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4  FM quick reads on fault detection and diagnostics

1. Fault Detection And Diagnostics Software Has Potential To Save Energy


Today's tip from Building Operating Management comes from Jim Sinopoli of Smart Buildings LLC: Fault detection and diagnostics software has the potential to save energy from HVAC systems.

There are now several types of software analytics tools and applications to help analyze building data. But the one with the best-verified results and cost effectiveness is known as fault detection and diagnostics.

Fault detection and diagnostics, like other analytic software tools related to building systems, primarily supports technicians and engineers in the field who are dealing with both everyday operational matters and details of building operations as well as broader issues of complicated systems, advanced technology and higher expectations for building performance. The fault detection and diagnostics analytic tools provide insights into building systems that help reduce energy consumption, improve building performance and lower costs.

Fault detection and diagnostics does just what its name implies: It finds problems within HVAC systems and offers guidance about solving those problems.

It's a challenge to keep a significant, energy consuming system such as HVAC running at optimal performance. Many times failures or sub-optimal performance go unnoticed for long periods of time. Case studies from companies selling fault detection and diagnostics software services can show energy savings in the 10 percent to 15 percent range; the tools are said to have the capability to correctly identify faults and spell out the primary response 95 percent of the time.

Software based on fault detection and diagnostics is really a new class of tool for facility managers, providing them nearly real-time analysis and diagnostics of their HVAC systems and adding some "smarts" to a smart building. It's not difficult to imagine similar tools for other building systems, with the potential for enhanced intelligence built into tools for facility management.

This has been a Building Operating Management Tip of the Day. Thanks for listening.


2.  How Fault Detection And Diagnostics Reduces Energy Costs

Today's briefing comes from Rita Tatum, contributing editor for Building Operating Management. Microsoft has seen significant energy savings from deploying fault detection and diagnostics across its campus. In 2012, more than 4 million square feet of space on the Redmond campus have the smart solution in place, and Darrell Smith, director of energy and facilities, expects to save $1.5 million in energy costs for fiscal 2013. That savings is coming from "casting a net" of fault rules across the buildings to identify assets that are wasting energy because they are not working as designed or have incorrect set points. The payback is less than 18 months, which is particularly noteworthy since the state of Washington has rock-bottom power prices. "We have the third lowest utility rate in the country," Smith points out.

It's not that the buildings were designed inefficiently. A number of the worst performing were built to LEED Gold and LEED Silver standards. But under the old system, each building was retro-commissioned once every five years to make sure it was operating as designed. It was simply impossible with so many buildings to get to each one any faster.

That lag led to problems. For example, a sewer pump developed issues so the exhaust fan was taken off the carbon dioxide sensors and run at 100 percent. The override remained that way for a year before it was found and reversed.

Facilities personnel used to go and look to see what was broken. "Now, I know the actuator's broken before you tell me and I know how much it will cost if I don't make that repair," observes Smith.

But the intelligent building management system does more than indicate a $50 variable air volume fault versus a $20,000 air economizer problem.

"It also lets me drill down to the floor so I can evaluate the asset value and determine the priority," explains Smith. "It may be a $300 fault, but the impact on our business [could be] such that it's actually more important to fix the $300 fault before another fault that could represent $15,000 in wasted energy."

In addition to fault detection and diagnostics, Microsoft's system also manages alarms and assists in energy management functions. Smith estimates 2 million data points are currently connected across the campus. When all Microsoft buildings are on the new system, it may be handling 500 million data transactions every 24 hours.

3.  Microsoft Finds That Fault Detection Saves Energy

Today's briefing comes from Rita Tatum, contributing editor for Building Operating Management. The value of intelligent buildings compounds when applied across a corporate or governmental real estate portfolio. Microsoft has about 125 buildings totaling roughly 15 million square feet on its Redmond, Wash., campus, as well as another 15 million square feet spread across the globe. The Redmond campus is the size of a medium-sized city, says Darrell Smith, director of facilities and energy for real estate and facilities.

Buildings were built at different times and design standards were not initially set. So the campus had many disparate BAS systems. "Nothing was talking to each other," says Smith. "Reporting was labor intensive." To prepare a quarterly report on energy use meant physically going into several tools to extract the information from every meter, which took weeks.

Ripping out and replacing $60 million of BAS systems to make everything the same was not feasible for a company with literally millions of data points. The company was looking for off-the-shelf solutions built on Microsoft technology that would provide fault detection and diagnosis, alarm management and energy management on one platform.

The company expects to reduce energy consumption by 10 percent. Microsoft began studying its options in 2009. By 2011, the company decided on three potential smart solutions from three different vendors and began installing and monitoring them in 13 buildings, representing about 2.6 million square feet of space. Some of the buildings were nearly brand new while others were more than 20 years old. The analytical layer from each vendor was installed above the existing building management systems.

Following a year of study and evaluation, Smith says all three program components performed well, "but fault detection turned out to offer the largest value. We saw a 17 percent savings in one building in just one week," he says. Now, Microsoft has selected one vendor from the three and is deploying the solution across its whole Redmond campus.

4.  Data Issues Are Critical With Fault Detection And Diagnostics (FDD)

Today's tip from Building Operating Management comes from Jim Sinopoli of Smart Buildings LLC. Facility managers who are considering fault detection and diagnostics tools should be aware of the importance of data and network issues. Here are some points to keep in mind.

Lack of Data. Fault detection and diagnostics tools rely on data from building automation systems. If there are not enough sensors, if the sensors are inaccurate, or if the building has a legacy control system and for some reason accessing the BMS database or controllers is difficult, there can be issues with obtaining the accurate data required.

Using the Diagnostic Data. Many of the fault detection and diagnostics software tools can provide information to the technician or engineer regarding potential corrective actions. This information needs to be integrated into the work order system, which may be one application in a whole suite of facility management applications, in order to use the information effectively.

Applications in the Cloud. Many companies offering fault detection and diagnostics software will provide the application on the client site, but have an option to provide the application as "software as a service" (SaaS) or in "the cloud." Essentially the vendor hosts the application, and the facility manager accesses the application through a normal web browser. This can be an issue with many corporate IT departments because of the need to pierce the corporate IT firewalls and security to get to the BAS data the application needs.

Prognostics Data. While fault detection and diagnostics tools seem inherently capable of providing prognostic data — that is, it can analyze fault conditions or degradation faults and predict when a component will fail or not be able to perform correctly — very little has been developed in this area. In addition, prognostic data would allow for more proactive, condition-based maintenance, which would be a different approach for facility management organizations that are reactive and corrective.


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fault detection and diagnostics , BAS , controls , HVAC , energy efficiency

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