Economizer Experts Gather To Solve the Problem
According to a technical report funded by the CEC1, a staggering 64% of rooftop air conditioner economizers in California are not working. Yet this often-neglected HVAC component can yield huge benefits if properly installed and maintained.
A recent informal study2 by the Western Cooling Efficiency Center (WCEC) showed that little, if any, improvement has been made in the condition of packaged rooftop economizers since the 2003 CEC report. It seems people have forgotten that economizers were invented to reduce energy consumption, and therefore save money on energy costs.
What can we do about it?
The Western HVAC Performance Alliance (WHPA) Executive Committee realized that significant effort was required to tackle a problem of this magnitude. The Summit for the Advancement of Functional Economizers (SAFE) was launched to accomplish these and other goals:
- Quantify the energy savings potential of multiple advanced economizer strategies;
- Gain industry, utility and state agency agreement regarding around which economizer strategies were most advantageous for each California climate zone;
- Support reevaluation of economizer workpapers being relied upon in utility programs and the current economizer deemed savings within the California Database of Energy Efficient Resources (DEER);
- Determine whether DEER could be improved by updating it with multiple and advanced economizer strategies;
- Verify and evaluate the precision and reliability of new digital electronic sensors (temperature, enthalpy and CO2);
- Review other features of newly available digital economizer control modules including “self-commissioning” and onboard fault detection and diagnostics (FDD);
- Validate the accuracy of the Braun/Brandemeuhl Economizer Savings Estimator software tool;
- Better understand how savings estimates impact buying and selling of economizer repairs and upgrades.
As one step in the ramp up to the SAFE, which will take place later this year, twenty-three industry veterans attended a preliminary meeting held during the ASHRAE Winter Meeting in Dallas, Texas on January 27. United by a common goal, attendees included engineers from the California investor owned utilities, program evaluators, technical consultants to the California Energy Commission and California Public Utilities Commission, leading researchers, and both HVAC and controls manufacturers. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the barriers and challenges that would be faced in efforts to improving economizer system performance and to plan the SAFE meeting to be held in California in early spring. A summary of the meeting can be found by clicking here.
The Dallas meeting involved animated discussions around all the issues and challenges ahead. There was general consensus that The SAFE project was an important initiative that required broad collaboration in order to tackle a multifaceted and complex area of significant energy waste. Key attendees pledged their support for the spring Summit. Among the participants was Warren Lupson, WHPA Executive Committee member and Director of Education for AHRI, which provided the meeting room for the Dallas meeting. "In light of how much energy and money they save, the large percentage of nonfunctional economizers remains mind boggling," Mr. Lupson stated. “It was gratifying to see so many of the country's top economizer experts gathered in one place to launch this nationwide effort that could well turn the tide. We gained a lot of ground and AHRI is looking forward to this critically important summit."
1a. Summary Article (11 pages): Small Commercial Rooftops: Field Problems, Solutions and the Role of Manufacturers. (2003).
1b. Complete Report (316 pages): Small HVAC Problems and Potential Savings Reports. (2003).
2. Email Kristin Heinemeier, Ph.D. for more information.