Free Cooling?! Do I Have That?

Jan 15, 2019

An uninformed consumer is at risk of not gaining easily attainable benefits in their everyday climate operations. At Pelican we believe you should be informed on how your equipment is operating. Do you have free cooling? If you do not know the answer to this question, its time to start looking into getting Pelican.

What is free cooling?

In most climates, there are periods where the outside air temperature and humidity levels are more favorable to cool your space than the air recirculating inside your building. A lot of HVAC equipment have, or can add, an outside air damper (economizer) to either increase or decrease the amount of outside air coming into your space. The decision on how and when to open or close these dampers is based on the hardware and sensors installed on your equipment.

Economizers are not a new concept and Pelican did not invent the theories behind adding these control. But, what we have placed new theories on is best practices on making and keeping economizers working. This is important because a working economizer equals huge energy savings, but a broken economizer could put you at extreme risk. 

Our approach to eliminating economizer malfunction is as follows:

  1. Making sure you always know how and when your economizer is working. Not knowing is a risk to you, your organization and your occupants.
  2. Enhance the benefits of your outside air damper through learning algorithms (AI). Most economizer controllers are out-of-the-box programmed to do specific sequences. Pelican’s controller adjusts to your actual equipment capabilities, the space’s reaction to these algorithms, and the climate of your overall building.
These two concepts taken our customers to a new level of comfort and efficiency, while eliminating headaches, costs, and workload. 

You in the know.

You are a busy person with a LOT of tasks needing your attention. The last thing you want to be actively monitoring is your HVAC equipment. We agree, we are also busy, we also have HVAC equipment, and we do not want to sit and monitor if it is working or not. At Pelican we build algorithms into our hardware which watchs your equipment automatically. If a problem is discovered, an alert is generated. And because the system is always tracking data on your equipment,it can quickly show you the real problem, helping you to be proactive and then confirm it was fixed.

"Chasing down and putting out fires"

Our company invented a theory, deciding our biggest task was to help customers eliminate a poor approach to climate complaint management – “chasing fires, instead of eliminating why the fire occurred in the first place.”

At Pelican we believe that a preventative approach to climate management is less expensive and more rewarding than the normal “fire drill” response to climate problems. To learn more about this theory – click here.  

There are a few reasons why knowing when and how your economizer is working is extremely important.

First, your economizer is also your ventilation damper. If your economizer controller is broken and the damper is fully shut, then you are putting occupants at risk of low ventilation. To learn more about managing proper ventilation – click here.

Second, if your economizer damper is stuck closed or does not modulate open, then you are not gaining free benefits on days when the outside air temperature and humidity levels are more favorable to cool your space than the air recirculating inside your building. In some regions the energy savings are over 25%, but in almost all regions there is going to be some benefit to a working economizer.

Finally, if your economizer damper is stuck fully open or further open than it should be, then you are generating a lot of excess load on your HVAC equipment. When your outside air damper is open, your indoor air is blown to the outside, and the outside air is brought through your HVAC equipment. This means on a mildly hot day (80° F) you are losing efficiency and overloading your HVAC equipment’s cooling source because it is working to cooling down outside air, instead of the re-circulated air from your space. On a mildly cool day (50° F) you are losing efficiency and overloading your HVAC equipment’s heating source because it is working to heat up outside air, instead of the re-circulated air from your space. You can multiple these effects on extreme days exponentially.

Better algorithms aside, you know your economizer is working correctly is of extreme value to you and your organization. Pelican wants you to know your ventilation rates are accurate and your occupants are safe. That you are achieving the efficiency you expect out of your economizer. And that you are eliminating unnecessary negatively impacts on your equipment: generating immediate efficiencies, while extending the overall life of your HVAC units.

Taking full advantage of your equipment.

Almost 80% of HVAC rooftop equipment have de-activated or non-functioning economizers. There are a few reasons for this: 1. Economizers are mechanical and they can fail without anyone knowing. 2. Economizer controllers are consider “in-the-middle” devices, meaning they sitting between your thermostat and your HVAC equipment. When a comfort complaint occurs, many contractors might disable your economizer to quickly remove it as the potential problem. But, many times your economizer is left disabled or forgotten- which affects easy efficiencies across the US.

When inventing our economizer controller, we had the immediate intent of connecting customers to how they equipment/economizers were operating. This task eliminates a lot of risk and generates extreme reward (as explained above). But, our main approach to controls it to make sure they continue to evolve and increase your efficiencies. We do this through data aggregation and building intelligent logic into each controller. As tens of thousands of our economizer controllers have and get installed across the US, we have invented automated techniques to increase the efficiencies of your equipment.

Comparison of Space Temperature to Outside Air Temperature

The job of your climate management solution is to maintain the desired temperature of each space in your building. When you intend to use free cooling and outside air to generate efficiencies, you don’t want to unintentionally affect comfort. We began to see correlations between your space temperature (set point), the outside air temperature, and the reaction your space had during an economizer sequence that lead to a few advantages in our controls.

  1. Pelican uses the space temperature as the decision on if the outside air environment is more favorable to cool your space than using other temperature points. This puts our system directly where your occupant feels comfort, so our controller is making good decisions to generate the best comfort.
  2. Since our solution is Internet connected, we found that we can get more information about the outside air environment from the Internet than just local sensors installed at your HVAC unit. This lets us make better decisions about when and how to economizer than stand-alone controllers.
  3. Our economizer controller talks logically with the thermostat. When the thermostat asks for cooling, it can tell the economizer controller how much cooling it needs (demand level). This allows the economizer controller to make a better decision on how to use the outside air and HVAC equipment together. As the economizer is used, the thermostat continually communicates with the economizer controller on how things are going. As long as the space is cooling at a rate comfortable to the occupant, then it stays in economizer mode. This direct communication path leads to more effective conditioning and higher levels of efficiency.
  4. We can use the economizer more often and longer than other solutions. Using free outside air is almost 100% more efficient than running your HVAC unit to generate cold air. We have discovered that sometimes the economizer is enough to bring your space close to your set point, but not all the way there. As long as we are able to maintain within 1° F of your set point, we will keep the economizer engaged and air flowing into the space. No need to turn on your compressors to change the space 0.2° F just to hit the set point. No other economizer controller is able to do this.

These are some features the Pelican PEARL economizer controller adds to customer environments. These are automated algorithms and require zero programming to make work.  


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