How will La Niña impact your facility this winter?
Wednesday, November 29, 2017
La Niña has arrived for the second straight winter, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). La Niña is a cooling pattern of the sea surface temperature in the Pacific Ocean, and it can have a big effect on North America.
How La Niña impacts the weather will depend on where you live and work, of course. Those in the southern parts of the United States will see a drier winter than usual — which, for places such as Florida, is typically dry during the winter months anyway.
From the mid-Atlantic through the Southeast and into Texas, NOAA predicts winter will be drier and warmer, while the Northwest, Midwest and Northeast will be wetter, which could mean additional snow. Across the country in the northern regions, people should also expect colder temperatures than usual. The weather phenomenon likely will last throughout the winter into April.
The winter of 2016 saw one of the West's and upper Midwest's wettest winters on record, according to the Weather Channel. The East, South and Midwest had one of the warmest winters recorded.
For facilities managers, the impact on their HVAC systems is similarly based on where the organization is located. While some areas of the country are relatively unaffected by La Niña, most regions must prepare for snowfall and an increased demand in service calls for these systems.
Despite the second straight La Niña, it's not prudent to expect last year's winter cycle to repeat itself exactly the same this year. Per ACHR News, 2016's winter months brought "an uptick in fuel costs but also surprised most by being significantly warmer than usual. The 2017-2018 winter season looks to continue the first trend while subverting the second."
Likewise, expenditures for all heating fuels are expected to rise this winter because of expected colder weather, obviously, and higher energy costs, the U.S. Energy Information Administration's short-term winter fuels outlook said: "Average increases vary by fuel with natural gas expenditures forecast to rise by 12 percent, home heating oil by 17 percent, electricity by 8 percent, and propane by 18 percent."
As such, fuel forecasts could be a good thing for HVAC managers throughout the winter.
Those managing HVAC services and equipment, such as heat pumps, will likely see an increased amount of their budgets spent on winter preparation and maintenance this year compared to last.
"The increase in forecast expenditures compared with last winter is driven by a 9 percent increase in consumption and a 2 percent increase in price," ACHR News reports.
The EIA projects that heating-oil households, for example, will experience increased spending because of harsh winter environments, an average of $215 (17 percent) more this winter than last winter. This is means retail prices may be 25 cents per gallon (10 percent) higher and consumption that is 6 percent higher than last year.
For those facilities managers in areas not really affected by the weather changes, the winter is business as usual in many cases. Many HVAC specialists in the South mostly update or maintain their cooling systems, and emergency heat systems are only modified as needed, for a few days' use, at most, at a time. These facilities managers usually don't need to worry about heat pumps and other winter-ready solutions no matter what a system like La Niña does.
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