Thursday, 26 May 2016

Carl Turbitt, ABB's UK HVAC Drives Team Leader writes: In honour of Shakespeare’s recent 400th birthday, we thought it would be timely to look at how drives can be used to ensure effective HVAC systems in theatres.

Making sure theatres are kept at the right temperature and are well ventilated is crucial to ensure theatre goers enjoy performances in comfort. An auditorium that is either too hot, too cold or feels stuffy is not a pleasant place for anyone to be, especially for extended periods. And as a theatre operator the last thing you want is to have a fidgety, distracted audience, or for that matter a cast and crew more preoccupied with the temperature than with delivering their lines.

There are a many factors that can affect temperature and air flow within a typical theatre. Occupancy levels rise and fall rapidly throughout the day, with a typical auditorium going from empty to full, and back to empty again, in a very short space of time. A theatre full of people will naturally generate more ambient heat than an empty one, as well as producing more moisture in the air.

The weather and time of day can also influence conditions within the building. By the evening performance, a theatre auditorium may already be sufficiently warm so as not to require as much in the way of temperature control. Air quality and temperature can also be greatly affected by lighting and other equipment – indeed, as anyone who has worked in the industry will tell you, stage lights can be very hot to work under.

Neglecting to take these factors into account can lead to deterioration of the building’s interior air quality and thermal comfort. Ultimately this means people can end up being uncomfortable in both front and back of house.

So with all these variables to consider in your typical theatre even on an average day, the motors powering the HVAC systems will have their work cut out in keeping the temperature and airflow at comfortable levels throughout. But with such variance in ambient temperature even throughout the course of a single performance, clearly it’s not necessary to constantly run the HVAC systems at full power all the time, and so some sort of speed control is needed.

Many motors achieve this through throttling arrangements, using valves and dampers to regulate the airflow if less or more is needed. The problem with this is that the motor is still running at full power irrespective of demand, and so all of that throttled energy equates to wasted energy.

A far more efficient, money-saving solution is the variable-speed drive (VSD). Rather than mechanically throttling energy flow, a VSD ensures that the motor only receives as much power as it requires for any given output level, thus eliminating wastage. This could dramatically lower your energy bills, as it means that systems can be run at lower levels depending on the occupancy of the building and/or room. Over the course of a year, this could end up saving thousands of pounds.

If you’d like to find out more about VSDs and how they can help to ensure five-star performances at your theatre, contact the ABB drives team on 07000 DRIVES (that’s 07000 374 837).

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