Timberline Blog

HVAC Controls Retrofit Delivers Energy Savings and Advanced Open System

December 20, 2017 by Timberline

Trusting that an HVAC company will continue to support the proprietary solution they installed for you is a decision that can come back to haunt you, as one condominium community in Boulder, Colorado found out. When the controller unit for their HVAC system died and they reached out to the provider that had designed and implemented the solution, they got no answer. Was the company no longer able to access the aging HVAC controller? Had they closed up shop? The property owner may never know.

What they did know is that without a functioning building automation control unit, the only way to operate the system was manually, meaning system components were left running full time. And, of course, this wasted energy and money. What’s more, every HVAC system component has a certain amount of hours of “life expectancy,” and by having the system always on, the community was burning through those hours.

Before (left) and after (right) panel updates by Timberline.

Time for a Change

Not wanting to address the issue initially, the community operated in this mode for two years! Ultimately, however, they knew they had to take action and called Timberline for optimization and retrofit services. A plan was developed that would address the community’s three objectives for a new building automation system:

  • HVAC efficiency and performance
  • System reliability
  • Solution serviceability

Having lost far too much money on heating and cooling costs while the HVAC system was in manual mode, the property owners wanted to retrofit it with a new control system that would optimize energy consumption and thereby maximize savings. They also wanted a system that they could trust to run reliably for years to come.

And finally, having been abandoned by their previous provider and left with a system that would have been difficult for anyone to work on, they wanted an “open” solution that could be serviced by any qualified HVAC technician. This meant that the system had to be built with parts that could be easily obtained from a variety of providers when it came time to replace them.

A Customized Control System from Timberline

Working in a neglected environment with wires that ran in every direction in no discernible pattern, Timberline first set out to understand the existing HVAC control system, mapping its “points” (inputs, outputs, and variables) to determine what information would be available to the new controller. Next, sensors were repositioned or replaced to produce a better configuration.

Then, Timberline developed a control strategy to optimize system efficiency and programmed two new GPC-XP HVAC controllers to achieve the desired automation. One benefit of the system being in manual mode was that no interruption of output was needed when the controllers were installed so the comfort of the community’s residents was never impacted. The solution also includes a “system manager” that the community’s staff or HVAC technicians can use to view information on how the system is operating.

Another advantage of the new solutions, as far as future maintenance goes, is that Timberline designed it to be “open.” In other words, it utilizes HVAC control software that is available for free online and parts that can be purchased from any supplier. As a result, the system will be easy for any HVAC service provider to maintain.

Optimized for Efficiency

The new HVAC controllers integrate seamlessly with the system’s components, including:

  • 1 Carrier chiller
  • 2 Lochinvar boilers
  • 1 system pump
  • 1 condenser water pump
  • 1 chilled water pump
  • 2 boiler pumps
  • 1 cooling tower fan

And, with the control strategy that Timberline developed, those components will operate at peak efficiency. For example, pumps will only run as needed. In addition, boilers will be “staged,” with four levels of output driven by a reset schedule. This means that supply water temperature is adjusted based on outside temperature, with the system using the coolest water that will meet its needs, which increases efficiency.

Looking Ahead to a Decade or More of Effective Operation

The building automation system that Timberline implemented at the condominium community uses the latest technology and best practices for HVAC system design. As a result, the property owner can count on a decade or more of reliable service and energy savings.

To learn more about our HVAC design, implementation, and maintenance services, contact us today.

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