HVAC engineering is among the main technical disciplines involved in the construction industry, since it deals with the electromechanical systems that keep adequate indoor conditions for humans. The term HVAC is an acronym that stands for heating, ventilation and air conditioning; which are building systems that consume large amounts of energy. However, smart design decisions and adequate energy efficiency measures can achieve significant savings.
Heating systems normally operate with natural gas or other fossil fuels, while ventilation and air conditioning use electricity. This is why buildings normally have their highest gas bills during winter and their highest electricity bills during summer.
Performance improvements for HVAC systems not only lower the energy expenses of building owners. These enhancements can also achieve a massive reduction of greenhouse gas emissions: directly when combustion-based heating systems are improved or replaced, and indirectly when buildings consume less electricity from power plants fired by fossil fuels.
HVAC Engineering Decisions That Save Energy
Since HVAC installations account for the largest share of energy expenses in residential and commercial buildings, many of the energy efficiency measures proposed for buildings focus on them. The following are some examples:
- Upgrading to HVAC equipment with a higher efficiency rating. Each type of equipment uses different efficiency metrics, but the common goal is reducing energy consumption.
- Adding speed controls for motor-driven components of HVAC systems, such as compressors, pumps and fans.
- Blowdown controls for boilers and furnaces, which improve their fuel efficiency.
- Automatic controls and smart thermostats are highly recommended, since they can reduce the operating cost of most HVAC systems.
- Heat recovery ventilation (HRV) increases the efficiency of both heating and cooling systems.
In new construction projects, getting professional HVAC engineering services from the start is highly recommended. HVAC equipment operates more efficiently when its capacity matches the building load, and you can avoid purchasing undersized or oversized equipment by following the recommendations of professional engineers. They can also propose energy efficiency measures to be integrated during the construction process, which is simpler and less disruptive than modifying the building once completed.
Key Design Considerations in HVAC Engineering
A well-designed HVAC installation reduces the operating cost of your building, but you should not overlook the building envelope performance. Your property should have adequate insulation and airtightness to reduce summer heat gain and winter heat loss.
If you want to avoid emissions completely, an HVAC system can be designed to run only with electricity, using heat pumps or resistance heaters instead of boilers and furnaces. However, resistance heaters are only recommended as a backup measure due to their high operating cost. Heat pumps are a much more efficient option, capable of matching the heating cost of natural gas but without the emissions.
HVAC engineering services can achieve significant energy savings, while reducing the environmental footprint of your building. Energy efficiency also increases the building ENERGY STAR score, while helping your earn points towards a LEED certification from the US Green Building Council. However, consider that each building is unique and HVAC design requires a customized approach – professional engineering services are strongly recommended.