and lose energy efficiency as they begin to fail.

Thermal imagers create pictures by measuring infrared energy or heat and then assigns colors based on the temperature differences it measures. Thermal imaging experts suggest that maintenance teams inspect the following systems to identify energy losses:

–HVAC System: The heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system is usually one of the biggest areas of energy consumption within a facility.

What to Scan

  • Ductwork and Registers. Even the highest-rated HVAC system wastes energy without a well-sealed duct system. With infrared technology, one can see the thermal pattern of air in ducting and monitor registers to determine whether heating or cooling output is optimal.
  • Fans and Blowers. In fans and blowers, mechanical imbalance will manifest itself in overheated bearings and other components. Thermal images of these systems can also identify shaft misalignment in couplings between the motor and fan.
  • Electrical Connections. A loose or corroded connection increases resistance at the connection, resulting in overheating.

–Motors and Generators: Electrical motors also use a significant amount of energy in a facility. Overheating and malfunctioning motors and generators tend to indicate mechanical or electrical inefficiencies that can lead to more energy use and ultimate failure.

What to Scan

  • Airflow. In fan-cooled motors, a restricted airflow will cause general overheating manifesting itself on the entire housing.
  • Insulation Look for higher than normal housing temperatures in areas associated with windings.
  • Electrical Connections.  As with electrical connections in HVAC systems, look for loose or corroded connections that increase resistance.

–Steam Heating Systems: Today, steam systems are more common in industrial settings than commercial settings, but some commercial buildings still use them for central heating.

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3 thoughts on “Places to Look for Energy Losses in Commercial Buildings

  1. Terrific idea on the infrared imaging. Where this method can be proven however is to tie it in with a utility monitoring system, as you suggest in the second paragraph. Hawkeye Energy Solutions provides real time monitoring and when teamed up with methods such as infrared scanning, you have a powerful tool to verify, document, enact with an energy star plan, and continue to keep those energy costs down.

  2. Good article, but you missed one item…people. People are the greatest source to look for energy savings. One example, space heaters. If the location of the company is in a climate where winter strikes, watch for space heaters. In your rush to turn off 20 extra lights, understand a space heater consumes as much…for 1 person. Plus, the more space heaters, the more out of sync the building heating system becomes. The space heater makes everyone in the office colder. Then, there are demand charges…each space heater is about 1.5kW…so 10 space heaters is 15kW. If your building is avoiding demand charges by managing the loads on the floor, space heaters could push a company to the next level of demand fees and costs, even a new billing tier.

  3. How much WASTED energy is going up the chimney’s of these buildings? Why is that still being allowed?
    The technology of Condensing Flue Gas Heat Recovery is designed to recover almost all of that waste energy, which can then be used back in the building or facility. Instead of hot exhaust, cool exhaust will be put into the atmosphere.

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