University life has changed. Students are now consumers first and foremost, and universities generally operate in a buyer’s market. If students perceive that an institution is not delivering adequate return on their investment, then they’re increasingly likely to make themselves heard, or even take their money elsewhere. Today’s students are also keenly aware of their impact on the environment, and have little patience with people or organisations that can’t or won’t meet the challenge of reducing energy consumption, including their places of learning.
Meanwhile some universities are reporting that they’re struggling to make ends meet, yet at the same time they cannot raise tuition fees any further. Since increasing revenues is therefore a struggle, it makes sense for universities to instead focus on cutting costs. HVAC systems represent a great opportunity for a quick win. Many electric motors used in HVAC systems are run without any form of speed control, but by using variable speed drives (VSDs) on fan and pump motors, energy costs can be
reduced by up to 60 percent while still providing students and staff with a comfortable environment in which to teach, study and relax.
University buildings spend a lot of time unoccupied or partially occupied, and this lends itself rather well to the use of VSDs. Universities, unlike normal office buildings or factories, tend to have irregular hours, and some rooms may not be used at all outside of term time.
With lectures finishing at different times and students following varying timetables, it is not always easy to predict room occupancy, which has a significant impact on ambient temperature and air moisture. A lecture hall that is packed for a two-hour lecture may spend the rest of the day completely deserted, any heating or cooling will simply escape from the building as waste. The Union bar might be heaving on “two-for-one Tuesdays”, but come Wednesday morning more than a few students may decide to hit the snooze button (possibly as a direct result of two-for-one Tuesday).
A motor with no speed control can run either at full power or not at all. In order to moderate the speed, mechanical vanes and dampers can be used, but whilst these may reduce output, the motor is still running flat out, wasting vast amounts of energy. A VSD allows motors to be run at the speed required, using only as much energy as it needs to do so at any given time.
In a lecture hall for instance, motors can be run at reduced loads depending on actual occupancy or time of day or year. Furthermore, features like a real-time clock and calendar mean that the drive can be programmed to run based on university timetables or term times, allowing motors to be run in accordance with a facility’s actual needs. This makes it easy to provide a comfortable environment, regardless of how many people are in the room, all year round. It also means that motor energy usage can be significantly reduced, saving money in running costs which can add up to several thousand pounds each academic year.
To find out more about how VSDs can help to reduce your energy bills, why not download our Top Tips ebook?