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New Technology Could Cut Office Building Energy Bills By 18%

A new report recently released the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) states that a single advanced building control now in development could cut down the overall annual energy bill of the average office building by as much as 18%.

The report is based on simulations of a new device that could customize the level of ventilation in a building by sensing the number of people inside the space. This would be an adjustment from the standard model which runs at the same speed regardless of how many people are in the room.

Research began three years ago when the team at PNNL decided to explore the idea of putting sensors inside a variable air volume terminal box. To the study the team focused on a prototypical large commercial office building with a footprint of 160 ft. by 240 ft. that is 12 stories high and includes a basement. The team then programmed the simulation to heat a building if temperatures dipped below 70 degrees Fahrenheit and to begin cooling at temperatures above 75 degrees. Numbers were set back 10 degrees on evenings and weekends based on occupancy patterns from past studies.

Based on those calculations the PNNL team estimates that advanced controls would save at least $40,000 annually for each building of similar size. In Baltimore, Maryland and Fairbanks, Alaska the savings would be more than $100,000 a year because of the significantly reeducated need to heat new air being pumped in from the cold outdoors. On the flip side, cities like El Paso, Texas and Miami, Florida saw savings of $33,400 and $23,500 respectively.

The study showed that advanced controls for ventilation offer approximately eight times as much savings as advanced controls for lighting. When the HVAC system alone is considered the device cut energy usage of the HVAC system by approximately 40%.

PNNL notes that modifying the devices to some building codes may become a stumbling block for the new technology. For instance, current codes require some ventilation at all times no matter how many people are present.

The team believes the prime target for the advanced controls would be in retrofitting existing structures.
To read the full report click here.

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