Left out in the cold: how the change in seasons can lead to runaway energy bills during the pandemic

COVID-era building operations have included suggestions such as increasing filtration or ventilation rates “as much as systems will allow.” But as the colder weather approaches, how will facilities manage energy use—and costs?


Summer was a challenge for many schools, to say the least. Facilities staff faced an evolving landscape of operating scenarios and best practices around COVID-19. Facilities managers were asked to form reopening plans with limited information, infrastructure, resources, and time. Now that facilities are reopened, many are facing new challenges.

Preparing to reopen buildings has meant making adjustments to existing systems—for example, increasing filtration or ventilation rates “as much as systems will allow.”

But are these measures enough to sustain healthy buildings and indoor environments for students, faculty and staff in the long-term? As the year goes on and colder weather approaches, how will facilities manage energy usage and utility cost budgets, given new system modifications? How will managers monitor healthy building operations and use data to communicate about health and safety to occupant stakeholders?

Meanwhile, more evidence is suggesting that aerosols play an important role in transmission, upping the stakes on safe levels of fresh air ventilation.

Maintain. Continue routine service of equipment and controls, perform filter changes, etc. Organize utility bills and energy consumption data to compare usage over time. It is important to keep documentation tracking changes that have been made to HVAC and controls systems.  

Modify. Additional system modifications should be considered, including the addition of filtration or disinfection technologies, enhancement of controls capabilities, equipment updates to match building changes, system redesigns to match building use, etc. 

Monitor. Now more than ever, it’s critical to measure and control key parameters linked to healthy HVAC operations. Building management systems, if properly equipped and configured, can be leveraged to provide useful data, insights, and reports on system performance, providing ongoing assurance.

Manage. On top of all this, there is the need to collaborate with a broad group of stakeholders to develop and execute a plan for healthy buildings. Given the fear, anxiety, and uncertainty surrounding the current pandemic, this may be the most challenging aspect of the tough assignment schools are facing this fall and beyond.

GreenerU can help you develop an approach that is manageable for your school and its facilities. How?

  • Facilities assessments
  • HVAC systems retro-commissioning
  • HVAC system retrofit, redesign, and renewal
  • Energy efficiency solutions
  • Data analytics for energy and indoor environmental quality
  • Planning and process facilitation
  • Stakeholder engagement and communications

What are your challenges? Get in touch with us—we would be happy to get on the phone and talk through some of what you’re facing right now.

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