Water Consumption Can Be Controlled With Use of Submeters

By Naomi Millán, Associate Editor  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Energy Management Solutions Likely Already Housed In FacilitiesPt. 2: Size of Automation Systems Should Be Proportionate to BuildingPt. 3: Managers Can Maintain Building Service Levels While Saving Money With BASPt. 4: This Page

Smarter Thinking About Meters

When the subject is operating cost savings from submeters, electricity use is what springs to mind. But water consumption can also be controlled through smart use of submeters.

"Water is the next electricity," says Roy Cook, managing senior vice president, engineering and due diligence, Transwestern.

Nowhere is being smart about water more important than at an aquarium. At the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Tom Amrein, facility manager, is using the building automation system to deliver significant savings.

Typically, every gallon that comes into a facility also goes out into the sewer lines, and is charged accordingly: one-half cent per gallon coming in, 75 cents a gallon going out, for example. But even though a lot of the water evaporates on site in an aquarium, Amrein says the facility was being charged as if it was an equal volume going into the sewer line.

Amrein's solution was to install a submeter on the sewer line and feed that information into the BAS. Every quarter, the aquarium submits its metered sewer data to the city and pays sewer charges based on that. The savings totaled $55,000 in the first year. "And they could have been saving that for 30 years," Amrein says.

This strategy applies to any facility where water is consumed on site, he says. Even facilities with evaporative cooling towers can realize savings.

Another spot at the aquarium where Amrein is submetering water use is on the heating and chilled water supply lines. The aquarium is evaluating switching to chemical-free treatment, and the submeters are providing preliminary consumption data. But Amrein is considering just leaving the meters in place. "If you start seeing a huge number in your makeup water in a closed system, that's a good clue to go looking for a leak," he says.

Tinkering with Energy

Of course, submeters can also help reduce electric use. One way that William Young, manager of engineering services in Shorenstein Realty Services' property management and construction division, is using submeters in his portfolio is to give his engineers the data needed to turn facility management into an energy management experiment.

After arming the facility with real-time energy meters, Young tells his engineers to tinker with settings and see what happens. "See what happens if you lower the cooling tower temperatures by five degrees," he says. "It's all cause and effect." With metered data, the staff can then find out what's more valuable: providing colder water and having slower fans or slowing the chiller and letting the fans speed up, he says.

Submetering for the building plant gives the chief engineer a chance to see clearly into the building's operation. "That can have good results," Young says.

— Naomi Millán

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  posted on 5/28/2010   Article Use Policy

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