Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems are responsible for the regulation of heat, airflow, ventilation, and air conditioning of an entire building. You won’t see the machines when you enter the building but you will most certainly feel the effects of a comfortable and well-ventilated workplace.
Heating and cooling an office are two particularly energy-intensive processes so it’s worth understanding how these systems function and where you may be able to optimise the performance to create efficiencies and reduce energy-related costs.
These mechanical elements of a building are critical to successful buildings and projects.
Focus on: heating
There are lots of different ways to achieve the heating element of an HVAC system. Here are just a few:
- Boilers – used to generate steam or hot water, water is heated via a combustion process. Modern condenser boilers are a much more energy-efficient option as they are able to recover heat previously in the exhaust
- Warm air heaters – these typically provide space heating for warehouses, retail sheds, sports centres and other large spaces. Using gas or an oil-fired burner, they heat the air and then a fan is used to distribute the warm air. The most efficient units incorporate condensing capabilities and optimising controls similar to the standard boiler plant.
- Electric storage heaters – most commonly installed where there is no mains gas supply, these systems take advantage of lower overnight electricity costs and release the heat during the day. Modern storage heaters incorporate fan-assisted models, better levels of insulation and improved automation of settings to reduce energy use.
- Solar Thermal systems – designed to capture solar energy and convert it to useful heat for water heating applications, these systems are built around a solar collector that has a dark coloured absorbing surface that “traps” solar radiation and converts it to heat. Systems generally require a significant amount of space, often mounted on rooftops local to storage vessels.
Focus on: ventilation
There are three primary methods of providing ventilation into a commercial space:
- Natural ventilation – as simple as it sounds, this is achieved by opening windows and/or doors to allow a natural flow of fresh air into a space.
- Air handling units (AHUs) – these systems package, supply and extract air units as well as often use coils to heat or cool air before returning it to the building.
- Supply or extract fans – these ventilation system components are typically used to either provide fresh air to a space, to extract fumes or to circulate air, most commonly through ductwork and plenums.
Focus on: cooling and air-conditioning
Cooling and air conditioning technologies can broadly be organised into two groups: centralised or decentralised.
Centralised systems: these systems are primarily connected to an air handling unit. Heating and cooling take place in a centralised plant area and is distributed through a form of air handling unit or ductwork. These systems offer a number of benefits, including better control of conditions, higher energy efficiency and greater load-management potential, however, they can be expensive to install and complex to maintain.
Decentralised systems: more suited to smaller environments, the majority of decentralised systems are DX type and consist of a number of modular and interconnected systems that can be brought together. Given their application, these systems often required lower upfront capital costs whilst benefitting from a simple installation with minimal pipe and ductwork as well as needing less overall space.
Investing in or upgrading your HVAC system doesn’t have to be overly complicated but it does require specialist expertise to ensure you’re making the right choices to meet your business needs of not just today, but the future as well.
To talk to us about your HVAC system requirements, get in touch today.