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How to Keep Your Building in Tip-Top Shape
This article is excerpted from the online Ally Services and Products (ASAP) Directory. For the complete text and other articles, please visit:


Building maintenance is important for the energy-efficiency performance of your facilities, both on a regular basis and as a more thorough "building tune-up." A building tune-up, the second stage of the ENERGY STAR buildings upgrade strategy, involves a series of simple, low- or no-cost adjustments to existing building equipment.

These measures can result in an energy savings of 5 to 15 percent and have an average return on the investment of 35 percent. A building tune-up can also help prepare a building for a comprehensive energy-efficiency upgrade. To begin a building tune-up, follow these three important steps:

  • Calibrate building controls
  • Secure the building envelope from infiltration
  • Test all building systems

Evaluate Your Systems
Once building controls are calibrated as they were intended, you can begin evaluating which systems in your building need to be adjusted or upgraded. The first step is to calibrate indoor and outdoor building controls, such as room thermostats, duct thermostats, humidistats, and pressure and temperature sensors, to be in accordance with the original design specifications.

  • Inspect Controls
    Next, inspect damper and valve controls to make sure they are functioning properly. Check pneumatically controlled dampers for air leaks and ensure that they open and close properly. Except for buildings with heat pumps, another energy saving measure is to turn temperature controls down at night in the winter and up in the summer to avoid unnecessary heating or cooling losses. And, if applicable, make sure that your cooling tower and humidity-based air economizers are working properly at start up.
  • Locate Air Leaks
    By reducing air infiltration in to and from the building envelope you can enhance occupant comfort and reduce heating or cooling errant air. Tighten the building by locating all air leaks in the windows, doors, walls, and roofs. indications of air leaks are drafts near doors and windows, and also heat build-up in upper floors of building (chimney effect).
  • Seal Off Leaks
    Once you have detected the air leaks, seal them with appropriate materials and techniques such as weather-stripping on doors, sealing and caulking on windows, and proper insulation distribution in walls, ceilings and roofing. If your building is equipped with revolving doors you should encourage their use to reduce drafts and conditioned-air loss.

The TAB (Testing, Adjusting, Balancing) Analysis
Conducting a testing, adjusting, and balancing (TAB) analysis of building systems involves investigating the current state of the system and making adjustments to run it close to its original design specifications. Since occupancy levels and space utilization of a building may change dramatically over time, the TAB process can improve occupant comfort and save energy costs by increasing the efficiency of the system.

For a TAB analysis of a typical HVAC system, you should investigate

  • air and water system flow rates
  • heating and cooling systems' delivery temperatures
  • positions and functioning of flow control devices for air and water delivery systems
  • control settings and operations
  • fan and pump speeds and pressures

Items Check
Air delivery and water system items to be checked include outside-and mixed-air dampers and coil-mixing valves. Pneumatic control systems, which are the "blood stream" for many larger HVAC systems, also require maintenance for the controller to properly regulate the position of the valve or damper operator.

An annual check of the compressors for main control air can prevent the main-air lines from becoming contaminated with water or oil. A refrigerated air drier can remove water from the air supply by cooling the compressed air as it leaves the receiver tank, thereby condensing the moisture and depositing it into a drain.

High-efficiency filters (such as coalescing air filters) can remove oil from the main-air supply. Main and branch air lines should also be checked for leaks or blockages, which typically occur at or between sensing elements (thermostats, etc.) and control devices (valve or damper actuators).

Such leaks or blockages in the lines create losses in pressure that affect the overall system operation by providing incorrect pressure signals to the controlling devices, and may even render an control device inactive. Calibrating the control devices and elements approximately every four months will promote the system's optimal performance.

Clean All Surfaces
Finally, ensure that all heat transfer surfaces and filters are clean. Dirty surfaces reduce heat transfer, increase pressure loss, and increase energy use. Take the following measures to keep surfaces and filters clear:

  • Clean the airside of heating and cooling coils, whether in an air handler or in a rooftop unit, to reduce dirt and deposit build-up.
  • Check for and clean dust build-up in baseboard-heating systems.
  • Clean and replace, as necessary, filters for both airside and waterside systems.

4. Avoid covering or blocking terminal fan-coil units and baseboards. Besides creating a fire hazard (in the case of radiators), blocking the units prevents proper air circulation and renders heating and cooling inefficient.

A building maintenance program can be a relative inexpensive, yet profitable part of your building operation. The ENERGY STAR Buildings upgrade strategy integrates building tune-ups as a part of a comprehensive approach to overall building efficiency improvements. To learn more about other building tune-up measures and how they fit into your upgrade strategy, check out

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