Houston Heating, Cooling, and Electrical

How To Keep Commercial Buildings Cool – A How To Guide

Commercial buildings can be a challenge to cool given their size, doors constantly opening and closing, and the presence of heat-generating equipment onsite. With the right HVAC contractor and the right technology, though, it is possible. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, commercial buildings spend nearly 40 percent of their energy on space heating and cooling. That means small gains in system efficiency will produce big gains in cooling power.

Seven ways to keep commercial buildings cool and economical

Even in the sweltering Houston heat, commercial buildings can be kept comfortable for those working inside. Here are seven ways businesses can make that happen:

1. Replace or maintain existing HVAC equipment – In general, commercial HVAC manufacturers expect their equipment to last around 15 years before replacement is recommended. Without regular maintenance, though, expensive mechanical failures and leaks may emerge long before then. If they do, the air conditioner will have issues keeping up with cooling demands. For example, forgetting to replace the air filters can create resistance in the system and make it difficult to draw enough treated air into the space.

Consider a service contract with a trustworthy company as this will ensure the air conditioner is as reliable and efficient as it should be. This is especially important just prior to the height of summer as that’s when the air conditioner is under the heaviest load. Scheduling a seasonal checkup for your HVAC system is like getting a car checked before a long road trip – it verifies that the equipment is up to the task.

If replacement is necessary, that’s a good time to consider the company’s cooling and energy efficiency needs. If some parts of the building need extra cooling or if you want a system that is built on maximum efficiency, it will be easier to design a solution in advance, before any existing equipment is removed. A reputable HVAC contractor can take the lead on this, matching your company’s needs to the right tools and products.

2. Circulate hot air out where possible – It’s not feasible to set up large fans or blowers in an office setting, but it is in many buildings, like warehouses. Fans and blowers can redirect hot air outside, which is particularly helpful in areas where heat tends to be trapped. Better yet, fans and blowers are simple to operate and position, so they can be adjusted until optimal cooling and ventilation is achieved.

3. Shut off electronics when not in use – It’s easy to forget that computers, office equipment and machinery constantly produce heat, even when they aren’t in use. At the end of the day, switch off anything that doesn’t need to be on, and it will help your HVAC system remove as much heat as possible before everyone arrives the next day.

4. Invest in better HVAC controls – HVAC controls have come a long way in recent years, and can now be tied to occupancy sensors. Occupancy sensors detect when people are in the room, and an HVAC system can work with these sensors to ensure that cool air reaches where it is needed. Occupancy sensors also provide valuable information on where people are spending most of their time in the building, so if there are areas that receive little traffic, it may be cost-effective to prioritize cooling in other areas.

Combine an HVAC zoning system with sophisticated occupancy sensors, and you can get the perfect temperature in every room of the building, without sacrificing efficiency.

5. Make use of cooler air at night – Ambient air temperature normally drops 15 to 20 degrees during the night, and this air can be used to circulate trapped heat out of the building.

The cooler nighttime air is drawn in through louvers or soffit, and the warmer air vents out the top of the building using stack ventilation. This is possible because warm air rises, so the cooler nighttime air effectively pushes the warm air out of the top of the building. It’s a natural process that requires little (or no) energy, and it helps ensure that morning and afternoon temperatures are more manageable.

6. Add or replace insulation – Insulation is essential in keeping thermal energy out, and without it, there’s not much stopping heat from creeping inside through the roof and walls. Insulation is a passive thermal barrier, so it works as soon as it’s placed and as long as it is in good condition.

It’s important, though, to have an HVAC expert handle insulation, as there are many kinds of insulation on the market. Also, if the insulation is not placed correctly, it will not provide an adequate thermal boundary, so leave it to the experts.

7. Replace the roof or add a reflective coating – If it’s time to replace the roof anyway, consider a white one, as light-colored surfaces reflect sunlight. This will slow down heat absorption and, by extension, reduce the impact of sunlight on the building’s internal temperature.

If a new roof is impractical, reflective coatings can be applied to an existing roof to improve its solar reflectivity.

Keeping an expansive commercial building cool may seem like a tough task, but there are several things businesses can do to control internal temperatures and energy usage. The best decision a business owner could make, though, is partnering with a reputable HVAC contractor. This will ensure the HVAC system is operating at peak efficiency and keeping the building cool.

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