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A spurt of innovation is offering new options for automating buildings to save energy.
Energy efficiency has become a high-profile national issue, driven by concerns about climate change and volatile energy prices plus a growing desire of businesses to present a green image. Those factors help explain why established building automation system providers are expanding their offerings, while new companies are entering the market.
Those new companies aren’t limited to building automation providers. Some start ups offer products designed to improve control of lighting systems, including LEDs. Other start ups target building automation. This new generation of start-ups includes companies funded by venture capital and it draws talent from around the world.
In part these innovations are driven by advances in technology from outside the building automation arena. Faster, cheaper information processing power is one example. Another is the advance of touchscreen technology, which has now become available for use with building automation systems.
One area where technology development is evident is with energy dashboards. These fall into two categories. One type of dashboard reports on energy use in the past. These dashboards can be used to monitor and report on energy consumption for facility management purposes or to educate occupants or visitors about a building’s energy use.
Another type of dashboard provides real-time energy information, reports Lindsay Audin, president of EnergyWiz and a contributing editor for Building Operating Management. These dashboards receive energy-use data from utility "smart meters" and present it in graphical form so that it can be grasped quickly. Information may include how fast power, fuel or energy dollars are being used; load profiles; and comparisons of past and present energy use. Facility managers can use the dashboards to find problems with HVAC systems and controls that are wasting energy and money. Some dashboards can help with demand response or fuel switching efforts.