Reduce your heating bills with these helpful free resources

Executive editor Russ Kratowicz offers web resources that can help you reduce your future heating bills.

By Russ Kratowicz, executive editor

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The weather is finally warm. Your plant’s HVAC system no longer needs to burn thousands of dollars each day rendering outside air suitable for the delicate constitutions of workers in the plant and offices. Now might be a perfect time to start thinking about reducing future heating bills. Unless you know something I don’t, you should expect natural gas prices to increase at a rate exceeding the recent climb in gasoline prices. Then again, maybe it would be cheaper simply to bank the fires in the boilers and furnaces and buy everyone a new down jacket, a pair of insulated boots and warm gloves. Or, take the Dickensian approach of having them each bring a bucket of coal to work each morning.

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I have no doubt that you already know about energy audits and thermography for showing where some caulking, insulation and weather-stripping might be appropriate. But, does anyone ever go back to the drawing board to see if the original heating-system design is still adequate, given the plant modifications instituted during the intervening years?

Let’s take a dive into the morass we call the Web in search of practical, zero-cost, noncommercial, registration-free Web resources that might be useful for achieving a better level of energy independence. Remember, we search the Web so you don't have to.

The big picture

“Energy Efficiency in Industrial HVAC Systems,” published by the North Carolina Division of Pollution Prevention and Environmental Assistance, is a 10-page document that can serve as a primer on the topic. Features include a list of basic HVAC-related definitions, four pages of line items that can be worked into an energy audit checklist for your HVAC system and links to building simulation software tools, some of which are free. Finally, you’ll find a worksheet for assessing the existing conditions in your facility. It all resides at www.p2pays.org/ref/26/25985.pdf.

Fixing the air

We get through life crawling around at the bottommost part of an ocean of air. It took us a while to realize that the solution to pollution isn’t dilution. We all agree that we’ve got to keep our puddle of respiratory material clean. Doing that inside your building might even improve productivity, especially among the knowledge workers hiding in the office areas. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’d guess that solving indoor air-quality problems isn’t one of your organization’s core competencies, and that you’d probably outsource the project to someone better equipped to do the dirty work. With that in mind, I offer you “Guidelines for Selecting an Indoor Air Quality Consultant,” an article abstracted from a larger body of work published by the American Industrial Hygiene Association in Fairfax, Va. Send your desk rodent to www.cal-iaq.org/cal-iaq%20guidance.htm, where it will learn about the six steps needed to solve an IAQ problem. The article addresses determining the scope of the problem, making an inventory of the sources of airborne dusts, chemicals and allergens, examining sources of moisture intrusion or water damage and finding common HVAC problems. You also can learn the conditions that would justify calling a professional IAQ consultant, as well the categories of other professionals you might find useful in the quest for good air.

The article references another document, “Building Air Quality: A Guide for Building Owners and Facility Managers," but provides no link or information about finding it. So, we tracked down a copy for you at www.epa.gov/iaq/largebldgs/baqtoc.html. The concepts that your hired hands in Washington present here are the lessons they learned from the multiple hundreds of IAQ investigations that NIOSH has conducted in office buildings. Strictly speaking, industrial facilities aren’t included, but much of this knowledge your government is willing to impart free of charge is sufficiently general that clever engineers out there in readerland can extrapolate it into customized IAQ solutions. The entire PDF opus can be downloaded as a 2.8-MB Zip file or you can download only the sections you need. If nothing else, investigate the 19 worksheets, forms and records that allow you to better document the nasty air circulating in your buildings.

Excel-ent software

Designing an industrial HVAC system is a computationally intense activity, but you do it once — unless, of course, you start modifying, expanding or upgrading it later. That requires you either to dust off your slide rule skills or investigate the software offerings at www.geokiss.com./hsoftware.htm, brought to you by the HVAC and Energy Conservation courses at The University of Alabama. This is where you’ll find Excel spreadsheets that perform HVAC load calculations and model the famous Ductulator, psychrometric charts and the efficiency of various HVAC options. According to the site, the spreadsheets follow basic ASHRAE calculation procedures. Hey, for free, it’s worth a try.

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