Associate Member Viewpoint: Identifying the Right Approach to Managing Energy and Operational Costs
By: HDA Architects, Inc.
In today’s business environment, where organizations stretch resources to maintain profitability and secure sustainability, doing more with less is the common mantra. That is no different for today’s beer wholesaler, faced with many challenges to consider, including systems to inventory and manage what seems to be an endless number of SKU’s, efficiency studies and new material handling systems and an ever-changing list of brewery temperature requirements for new products. But what does this mean to the warehouse HVAC system? Should domestic beer, craft beer, wine, soda and water all be stored at the same temperature? Should you products not requiring storage be kept in a controlled environment warehouse in the same space needlessly consuming energy? Does the cost of separating these spaces outweigh the benefit of energy savings?
Recently, some wholesalers are seeing their temperature requirements raised in their controlled environment warehouses. The increase in set points has allowed wholesalers to capitalize on energy savings due to the fact that their equipment is not cycling as often, but these savings could be compounded by taking a closer look at the overall cooling system. Lower set points require more refrigeration capacity and, with those set points raised or relaxed, the need for refrigeration becomes less necessary. Too much capacity can cause the equipment to short-cycle – a condition that is unhealthy for the components and adds to increased power demand and respective costs, which is cause for today’s wholesaler to consider alternative cooling methods for their facility needs.
Wholesalers are also evaluating methods to make cooling more economical. In air-conditioned buildings, supply fan energy can be reduced with a tuned-up control strategy and the use of high-volume, low-speed fans to stir the air.
Many wholesalers today are operating with equipment that is near or past its useful life. Typically this equipment uses R-22 refrigerant, which is being phased out by the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s still possible to replace this equipment with identical units, but the equipment currently installed is sized for requirements that are just as old as the equipment. Taking a step back to evaluate the life of existing systems and determine cost benefit analysis on replacement costs versus energy savings is well warranted. Depending on the utility companies in the area, certain incentives may be available for upgrading to more energy efficient cooling systems, which will further enhance savings and speed up the payback.
One misconception is that more is better when it pertains to a building’s insulation system. While it is true that adding insulation where no insulation currently exists will pay an energy dividend in a short time, doubling insulation in areas where insulation already exists does not prove to have as favorable a return. A complete building energy study is helpful in indentifying areas for improvement. This study would encompass building envelope, lighting and mechanical systems; since, all of these systems work in concert with each other and modifications to one could drastically impact another.
Del Papa Distributing Company in Galveston, Texas, recently completed a new building project where options on HVAC, building envelope, and lighting systems were modeled and presented to the owner. Six different scenarios were compared against conventional systems using building modeling software, and the owner was presented with the installation costs of all six systems including the potential operating savings to compare the return on investment. Some examples of the energy savings systems installed include high efficiency lighting with automatic lighting controls, chilled water cooling, water cooled refrigeration and a white roof assembly to reflect the heat from the roof. Through the process, the owner was able to realize a simple payback on his systems in less than five years.
No two warehouse facilities are the same; location, product storage requirements, building design and product mix all play a large role in identifying the right approach to capitalizing on energy savings opportunities. HDA Architect’s Beverage Alliance Team are experienced HVAC system designers that understand the beer wholesaler’s challenges. They model a new system’s first cost and operating expenses effectively, which helps today’s beer wholesaler develop the right solution and maximize the right return on investment.