By James Newman
Energy Efficiency Article Use Policy
The U.S. average retail price of electricity in the commercial sector has been on the rise, according to data collected by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Fortunately, technology and tools exist today that help facility managers keep track of how their buildings use energy, and help pay for energy upgrades to keep costs down.
While energy costs are going up, total energy used in a building can go down. Moreover, not only can you reduce the overall costs of energy, but you can also reduce the many costs associated with building operations and maintenance and make your building more attractive to tenants and buyers.
Technological tools available today can deliver efficiencies, cost savings and convenience not imagined 15 or even 10 years ago. Consider, for example, the evolution of the BAS.
BAS and EMS traditionally stored all the information they collected on a single “owner’s” computer where they could be reviewed only on-site, on that specific computer. Today’s systems, with additional sensors that collect temperatures, pressures, and percentages of various important parameters, keep much more data and store it in a way that anyone with proper clearance can access. Now facility managers on- or off-site have real-time data and can know in an instant what is happening with their HVAC, lighting, security, or elevator systems, and can control them remotely.
These cloud-based EMS, now sometimes called building energy management information systems (BEMIS), collect and process data in real-time. They help facility managers know what their various systems are doing at any given moment, and also where there might be an issue in the future. They can analyze the operation of a piece of equipment such as a chiller, a cooling tower, a pump, lighting fixtures, or even an elevator or escalator, to alert the facility manager to potential problems.
Several types of BEMIS are available. The right one for a building depends on what is needed and the budget. One type is programmed to know how the building equipment is supposed to operate in optimal circumstances. It can notify someone when a piece of equipment or system is operating outside of its given parameters. Another type can develop algorithms that show when equipment begins to move outside the boundaries in which it had been operating when it was first installed.
A BEMIS gives the building engineer, facility manager or even the building owner information, and therefore, control. The system can send simple written messages via e-mail or text, or audible or visual alerts. The message tells the maintenance personnel that everything is proceeding as it is supposed to, e.g., a green light, or that a problem might be coming, e.g., a yellow or orange light, or that there is a problem now, e.g., a red light. Having this information, and the ability to act on it remotely, greatly minimizes complaints and risk, all while saving money for the building owner and making tenants happier. BEMIS also help lower costs — often automatically — by lowering speeds on motor-driven equipment, lowering wattage on lamps, or even turning off non-essential equipment or systems.
When upgrading to a BEMIS, be sure that the various technologies and control systems already in a building can communicate with each other. Today, it is not just the HVAC or the lighting, but all the systems in the building, including the elevators and escalators, and often even the security and fire alarm systems (unless those systems have to be on their own), to mention only a few.
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