Making HVAC Optimization Pay
Many pharmaceutical manufacturers can cut energy and water bills,
along with carbon footprint, without compromising product quality
By Fred Woo, Optimum Energy
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems—the chilled water plant, steam and hot water plant, and air distribution—consume 65 percent of
the energy used in pharmaceutical manufacturing
facilities, according to research by Lawrence
Berkeley National Laboratory. Chilled water plants
also consume substantial amounts of water.
That makes these systems ripe for optimization.
Minimizing their energy and water use can make a
major contribution to reaching sustainability goals
and reducing operational costs.
Well-designed HVAC optimization projects
provide payback in three to five years, with savings
In addition, HVAC optimization provides energy
monitoring and fault detection, which can enable
facility personnel to improve operations without
Optimization means monitoring and
automatically and continuously controlling HVAC
equipment as a holistic system to maintain desired
facility conditions using the least amount of energy.
This goes beyond recommissioning or modifying
traditional static setpoints and PID-based controls.
To deliver consistent, reliable savings, HVAC
optimization requires three elements: measurement,
a system-level approach, and automatic control.
Measurement: Measuring both the energy input
and the system output is essential for data-based
optimization because varying the energy input of
any piece of equipment will vary the total system
System-level approach: A system-level approach
is key to effective HVAC optimization because it
prevents unintended side effects that can occur if
you optimize components one by one. Reducing
the output of one component may cause other
components to increase their energy use.
Automatic control: A truly optimized system
requires continuous, automatic control. Solutions
that call for human intervention to implement
optimization recommendations may provide some
energy savings, but real-time, dynamic control is
the only way to provide maximum savings without
Making Optimization Work in Pharma
In general, the larger, more highly utilized, and
more centralized the facility, the better suited it is
for HVAC optimization. Centralized chiller plants
and large air handlers present a concentrated
target, which usually produces greater savings.
These systems cost more to operate, generally have
more sophisticated controls, and are more likely to
have dedicated staff to operate and maintain them.
Owners of multiple facilities looking to optimize
should prioritize buildings based on size, electricity
rate, and total utility cost. In particular, facilities
with the following characteristics should be
priorities for optimization:
• High energy use—the more energy consumed, the
greater the benefit.
• 24/7 operations—labs, manufacturing spaces,
and nonvalidated spaces that operate year-round
are great candidates. Validated (or GMP) spaces
also can be optimized, but the expense of extra
testing and approvals may make the project slow
to pay back.
• New HVAC systems that have not been
optimized—controls do not equal optimization.
• Middle-aged HVAC systems ( 10 to 15 years
old)—these often are prime targets. They offer
good room for improvement and are worth