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Today's tip from Building Operating Management comes from Jim Sinopoli of Smart Buildings LLC. As promising as fault detection and diagnostics is, facility managers need to take a close look at their buildings and at the capabilities of available software tools before rushing out to install a fault detection and diagnostics application. Consider these issues.
Handling Fault Information. Facility management organizations need to decide how best to handle the fault detection and diagnostics information. A "fault" identified by a fault detection and diagnostics application indicates that the system is not performing optimally. This is different from a system alarm indicating some criticality and need for immediate action. In many facility management organizations, both alarms and faults automatically trigger a work order, but do so identifying different priorities for the work order. Other organizations set the faults aside and then periodically meet to discuss the remedies.
Rules Specific to Building Systems. The rules apply to specific HVAC relationships and equipment, and facility managers need to be assured that their specific building systems are or can be addressed by the fault detection and diagnostics software application. Many products start with a standard set of rules, which may address similar or smaller buildings or HVAC configurations, and then add rules developed by others or by the end users themselves.
For larger buildings, fault detection and diagnostics does not come right out of the box. Almost every sizable building and HVAC system is slightly different, so the rules have to be customized. That's not necessarily a bad thing as the customized rules are likely to be more accurate and based on specific building needs, but customization requires additional installation time.
Lack of Applications for Emerging and Other Systems. Fault detection and diagnostics applications are primarily HVAC-focused. There is an opportunity for the industry to take the rules-based approach to other systems, such as solar, wind, geothermal, or power management.
Alternative Ways to Deploy Capability. Fault detection and diagnostics is simply a software application. At some point in the future, control and equipment manufacturers will simply integrate fault detection and diagnostics software routines into their controllers.