Commercial Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems and chillers are a major draw of energy in any commercial structure. Such systems are ripe with opportunities for energy efficiency cost savings. Most chillers will benefit from increased maintenance, as well as improvements in the pumps and blower motors associated with the HVAC system. These motors actually use the lion’s share of the energy consumed by these units, and often, originally installed motors and pumps are of very low efficiency.

Purchase and replacement of more energy efficient motors and pumps usually has a payback time of less than two years. Additionally, the new equipment has a useful lifespan that is many times longer than the time it takes to reach the breakeven point. Water treatment and cleaning of the chiller tower are energy saving strategies that have surprisingly short payback times. This is especially true in areas where the water is “hard” and can cause efficiency-robbing deposits on equipment and piping.

Another energy robbing situation is particularly familiar in Texas where the outside air is normally very humid and hot. Both dehumidification and cooling take large amounts of energy. Dehumidification of inside air by 50% can require twice as much energy as is used to cool the same air to 75 degrees. Since national building codes require commercial facilities to introduce fresh air to guarantee good air quality, many tons of added air conditioning are required to remove the excess moisture from this incoming air. The initial and ongoing cost of operating the added cooling capacity is a tremendous burden.

Today, there is a new option. High efficiency dehumidification systems remove the moisture from the incoming air by various means that consume far less energy than compressor based systems. One example is a desiccant based unit. A desiccant is a chemical that absorbs moisture from the air. Consumers often find desiccants in small bags in electronic equipment and pill bottles. It is placed there to protect them from moisture damage during shipping. The desiccant is “recharged” by a small gas burner that dries the desiccant and makes it again ready to absorb incoming humidity.

Another option available employs a heat pipe to improve dehumidification. The operating cost of a desiccant or heat pipe dehumidification unit is minimal compared to removing the humidity with a compressor based air conditioning system. Using high efficiency dehumidification allows a significant reduction in first costs by reducing the total tons of air conditioning required to cool the facility. It then further contributes to profitability since the operating costs are far less than the air conditioners would have been.