On the surface, there would seem to be obvious advantages to using an automated approach to energy management. Such an approach would mean deploying a computerized control system that’s been specifically designed to regulate the energy consumption of your facility.
The system that does this (by delivering energy management control) achieves results by controlling the operation of all of a building’s energy consuming systems, including heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), as well others (such as lighting, and water heating systems). When deployed, the energy management control solution will be capable of monitoring environmental, and system loads and adjusting HVAC operations to optimize energy usage and respond more accurately to demand.
There would seem to be lots of obvious advantages to such a system. Increasing energy efficiency, cutting costs and increasing the sustainability of a facility seem to be clear benefits. So, there’s a clear need to prioritize the monitoring and more effective control of HVAC and other systems besides.
Plus, while the immediate advantages of such systems largely focus on the commercial, the advantages of energy control also extend to the users of facilities in the form of increased environmental comfort (which, in turn, drives optimal productivity and health). Poor workplace conditions are well known to have a negative effect on output, so it makes sense to ensure the opposite is the case.
At heart, energy control systems do what their name suggests; they put facility managers in control of a budling’s energy usage; in position to succeed by giving them the information and tools to understand how energy is being used and, therefore, to better configure and thereby improve their energy performance. The manager can know what’s going on at all times by monitoring systems across the facility and respond to alerts quickly and directly, often whether they’re on site or not.
It’s perhaps best to think of these systems as “control layers” rather than extensive tools that cross functional borders. Facilities, as noted above, will have multiple existing and mostly entirely separate systems that address different areas of building performance (such as HVAC or water). The control system can be thought of as a separate “toolbox” that sits above different elements and that’s designed to manage and optimize the performance of these separate systems across functional boundaries.
If you’re persuaded by the above to investigate further, what should you be thinking about in terms of adding an energy control system? What should you be trying to address and what issues are you likely to confront in identifying the right approach? Here are five considerations to start with.
You could - see above – increase energy control via installing multiple stand-alone boxes, for different aspects of the facility ignoring overall control altogether. But will such smaller steps in the right direction deliver the desired results, or should you go for a fully programmable, universal solution – that delivers greater returns over time?
To achieve performance improvements, you must understand the point of departure, in this case occupancy patterns, usage schedules, user density, and so on, in the building. The more you know about how your facility is being used, the better you can design a control system that’s likely to be effective in delivering the results you’re seeking.
Technology today, as we know, tends to have a short shelf-life. So, your chosen control systems should be flexible enough to incorporate future changes in both software and underlying building system technologies (for instance, metering). Where possible, a solution that’s programmable offers some protection against the possibility of future redundancy.
As ever these days, it’s all in the data. System performance must be verified so you should prioritize an approach to energy control that enables the collection and analysis of data from assets (including HVAC) from across your facility – and, indeed, from every location and site you cover.
It might seem obvious, but if you’re not clear about the goals for your control system, how are you going to meet them? The first step to effective energy management control for your facility is producing a clear servicing and control strategy, only then identifying a system capable of delivering results against that strategy. Your strategy needs to consider operational issues, comfort goals, energy usage patterns, facilities/systems, and more.
There are, of course, many more questions to consider when thinking about energy management control, such as understanding maintenance requirements, identifying reporting needs, considering whether any bespoke functionality might be required, etc. Nevertheless, the above issues provide a useful start for further thinking about what’s likely to be best for your facility.
At NexRev, we’ve been unlocking the power in facility and energy management data with over half a million connected devices across North America. Our team of experts are focused on helping you deliver more with your budgets, infrastructure, and assets to create sustainable savings in operations and energy, reducing your risk and increasing operational confidence.
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