How Optimizing Your Cooling Tower Impacts Carbon Emissions

Machine learning technology has proven to save up to 20% on energy and water costs, learn about what it can do to help your LL 97 needs.

Local Law 97: How Optimizing Building Cooling Impacts Carbon Emissions

Buildings are responsible for significant carbon emissions globally, and New York City is no exception. Working all day to provide occupancy comfort, buildings in New York account for approximately 70% of the city's total CO2 production and that's not slowing down.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Association (EIA), energy used to cool a building will grow faster than any other use in buildings between now and 2050. While energy usage will continue to grow, there are many opportunities to improve energy efficiency and move the needle toward environmental impact. 

To address this growing issue and its impact on the environment, climate initiatives worldwide, such as the Climate Mobilization Act of 2019 and its associated legislation, New York Local Law 97, have been introduced to implement carbon drawdown measures. Local Law 97 and other similar initiatives are putting stringent laws in place to reduce carbon emissions from buildings by 40% in 2030 and 80% citywide by 2050. These laws require large buildings to reduce carbon emissions in order to meet new legal limits.

In New York City, LL97 places carbon caps on most buildings over 25,000 square feet, which covers nearly 50,000 buildings in the city. Starting in 2025 building owners will need to submit annual reports with information on their overall building energy consumption and carbon production. Failing to comply with New York Law 97 will require building owners to pay fines of up to $268 per ton of emissions above the limit for their specified building type. With hefty fines and stringent rules, looking for ways to optimize building efficiency is crucial.  

One of the key ways to achieve the goal of reducing carbon emissions is by optimizing building cooling systems. In this blog, we will explore the impact of building cooling on carbon emissions, the benefits of creating efficiency within your systems, and how Local Law 97 is driving this change in New York City.

How Does Building HVAC and Cooling Impact The Environment?

If you work in a big office space or live in a large apartment building, then the buildings you spend time in most likely operate with a cooling tower in its HVAC system. Most commercial buildings will have cooling towers on them and these machines are deceptively simple in how they appear — a large metal box with a fan and warm water running through it. As simple as they appear, cooling towers are responsible for maintaining a comfortable building and require a lot of energy to run them. 

To understand how cooling a building works you must understand that the HVAC system in a large building normally has three primary components in it: air handlers, chillers, and cooling towers. These components work together to remove heat from the building. 

The chiller works to provide chilled water to the air handlers by compressing and expanding gas in a way that moves heat from one place to another. The chilled water is then circulated through heat exchangers that cool down the indoor air that the air handlers blow through ducts to cool the building. The cooling tower works to remove heat collected from the chiller by using evaporation to ultimately reject the heat originally created inside of the building.

This process of cooling commercial buildings requires a lot of energy, which often comes from fossil fuels that emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. As a result, commercial building cooling contributes to climate change, air pollution, and other negative impacts on the environment.

Cooling Energy Consumption

Buildings produce a large portion of the world's GHG emissions, accounting for 28% of delivered energy consumption in 2021 in the U.S., and space heating, cooling, and ventilation accounting for 46% of the energy consumed by residential and commercial buildings in 2021, consuming a combined total of over 600 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh)

Cooling systems are designed to provide a specific level of cooling based on the conditions they were designed for. Because electricity demand for cooling is significantly affected by climate and weather, it's difficult for cooling towers and HVAC systems to automatically adapt to their environment. This leaves an opportunity for technological enhancements to help the system and overall building run more efficiently.  

How To Decrease Cooling Environmental Impact?

Cooling tower controls aren't easily-adaptable to their environments, meaning that if it's hotter one day and colder the next, your HVAC system doesn't change anything in the way it runs due to those changing conditions, often leaving the system to run at 100%, all day, every day. When an HVAC system is running at its highest capability every single day, the system is constantly using the most electricity and power possible and emitting the most GHG it can. 

Changes in building load and weather will affect both the water temperature coming from the chiller and the conditions that determine the behavior of evaporation, leading to vastly different and often inefficient operations. This issue is happening at scale in places such as New York City, where more than 50,000 buildings operate with cooling towers running in a similar manner. 

In order to decrease the impact of building cooling on the environment, we must work toward efficiently optimizing the cooling process and finding other ways to provide building comfort for its occupants efficiently. With New York Local Law 97 taking effect in 2025, the time to decrease cooling environmental impact was yesterday. 

Tagup & Cooling Optimization

As technology has advanced, there have been many applications introduced for tools that enable optimizing systems in buildings. One key to these tools has been machine learning and artificial intelligence which have the ability to take in data, analyze and discover patterns, and deliver insights and recommendations based on that analysis. Machine learning capabilities are gaining ground in the commercial buildings industry and are making an impact on cooling optimization. 

Tagup has developed commercial technology for cooling towers and HVAC optimization designed to reduce energy and water costs by up to 20%. Tagup has shown how combining sensors and machine learning can yield insights directly related to temperature settings that directly affect fan speeds, water flow rates, chiller power, and energy consumption. 

Here's how it works: 

Tagup leverages existing HVAC equipment data and external factors such as weather and load to achieve cooling system optimization. 

  • Our ML algorithms study and analyze your system's current performance and how components interact with each other
  • Tagup will deploy an improved, ML-powered setpoint strategy after establishing a baseline for your system 
  • As our models collect more data, we continuously learn from historical performance and real-time data in order to maximize cooling system savings 

By using machine learning to optimize cooling in commercial buildings, we will see dramatic savings in energy consumption, water usage, and carbon output. 

Using Machine Learning for Carbon Reduction

Machine learning has the potential to revolutionize energy efficiency in building cooling systems and could make a large impact on laws like New York Local Law 97. By utilizing vast amounts of data from sensors and other sources, machine learning algorithms can analyze patterns and make predictions about energy consumption, equipment maintenance needs, and occupant behavior.

This information can be used to optimize building operations in real time, resulting in significant energy savings and improved occupant comfort.

If you're interested in learning more about Tagup and our machine-learning capabilities for cooling tower optimization, check out our white paper on HVAC optimization or schedule a demo

Machine learning for cooling optimization has the power to make a meaningful impact on the climate and getting started is easy. 

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