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South Florida Commercial Building Transforms HVAC System Performance

HVAC-system upgrades with UV-C lamps help provide cleaner air for tenants.

The BayView Corporate Tower in Fort Lauderdale, FL was a 12-story, 412,000-sq-ft Class A building built in 1973 with 13 corporate tenants. In July 2011, Bunnie Willis, Vice President and Senior Property Manager for the building, learned that she could provide her tenants with cleaner air by making upgrades to the building’s HVAC systems.

Willis routinely looks for ways to enhance the value of BayView and the other Florida commercial properties she manages on behalf of New Boston Fund Inc., a multi-billion-dollar, private real-estate investment management firm. In July 2011, during a routine evaluation of the BayView Tower’s mechanical systems, Willis learned that she could provide her tenants with cleaner, healthier air by making modest upgrades to the building’s HVAC systems. One such upgrade also held the promise of saving energy, reducing maintenance costs and extending equipment life.

A fundamental aspect of the successful HVAC system upgrades was the addition of ultraviolet-C (UV-C) lamps. These lamps have been used extensively since the 1990s to improve indoor air quality and later to improve heat-exchange efficiency, boost air flow and reduce maintenance. The UV-C lamps work on a unique wavelength to eliminate and prevent microbial and organize material buildup on HVAC cooling coils, air filters and duct surfaces.

However, it is the technology’s ability to potentially slash between 10%–25% of HVAC energy use that drives nine of every 10 UV-C installations, says Bruce Fontaine, Vice President of Business Development and Operations at Sustainable Management Solutions, a national energy-efficiency consultancy specializing in commercial HVAC, electrical and water use reductions based in Pompano Beach, FL. Fontaine’s team recommended the sustainable UV-C solution, product selection and installation at BayView.

In the end, an independent audit documented as much as a 47% increase in the building’s air-flow levels following the UV-C installation, which also reduced enough energy use to pay for the upgrade in just three months—an impressive 90-day return on investment. The audit not only showed an increase in air flow, but also a reduction in both fan and refrigeration-system energy consumption.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Willis is not alone in targeting HVAC as a potential source of savings, as this equipment accounts for between 30%–50%of a building’s total energy use—a figure that may be even more pronounced in southern climates such as Florida.

Willis brought in Darren Ambrosi, Project Manager of Sustainable Management Solutions, to help complete the UV installation at BayView Corporate Tower. The building itself contained two cooling towers, three chillers and 24 AHUs (two per floor), both of which were nearly 25 years old.

Willis met with the building’s Chief Engineer, Miki Minic, who had successfully used UV-C lamp systems in several other buildings managed by New Boston Fund and Stiles Property Management.

“There are many benefits of UV-C,” says Minic, who enthusiastically supported the addition of a UV-C energy install. “Most important is the improvement to indoor-air-quality levels, so tenants enjoy cleaner, healthier air. Absenteeism due to the spread of unsafe microorganisms via HVAC systems is almost eliminated. Moreover, equipment life is improved, downtime and preventive maintenance expenses—like cleaning the coils, drain pans, and the purchase of coil and drain treatments, etc.—are significantly reduced.”

BayView’s Willis also visited similar properties in the area with HVAC UV-lighting installations and looked to her peers for their input and experience with the technology.

“Following my research and meeting with other commercial property managers who had UV lighting installed, I was sold on the technology’s benefits,” she says.

The retrofit project officially began in January 2012. Due to the tight access, Ambrosi recommended the RLM Xtreme high-output fixtureless UV-C lamp system from UV Resources. The RLM installs in half the time of conventional fixtures and offers the flexible configurations required by the structure.

“The existing AHUs were 25 years old and offered limited access to the evaporators,” says Ambrosi, regarding the retrofit project that began January 2012. “Because of the tight access, we recommended the RLM Xtreme high-output, fixtureless UV-C lamp system from UV Resources. This modern UV-C system installs in about half the time of conventional fixtures and offers flexible configurations such as those required at BayView.”

Minic, the building’s Chief Engineer, had experience with the RLM Xtreme system and supported the product selection. As a result of the installation flexibility of the fixtureless UV-C lamp system, the retrofits were completed in just four days using only two installers.

Following the UV-C retrofit, efficiency consultant Fontaine was impressed with the boost in system performance.

“The overall transformation in efficiency was incredible,” remarks Fontaine, who estimates that the project energy savings yielded a three-month ROI. “Airflow levels increased by 47% in one air handler, or roughly 10,000 cfm, the coils look brand new and the condensate pans cleaned up tremendously.”

As with any major capital project, return on investment is a critical component that must be independently demonstrated. To evaluate the success of the installation, Willis commissioned an independent performance test by HVAC consultant John Kneiss, President of K & P Mechanical Solutions Inc., based in Dania, FL.

“Our goal was to measure the performance of the HVAC-system cooling coil before and after the UV fixtures were installed,” Kneiss explains.

During the velocity profile tests conducted prior to the RLM Xtreme installations, Kneiss discovered varying levels of velocity, indicating that some parts of the coil were much dirtier than others.

“It was easy to see certain sections had high velocities and other sections were low, indicating a build-up of debris in the lower-velocity areas,” he says. “The velocity readings in our baseline measurements were not stable.”

When Kneiss returned following the installation of the UV-lighting system, he used the same test instruments and procedures, and found the air-velocity readings to be much more stable, this time, across the entire coil surface.

“Our opinion after reviewing the results and differences was that the cooling coil performance was significantly improved from our first set of readings,” Kneiss recalls. “Coil velocities were more even throughout the coil and there was an improvement of the off coil dew point as well. For us in south Florida, that is a major benefit.”

The building saw increased efficiency of individual HVAC components and a drop in electric consumption overall following the UV-C installation.

Willis was so pleased with the results that she plans future use of UV-C technology and the RLM-Xtreme.

“Within one month, we saw an immediate reduction in our energy costs, which has remained consistent since the installation,” explains Willis. “I believe so strongly in this improvement that we are getting ready to do it at one of our other properties in Doral, FL. We are very satisfied with the decision to install the UV lighting.”

The UV Resources RLM Xtreme fixtureless UV-C lamp system delivers high-output ultraviolet energy to irradiate coils and destroy mold, bacteria and microbes in demanding, high-volume HVAC environments.

The Xtreme lamp system combines a simple, flexible and affordable design that is easily configurable to fit into most any plenum. Ideal for both new and retrofit applications, Xtreme lamps eliminate the need for rows of costly, cumbersome and potentially unsafe metal and glass fixturing.

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