Places to Look for Energy Losses in Commercial Buildings

by | Apr 30, 2012

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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