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Basic Ways That Building Control Systems Can Help Save Energy

June 27, 2011 - Building Automation

Today's tip from Building Operating Management: Building control systems offer a variety of basic energy saving capabilities.

There are a variety of energy saving strategies built into the energy management function of the current generation of controls. The energy savings from these functions can help justify the cost of new or upgraded energy management system.

One basic function is automatic stop-start. While this saves energy by turning equipment off at scheduled times, a more powerful strategy can be more effective. Known as stop-start optimization, this approach goes beyond a schedule by considering indoor and outdoor temperature to decide when a piece of HVAC equipment should be started and stopped.

Another important function is the system's ability to change set points automatically in response to changing conditions inside or outside of the building. A simple example is the air-side economizer cycle. When the temperature and humidity of outdoor air are appropriate, that outdoor air can be brought into a building without being heated or cooled.

A control system can also optimize the operation of chillers, boilers, cooling towers and pumps, adjusting equipment operation on the basis of loads.

A sophisticated strategy is called load shedding. That strategy adjusts HVAC equipment operation to reduce energy use. This may be done when a building is in danger of setting a new demand peak load, or it may be initiated in response to a signal from a utility.

As useful as these and other control strategies are, they can’t be taken for granted. Over time, for example, start-stop schedules may cease to reflect actual building operations, possibly because of changes to the occupancy of a building. What’s more, control strategies are all too often overridden by maintenance and operations staff. Those overrides are frequently intended to solve a problem, but the long term effect is often energy waste.


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