There is no doubt that it is in the best interests of a business to create an environment in which staff feel comfortable, and temperature control is a crucial part of that process. If it is too hot or too cold, a workforce is unable to function properly, both physically and mentally, which ultimately leads to a drop in productivity.
Intuitive heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems with local controllers have helped create better conditions, allowing staff to control the temperature where they work. But these also create problems for businesses as energy consumption and costs will rise when staff are placed in control of HVAC without being aware of the consequences of their actions.
HVAC systems are very energy-intensive, more so than many of us realise, and it is crucial that they are used effectively as well as properly maintained as poorly managed HVAC systems guzzle energy much faster.
When considering how systems are operated, it is not just the building occupiers searching for ideal working conditions that are at fault, it is also the control set up, as equipment such as heating and air conditioning is often controlled independently of the other. Air conditioning may be in use to cool the building while the boilers are whirling away, and the TRVs on the radiators are turned down; these systems can effectively be fighting each other and cancelling each other out. This wastes a huge amount of energy and is totally unnecessary.
Fortunately there is innovative technology out there which allows businesses to run HVAC systems in the most efficient way possible, without alienating their workforce.
At t-mac Technologies, we provide automatic monitoring and targeting (aM&T) and building management system (BMS) tools that take three key factors (people, maintenance and controls setup) into consideration to find the right balance.
Our expertise lies in identifying equipment that could be used more efficiently, and providing intuitive energy metering, building management and energy analysis software.
A recent Carbon Trust report suggested 12% could be shaved off energy spend by incorporating aM&T, but we can point to evidence that proves a business utilising this technology can actually save more than 20% on its bills.
Taking this approach to its logical next step, businesses who invest in a BMS, which incorporates local and remote control and analysis of HVAC assets in addition to metering and monitoring, could save up to 40%.
Having the right hardware in place to monitor energy use is all very well but as long as building occupiers are able to take matters into their own hands and control equipment such as air conditioning without being fully aware of the consequences, businesses are unlikely to reap the full benefits of an investment in aM&T or BMS technology.
In order to challenge the habits of a workforce that are likely to have formed over many years, businesses must be willing to invest time and resources engaging with, and educating people to get the best results.
Essentially the message that must get through is one of cause and effect. Employees have to be made aware of the consequences of their actions, for example adjusting air conditioning for a quick fix may not result in the desired temperature for a variety of reasons, but most likely will push up the energy bill.
Ultimately, the ability to achieve growth and subsequently reward a productive workforce is placed at risk, particularly during difficult economic times when costs and profits are being scrutinised like never before.
On the other hand, those companies that invest time and commit to promoting energy efficiency, creating a culture in which employees understand their responsibilities and act accordingly, are almost certain to reap financial benefits.
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning can now be controlled by a small digital panel on an office wall, rather than a manual switch hidden away in a basement somewhere, but you could argue that the potential for misuse outweighs the benefits of this, particularly when staff have not been properly briefed on the consequences of their actions.
It is easy to spot inefficiencies simply by walking around a building and when carrying out site surveys our people often find heating and air conditioning left on at the same time, over door heaters constantly running, doors left open, lighting left on overnight, and air conditioning set-points at 30°C.
A great example of t-mac in action, and why employees should not make random adjustments to HVAC systems, is what happened at the Hammonds Furniture store in Nuneaton.
Consumption fell from 20kW to 15kW after the installation of a t-mac BMS which took control of the air conditioning on/off and temperature set-points to ensure the optimum internal temperatures were maintained during business hours.
However store staff proceeded to override the optimum settings identified by the BMS based on personal comfort, which resulted in overall energy consumption creeping back up to 20kW initially, and higher still towards 25kW as winter set in.
While this led to a surge in energy consumption, the in-store temperature remained consistent as the BMS was set to ensure that the air conditioning and heating systems did not conflict.
Energy consumption fell by a quarter after the BMS went live, providing Hammonds with substantial cost savings, but when staff began to override it, there was a huge increase in wasted energy.
Monitor and save
A t-mac BMS allows businesses to set out their daily energy requirements based on a detailed analysis. Staff can be prevented from overriding preset levels for HVAC, with text and email alerts are generated if the parameters are breached.
Our user-friendly online portal also allows businesses to monitor and make adjustments to their equipment from anywhere in the world through the internet.
We take an integrated, tailored approach for each of our clients based on their requirements. It’s a start-to-finish service with a full site survey, aM&T or BMS hardware and software, and engagement sessions to educate employees on the need to control energy consumption, as well as the benefits to them.
A typical t-mac BMS control strategy is based on our site survey findings and the BMS is pre-programmed with optimum settings for lighting, heating and cooling systems, as well as any other equipment that is deemed a drain on the energy supply.
In addition to the financial consequences o
f allowing energy use to be poorly monitored, the impact of industry on the environment is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. Governments and international authorities have been prolific in setting targets and passing new legislation to fight climate change, therefore making businesses change the way they think about energy consumption.
Something that many would have considered a moral issue in the past, driven primarily by reputation and corporate social responsibility objectives, has become very much a financial one with penalties issued to organisations that do not fall into line on carbon emissions.