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4  FM quick reads on Building automation

1. New and Established Automation Companies Offer Energy Options

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.

2.  Retrocommissioning Benefits Include IAQ, Longer Equipment Life

Today's topic is retrocommissioning.

Energy savings is a substantial and important byproduct of retrocommissioning, say experts, but it's not the only benefit. Indoor environmental quality is another big gainer. With controls functioning better, for example, occupants may have the benefit of more stable temperatures, which could cut hot and cold complaints. And the system is more likely to bring in the right amount of outside air.

Longer equipment life is another significant benefit. That's especially true of valves and dampers controlled by an actuator, which suffer excess wear and tear if they are being opened and closed more often than necessary.

Increasingly, another factor is likely to point to retrocommissioning: greenhouse gas emissions reduction. Lawrence Berkeley National Labs says that commissioning of all sorts, including retrocommissioning, can provide large reductions in carbon emissions. Commissioning, it says, is "arguably the single-most cost-effective strategy" for cutting greenhouse-gas emissions from buildings.

3.  Retrocommissioning Can Solve Three Common Controls Problems

Today's topic is retrocommissioning.

Controls that weren't properly designed or programmed, or that have been overridden or otherwise gotten out of whack, can increase energy costs while making building occupants uncomfortable and shortening the life of equipment.

Most of the issues that retrocommissioning identifies have to do with controls, say experts. Perhaps the most common problem is scheduling. Often equipment is running more than it needs to. A pump, for example, may be running longer than it should to satisfy building demand - possibly even all day and night — without anyone knowing it. Not a glamorous problem, perhaps, but it's expensive. The pump will wear out sooner than it should; meanwhile, energy dollars will be wasted.

A second big category of problems has to do with economizer dampers. They may be stuck in one position or there may be errors connected with the control sequences or the sizing of dampers.

Setpoints - supply air temperature and pressure as well as condenser and chiller water temperature - are a third common opportunity for improvement. Retrocommissioning can tune those setpoints to match demand more closely. Retrocommissioning — or recommissioning, if the building was commissioned in the past — is especially important in multitenant buildings and other facilities that undergo a significant amount of change.

4.  Energy Management System Can Streamline Facility Maintenance Tasks

Today's topic concerns the way an energy management system can help improve maintenance.

The two biggest reasons that an energy management system are installed are to improve occupant comfort and to reduce energy costs. But there's a third important benefit that, while it may be difficult to quantify, should not be discounted, says the California Energy Commission. That benefit is improved maintenance.

A properly programmed energy management system can help maintenance in several ways. Simply being able to monitor building systems from a central location is a big plus for maintenance. Instead of having to go to a specific unit to try to determine what's wrong, the maintenance staff may be able to use the energy management system to gather information. What's more, energy management system alarm monitoring makes it easier to detect abnormal conditions and equipment problems, reducing the time it takes to respond to those problems.

What's more, the energy management system can capture data about equipment runtime and use that information to automatically generate work orders for scheduled maintenance, which can help extend the life of equipment. And it can monitor and capture trends for system parameters that are used to troubleshoot building systems and equipment.

Finally, the energy management system can automatically make the change to daylight savings time and back, saving staff time and preventing problems.


Building automation , energy efficiency , LEDs , lighting , climate change , Silicon Valley , energy management

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