An Evaluation of Enterprise Energy Management
I really do believe in the power of cloud based applications, especially analytics. I realize for some, especially those in the Building Automation Systems sphere cloud based (or if you prefer to call them distributed) analytical solutions are new to the market. Averaging about 2-3 years old the energy analytics market is quickly filling up with analytical solutions.
Specifications are now starting to be designed around ongoing commissioning, utility monitoring, and visualization platforms. These platforms can allow businesses to reduce their utility spend, increase operational efficiency, and communicate/engage stakeholders in ways that were previously not feasible.
At this time there are numerous non-vendor studies that cite the effectiveness of On-Going/Monitoring Based Commissioning. The consensus seems to be around the 10-15% energy usage reduction from utilize analytical platforms. These studies cite low implementation costs and typically less than 2-3 years simple payback.
So then, if this is the case, why are so many people asking can't my abc system do analytics, can't it visual my energy, can't it provide these outcomes? Furthermore, if it cannot, why wouldn't you design your abc control system to do all this? Why do you want me to buy another set of software.
Dispelling the Myth
Maybe I am a bad salesman, a terrible communicator, or maybe, just maybe your BAS system was not designed with analytics and enterprise applications in mind? Let's take a look. One of the more common questions I get is around ongoing commissioning. In ongoing commissioning, the system is to detect abnormalities, drifts from design, and inefficient operation in order to give the operator/owner time to address the INEFFICIENCY. Now there is a big reason I put inefficiency in big letters and we will come back to it, but now let's focus on how a BAS system would if it could do on-going commissioning.
Step 1 Gather the Data-
Ok, first you need to trend and store everything, since using your BAS for OGCX is a manual process you never know what data you may or may not need. I will agree that you could use COV to reduce polling and network traffic but you still need to log and store all the data, most likely locally. That data storage will require space and computing resources and will most likely put a drain on your local network.
Step 2 Analyze the Data-
You have a 1 story building with 5 boxes and 1 Rooftop... well then why are you reading this article in the first place, seriously, I would be doing you a disservice trying to sell you analytics on a building that small. The reality though is not that clear and clean-cut, the majority of buildings are 50k Sqft+ which means 2-3 RTU 40-50 Ton minimum plus several VAV boxes and potentially a small chiller/boiler. That creates some questions
- How does your operator now manage to monitor every device 24x7
- How does your operator know which systems to monitor? Which points to monitor?
- Depending on their skill set how does your operator connect the dots? How do they find the inefficiency?
Let's run through a scenario. 1 Million Sqft Commercial Real Estate building 3 engineers roughly 40+ SCUD units, several dozen fan and non-fan powered boxes per floor, and a Condenser Water System on the Roof. Be honest, no, really be honest with me, step back and tell me with a straight face how your 3 engineers who I know for a fact are working their butts off are going to sift through each set of data, every two minutes, to find and prioritize inefficiencies and potential future failures?
See it's all about efficiency of motion, in the past the maintenance team would perform regular maintenance and then when a compressor failed they would react, call the service company, hope they had a compressor, and pay overtime (because compressors never fail during normal working hours) for the service mechanic/technician to fix the issue.
Now with an analytics system, the fact that the system is taking longer and longer to cool to the same setpoint is detected. The issue is not an alarm but it is an inefficiency and it indicates a coming failure, the on site team can now prioritize maintenance, investigate the issue, and replace (if necessary) the compressor on their schedule. This reduces downtime, mitigates unexpected costs, and maintains the tenants comfort levels thus maintaining customer satisfaction.
Even with these benefits there are sill objections, lets see why...
Step 3 That's Why I have Alarms....
After step 2 the conversation naturally progresses to step 3, the owner/operator understands what I am saying and one of four things happen.
- They want to know more and we create a win/win situation or.....
- They get defensive because they see the system replacing their jobs
- They get defensive because they don't want their buildings issues exposed
- They still don't believe in the system.
These last three issues show up in statements like "I can do all this through alarming", or "I could buy 3 new Fan Coil Units for the price (whether they know the price or not) of xyz system" or "We don't have the staff and/or time to handle another tool"
The reality is, if you keep doing the same thing you won't have a job because eventually something will break and people will get fired. You could buy 3 new fancoils but I highly doubt that your executive team's strategic plans are to increase spending on capital assets when they could simply maintain what they have, and of course you don't have the staff or time to handle another tool, actually you are most likely so reactive now that a toothpick falling on your teams back would probably cause a revolt.
These are real concerns, these are real issues. How then do you make the paradigm shift?
Step 4 Let's walk Through It
I find it valuable to walk through their current process. Show me how you currently respond to alarms, show me your maintenance management tools and processes, help me understand your budget and how you maintain your equipment. Next we talk through how xyz system would integrate into each of those work flows and how the platform could impact their business.
The reality is the product needs to be win/win. The client needs to know that we really want them to be successful. We aren't just hocking a product, this is really something that will enable our clients to be more effective and profitable which is a benefit to us and them, hence the win/win.
If You Read Anything, Read This..
BAS systems are designed to control, schedule, and alert. That is their primary function, just like you wouldn't use a lawnmower as an edger or a drill as a mixer, you should let your BAS system focus on its top three priorities. Analytics, number crunching, and visualization are resource hogs. It's best to shift them to either a shared or private cloud environment where you can then have unlimited storage, rapid deployment of patching and software updates, as well as anywhere web access.
The future is analytics, there is no reason to maintain the old culture of monthly PM's, expensive Sunday night repairs to critical equipment, and missed Monday Night football for time-consuming reporting. Utilize the tools, use them to your advantage to do more in the same amount of time. I have yet to meet any business executive that would be upset with their facilities director if he reduced the operational spend of his facility by 5%.
The technologies for next level savings are here. They are not new, they are tested implementations of technology that has existed in the financial, governmental, and manufacturing markets for almost a decade now.
Just like there was reluctance to switch from Pneumatic systems to DDC it is natural to have reluctance around adopting an energy management platform. I understand that for most companies even having an energy management program is a "new thing".
I am writing a series about energy management and encourage you to read it if this is the case for you. I urge you to look into and invest in a analytics platform, these platforms pay for themselves produce great results, and really do work.
What has your experience been with analytics in general?
Let me know in the comments below!