Chiller plants, which are commonly used for air conditioning and cooling in large buildings and facilities, consume significant amounts of energy. According to the United States Department of Energy, these energy hogs typically account for about 20 percent to 40 percent of total electricity use in commercial buildings. 

That’s a big number, and one that is sure to grow larger with impacts of climate change leading to more cases of extreme heat and longer cooling seasons. So, we have poorly performing chiller plants running longer, meaning higher energy consumption, greater cost, and more Greenhouse Gas emissions. 

That’s not sustainable, either from an operating cost or environmental impact basis.  

Why are chiller plants such poor performers when it comes to energy efficiency? Here are a few of the main reasons: 

Inefficiencies in Equipment: Older chiller plants may use outdated equipment that is less energy efficient. Even newer systems may not be optimized for energy savings if they are not properly designed, maintained, or operated. 

Overcooling: Sometimes, buildings are cooled to lower temperatures than necessary for comfort or operational requirements. Overcooling can lead to excessive energy consumption. In fact, it’s not entirely uncommon to see buildings running heating and cooling at the same time. 

Poor System Design: In some cases, the design of the chiller plant and its components may not be optimized for energy efficiency. This can include oversized equipment, inefficient piping layouts, or inadequate insulation. 

Inefficient Control Systems: Control systems that do not properly regulate chiller operation based on demand or external conditions can lead to energy waste. For example, if chillers continue to run at full capacity even when cooling load is low, energy is unnecessarily expended. 

Mismatched Equipment: Sometimes, components within the chiller plant, such as chillers, pumps, and cooling towers, may not be properly matched to each other or to the building’s cooling requirements, leading to inefficiencies. 

Leaks and Faults: Refrigerant leaks or faulty equipment can cause chiller plants to operate less efficiently, leading to higher energy consumption. 

Some of these issues are easier to resolve than others. For many buildings, upgrading to new, more efficient equipment is a non-starter – that can cost millions of dollars. In most cases, the easiest – and most cost-effective – way to cut energy consumption comes with boosting the performance of equipment through the control systems, often called the Building Automation System (BAS) or Building Management System (BMS). 

While some control systems perform quite well, many are engineered with a singular focus on ensuring a consistent temperature is maintained. While that philosophy delivers occupant comfort and steady process control conditions, it can come at a cost in terms of both excessive energy expenses and emissions.  

With operating budgets tightening and a cost on carbon emissions becoming a reality in some jurisdictions, this is untenable. Building owners, operators, energy managers and sustainability managers are all seeking a solution to the chiller plant problem. 

Yet despite the growing importance of cutting energy consumption and resulting carbon emissions from buildings, no company has been able to solve the chiller plant problem. The reality of “drift” – changing performance as equipment ages – has created a technical obstacle that no one has successfully overcome. Some solutions can cut energy consumption in the short term, but the benefits don’t persist over time, destroying the business case.  

SHIFT has focused its efforts on developing technology that sits on top of existing control systems to improve overall building performance – without requiring expensive new equipment or controls. Our EOSair delivers substantial energy and emission savings from HVAC systems. It’s about getting the most out of a building owner’s investment in heating and cooling equipment. That’s why it pays for itself in less than two years, with the benefits persisting year after year. 

We’ve spent the last few years working hard on a new way to cut chiller plant energy consumption without impacting occupant comfort or process control conditions. We will be introducing something very cool to North America later this year.

If you want a sneak peek, contact us today.