At the ASHRAE Annual Meeting here, members pondered these same questions, and also the question of how far they should get involved in energy issues “outside the building”; dealing with power generation and legislation, as well as mechanical systems and their design.
“If you have a client and the power goes out, he may turn to you for help,” pointed out an engineer in one forum on ASHRAE’s role in the energy crisis. “Whether you stop at the building line or not, your client has a problem.”
This could mean getting involved in the “sparky” side of the business: Appling a temporary generator, ensuring power backup, providing segmentation of power sources, and working with the customer to back up some loads and not others. Building owners will be most interested in reliability and an inexpensive mitigation of their problems.
(Note: To promote a free exchange of ideas, ASHRAE forum attendees are not identified by name.)
System Affects Power Use (And Vice Versa)A forum participant noted that if a good job is done up front, in the design and maintenance of the mechanical system, emergency generators are smaller.
Another engineer pointed out the chief problem associated with compressor start-up on a low power grid: flicker. “A large inrush is needed to start compressors,” he said. “People aren’t sympathetic to increasing the transformer size.”
“Within the building, it’s obvious ASHRAE has a role to decrease dependence on electricity and increase efficiency,” said a consulting engineer.
There could be benefits to ASHRAE’s overall message of designing energy-efficient hvac systems and maintaining them so that they remain efficient. When power costs go up, there is simply more consumer interest in efficiency. “We need to make sure what’s done is smart and cost-effective,” said a forum participant.
Another, however, questioned whether the society has dropped the ball as of late regarding system efficiency.
“We have not served society or our members well through our activities,” he said; “90.1 2001 is not much of an advance. We have not offered consulting engineers a way to differentiate themselves with better practices and best practices.”
Immediate ActionIn the short term, immediate steps are needed to help engineers in affected areas, said an engineer. Just how far the engineers should get involved in issues that lie outside the building — particularly politics — is the question.
“Supply is here and demand is there, and what lives in the middle is politics.”
And while ASHRAE does a good job of pointing out exceptionally efficient building projects, perhaps more emphasis needs to be placed on achieving moderate energy savings in average buildings.
“We look at the cutting edge, top 10,” pointed out a member from academia. “But most buildings are pretty average, doing stupid things. We need to hit ‘em in the pocketbook.
“We could make a bigger dent in average buildings than making one really cool building.”
“Let’s build on our strengths,” said a consulting engineer. “Let’s offer Cadillacs instead of Chevrolets. Differentiate between better and best practices.”
Efficient SystemsAnother forum at the Annual Meeting was supposed to focus on applied heat pump systems. However, the subject of energy prompted participants to look at a range of commercial system possibilities.
In a nutshell, supply and availability problems result in:
Power prices become subject to:
The big problem is that there is insufficient generation to meet demand.
Solutions — some tongue in cheek — can include:
Mechanical systems need to be designed so that they can:
Special designs, while not really new, may be dusted off and reconsidered. These include solar augmentation and thermal storage.
Heat pump water heaters, it was pointed out, can also be installed with more storage capacity. They don’t need electricity to deliver the water, as it’s already a function of the system.
What about cool storage with ride-through capabilities, asked an engineer. Gen sets (units that offer an alternative power supply off the grid) don’t typically include air conditioning, said a consulting engineer, “but with thermal storage it would only be driving pumps and fans.”
A heat pump system wouldn’t work like thermal storage, said another, “because you need to run compressors for heat exchange.” Water-source and geothermal heat pumps, however, do achieve very high efficiencies.
A participant from a developing nation pointed out that these type of blackouts started there years ago. Now they occur constantly, and are chiefly unscheduled. “Believe in world problems,” he said; “it will come around the world in time.
“The solution,” he continued, “is not building more power plants. You need utility-sponsored programs for thermal storage and higher-efficiency motors.”
“We need ways to make the energy we have go further,” said another participant. “People will look for economic alternatives when prices go up.”
Sidebar: New ASHRAE President Accepts ‘Quality of Life’CINCINNATI, OH — The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) installed new officers and directors at its 2001 Annual Meeting, held here recently.
The new ASHRAE president is William J. Coad, P.E., Fellow ASHRAE, a senior principal and past board chairman of McClure Engineering Associates in St. Louis, MO. Coad also is director of Mestek Inc. in Westfield, MA, and Exergen Corp. in Boston, MA.
Coad’s theme for this year is “Accepting the Challenge.” He said, “In looking ahead to the 21st century, the greatest challenge to the human race will be to maintain our quality of life as we face a dwindling reserve of energy resources. As engineers, we are the ones who created this ‘quality of life,’ and only the engineering community has the knowledge and skill to keep it going.”
Other officers installed for a one-year term are:
For a complete listing of ASHRAE directors, please visit our website, www.acrhnews.com.
Publication date: 08/06/2001