Understanding the Value of One Degree of Flexibility in HVAC Setpoints – BuildingIQ


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Understanding the Value of One Degree of Flexibility in HVAC Setpoints

On a hot day, many people are inclined to raise the thermostat temperature if they do not plan to be in the house and then lower it to a more comfortable temperature when they return. This practice shows that on some level we understand the strategy of dynamically adjusting our heating and cooling temperatures, even if we do not have a clear picture of the true value these changes provide. This is also true in terms of commercial buildings, where HVAC operations account for a significant percent of overall energy consumption and, thus, can have a sizeable impact on bottom lines.

In simplest terms, HVAC costs stem from the energy it takes to change the temperature of the outside air that we bring inside, and the energy it takes to circulate that air. Given this, the greater the difference between outside and inside air temperatures the more energy it takes to change it. When you think about it this way, it is easy to understand why even just one degree of adjustment can yield HVAC savings or added expense.

From Concept to Quantification

Quantifying the value of each degree has been an exercise undertaken by many. One such study, performed by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, used simulations to estimate energy savings for common re-tuning/RCx measures and found that buildings can realize as much as a 20 percent savings by changing both heating and cooling setpoints by as little as two degrees. As a rule of thumb, savings for a single degree fall within the three to six percent range, but this can still have substantial impact on overall savings or expenditures. It’s important to note, however, that this percentage can vary based on numerous factors, such as climate, building equipment, and building envelope, to name a few.

At BuildingIQ, our goal has always been to bring meaning to the data we obtain related to building energy use. Using our team of expert data scientists, building engineers and operators, we’re able to help building owners/operators move along the continuum from data aggregation to interpretation and action. With this in mind, understanding the true value of even just a one-degree change takes on extra meaning.

Utilizing a Comfort Band

Our 5i intelligent energy management platform operates within comfortable temperature ranges provided by our customers, also known as a customized a “comfort band.” This band enables us to bring more dynamic functionality to building operations. Put simply, the parameters of an intelligent management system create the most value when they are as flexible as the forces that impact them.

By expanding temperature parameters by as little as one degree up and down, building owners and operators unlock a wealth of data and opportunity, without negatively impacting comfort. Our Predictive Energy OptimizationTM service, for example, is able to operate within this span with far greater efficiency than a system simply switching between established setpoints. A range of temperatures allows more “drift,” enabling our solution to adjust for external variables, such as weather, and to capitalize on the inherent opportunities within a building —such as the thermal energy stored in the walls and surfaces— rather than spending dollars in HVAC electricity.

In contrast, static parameters leave little room for real-time adjustments, meaning a building cannot adapt to changing conditions throughout the day even when that would be the most cost-effective solution. Adding insult to injury, keeping that steady temperature still requires regular expenditures of energy.

Interested in learning more about the value of our dynamic 5i platform? Visit our products page. Those interested in better understanding and verifying their existing energy consumption can learn more about our newest offering, Automated Measurement & Verification, which is available as a standalone deployment or as part of a 5i platform-enables services package.