VICENZA, Italy (May 18, 2020) — With spring weather here, the heating season has officially ended. The U.S. Army Garrison Italy Directorate of Public Works started shutting off building heating systems Apr. 15 but the process is slower than normal due to COVID-19 and, consequently, the reduced number of maintenance technicians available.
Utilities are a large annual expense for the United States Army and USAG Italy - at more than $16 million per year, and electricity alone, at more than $9 million - so it makes sense that the garrison works to conserve energy and tries to reduce its impact on the environment focusing on electricity consumption and air conditioning.
“We spend more than $1 million per month on electricity during the summer months, with AC being the biggest impact,” said Lyman Parkhurst, U.S. Army Garrison Italy Energy Manager.
For the buildings with ventilation systems or hot water radiators the shutting off of the heat doesn’t require any occupant input. In leased and private rental housing the boiler control needs to be moved from the icon for radiator and faucet to only the faucet, which is the domestic hot water setting.
This may involve setting a lower temperature of 113°F/45°C (instantaneous) or 140°F/60°C (boiler with a water storage tank). For the buildings and houses that have heat pumps, the thermostat should be turned off. It is important to remember to check the thermostat or fan coil and make sure it is set properly for the heat being off.
“With the first few warm days we always receive calls ‘when is the AC going to get turned on?’
Last year, the first call came in the day the heat was turned off – Apr. 15. Then, after a cold spell a few weeks later in May, we received calls to turn the heat back on,” said Parkhurst.
In accordance with the USAG Italy Heating and Cooling Policy, which reflects Italian and Army guidance, heating systems begin shut off on Apr. 15.
The policy also follows a priority system, beginning with administrative and support (ex. warehouse), followed by community facilities; barracks; health and dental care facilities; child development centers; Child & Youth Services; schools; and operational or mission facilities.
In compliance with Army Regulations and Italian Decree 311, USAG Italy authorizes air conditioning season to begin on or after May 15 and only after three consecutive days of 80˚F/26.5˚C temperatures.
Operation of split system or heat pump air conditioners in offices or buildings is prohibited before the use of air conditioning has been authorized. Exceptions are only granted for facilities that are medical, day care and school, and special use or mission essential, such as data centers and computer rooms.
When AC season does begin, the thermostats setting can be no lower than the garrison policy limit of 75˚F/24˚C. For thermostats that control both heating and air conditioning, switch the season control from heating to cooling and raise the set point to no lower than 75˚F/24˚C.
Before turning on your AC it is a good idea to check the filter on the coils and make sure it is clean.
“Generally, with the thinner fiberglass filters, whenever you cannot see daylight through the filter when holding it up to the sun or bright light, it's too dirty. For pleated, thicker material air filters, if it looks completely covered in dirt it should be replaced”, Parkhurst explained.
He also added that room indoor split units or fan coils usually have a very simple ‘filter' which looks like a window screen material. “That should just be washed off under the faucet or with a water hose,” he said. Other recommendations include some conduct in offices, such as remembering to set the thermostat no lower than 75˚F/24°C. “The thermostat should be between 75˚-79˚F/24°-26°C for comfort. Some people dislike cold air blowing directly on them so deflect the air toward the ceiling and it will cool the whole room better without cold spots,” he added.
According to Parkhurst, offices should turn off the AC at night and open a window for ventilation if it is cooling off below 75˚F/24°C.
“An AC unit will usually cool a room down in only a few minutes, wait those minutes rather than operate it continuously when unoccupied or raise the temperature to 89°F/30°C when it is extremely hot.
Also, AC that runs when the room in the house is unoccupied all day or maybe a living room at night is mostly wasted energy. Please use it responsibly to save money,” he said.