Technology helps businesses go 'green'

By Kylie Wilson-Field, Journalist
Friday, 20 April, 2007

As the debate over climate change continues, many Australian businesses are keen to be 'green'. But many are not sure what they can do or what the bottom line will be for their business. As the greenhouse movement moves into the mainstream, new methods for testing power and air quality are becoming available.

Fluke Australia is working to help businesses test for better air and power quality, which they believe in the long run will save businesses money by controlling energy use and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The company has a range of testing tools from industrial electronic installation, maintenance and service, to precision measurement and quality control.

Steve Hood, managing director of Fluke Australia spoke to Waste Streams about the air quality testing tools currently manufactured by Fluke.

What kind of tools can test air and power quality?

The Fluke 975V air meter tests air quality and the Fluke 1735 three-phase power quality analyser measures power quality. Together, the tools complement each other to provide an all-round air and power quality measurement. Additionally, Fluke makes a range of thermal imaging cameras that can detect heat or cooling loss in the building structure.

How do they work?

The Fluke 975V air meter can be used for a range of tasks, including:

  • responding to comfort-related calls from building occupants
  • determining whether there is adequate ventilation
  • testing carbon dioxide (CO2) levels
  • general air flow and velocity monitoring
  • testing for carbon monoxide leaks
  • verifying building HVAC control systems

The product is aimed at facilities managers and building managers and is very easy to use. Operation is as simple as pressing a button and holding it towards the air conditioning unit.

The Fluke 1735 three-phase power quality analyser assists technicians in quickly pinpointing power problems as well as logging power consumption, determining the biggest users of power and assisting in minimising these.

Poor power quality is not only costly in terms of wasted energy and unnecessary downtime for businesses, it is also dangerous and increases the risk of equipment failure.

A thermal imaging camera detects the small temperature differentials that can detect thermal insulation failure in a building. This allows heat to either enter or exit a building, adding to the load on the air conditioning plant, leading to premature failure and increased energy consumption.

Who will benefit from this equipment?

The 975V air meter is designed to provide more accurate measurements for building and facilities managers and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) specialists. Likewise, the 1735 power quality analyser provides a quick, yet safe and accurate, reading. However, this tool should be used by a qualified electrician.

Ultimately, business owners benefit with cost savings from reduced equipment malfunction and a more productive staff.

Finally, the environment benefits from the tools as they help to notify building managers to CO2 and CO levels and draw attention to HVAC problems in the building and car parking spaces.

How does it save businesses money?

Cost savings can be seen through increase in productivity - a workforce is proven to be more productive in a more comfortable working environment. Air flow, ventilation and temperature are a major part of this.

Power quality tools can monitor power consumption, ensuring that the machines that consume the most power in a building are operating efficiently as well as pinpointing potential problems early. This enables organisations to take action before extensive disruption to the workplace or damage to expensive equipment is caused.

Businesses can reduce the cost of energy bills by monitoring HVAC systems and adjusting fans and machinery cycle times to match the needed air conditioning and time of day. For instance, a room with only one person in it does not need the level of air conditioning as one with 40 people in it.

What are the long term benefits for industry?

Long term benefits are seen as part of a predictive maintenance strategy. This means that the tools can be used to identify problems before this happens meaning a reduced risk of productivity loss or machine breakdown.

Environmentally, while there are no strict policies at the moment, the tools can help buildings to achieve a green building status whereby CO2 emissions are reduced to a minimum.

It also provides a more comfortable working environment, which reduces the likelihood of 'sick building syndrome'. This means the staff is more productive.

Why is it important to develop technology to save greenhouse gas emissions?

It is important to develop this kind of technology as greenhouse gas emissions are a growing concern for businesses across the globe. As businesses become more concerned with their contribution to the problem and look for ways to manage emissions, building managers and technicians need the right tools to be able to accurately measure greenhouse gas emissions before they can look at ways of controlling them.

Why is it important to develop such a product in Australia?

It is important for Australia to develop products and technologies in niche areas where we excel to compensate for our relatively small domestic market and current export disadvantage. This will assist the slow down in the 'brain drain' and help in a globally competitive environment.

How important is it to have Government support in regards to the development of such equipment?

Government support is always helpful, although we need to balance this with our international free trade agreements. Government support would be useful in terms of tax breaks or loans creating an environment that stimulates research and development and regional growth.

Australia is well placed to be a leading force in technologies to better control the efficiency of energy production, use and greenhouse gases.

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