If you don’t already have an energy management system (EMS) in your building, there is probably one in your future. Although the worldwide recession brought relief to energy prices, they are only assured to rise at some time in the future. Controlling and minimizing the energy consumption of your building is only going to increase in importance and priority. Thankfully, energy management systems are becoming increasingly powerful, inexpensive and easier to retrofit into buildings. Their ability to significantly reduce energy consumption will drive more installations in the coming years.
If you are planning to install an EMS, or if you have already installed one, realizing its true value really depends on the things to do after you install it.
Remember that, left on its own, the energy savings from an EMS are greatest the day after it is commissioned. After that its performance tends to degrade and the energy savings it generates will decline over time. Equipment will not be adequately maintained and its performance will suffer. Sensors will fail, along with wiring, switches, power supplies and other components. The building’s occupancy and operating schedules will change from the original assumptions. Someone will modify or override setpoints. All of these developments may seem small, but over time they will rob energy savings from your building.
You can not just install an EMS, and leave it to run on its own for years. An EMS must be actively monitored and managed. Set up the EMS to send you alarms for exception conditions, and take care of the issues quickly. But continue to tune the alarms. Receiving nuisance alarms that really do not indicate problems? Get rid of them. Experiencing higher energy consumption over time because equipment needed maintenance? Create an alarm for that. Striking a balance with alarms between missing important developments and receiving too many meaningless alarms requires continually tuning and changing alarm criteria so that you get the information you need to properly manage your EMS and building.
Remember that you don’t need to alarm every potential problem, only the ones that have immediate consequences. Have your EMS create regular reports that track energy consumption over time to help you stay on top of deteriorating performance, gradual maintenance needs, and slides in energy savings for slowly developing reasons. And as with alarms, feel free to modify and tune your reports to make sure you are getting the information you need to manage your building optimally.
The performance of your EMS, and of your building, can only be maintained if you continuously monitor and manage the system and the equipment it controls. Modify the schedules in the EMS to match any changes to the building’s operating schedule or occupancy. Aggressively tune your setpoints to reduce energy consumption while still delivering adequate comfort in the space. If you make changes to the building (e.g., moving walls, redirecting ductwork, replacing or upgrading equipment, changing lighting technology, etc.), make sure to make the appropriate changes in the EMS to minimize energy consumption after the changes. And don’t be afraid to experiment with EMS settings after those changes to make sure you have tuned the system for maximum performance.
Installing an EMS in an uncontrolled building can significantly reduce its energy consumption. To maximize this return on the investment in an EMS, continually manage it over the subsequent years to keep the EMS and the building operating at peak performance.
Written by Wayne Stargardt