As the search continues in many large institutional and commercial buildings for improved energy efficiency, one group of buildings faces challenges in its efforts. Medium-sized and small buildings have similar needs for controlling energy costs, but maintenance and engineering departments in many of these buildings might not have the time, money, and expertise to effectively track down and address energy waste.
One project designed to address this gap in facilities is making its way through Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and is scheduled to arrive in 2014. The Retrocommissioning Sensor Suitcase aims to reduce the cost of delivering greater energy efficiency by providing retrocommissioning services to small and medium-sized buildings.
“The main purpose of the technology is to streamline the retrocommissioning process and expand adoption of those approaches to saving energy in two ways,” says Jessica Granderson, deputy leader of the Building Technologies and Urban Systems Department with Berkeley’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division. “We’re trying to enable non-building experts or non-service-provider types to be able to identify problems and solutions in their buildings.
“Secondly, we want to provide a level of simplicity and automation to reduce transaction costs and labor costs also relative to traditional retrocommissioning. That reduction in labor costs is one of those key benefits.”
The suitcase contains: three types of portable building sensors —temperature, lighting, vibration; a handheld smart pad for documenting sensor location, placement and type; a battery; and a data-control module that can receive and pre-process data from the sensors, which are distributed throughout the building.
“The time to install the sensors is going to vary, depending on the size of the building, but the installation time is closer to hours than to days,” Granderson says. “We took a lot of care to design a very non-intrusive solution, so there’s no need to get into ducts or panels or do any electrical metering. It’s intended to be very straightforward to configure, install and analyze the data to automatically generate recommendations.
“The system guides the installer to install sensors in the areas that are not occupied 24/7 and not expected to be lighted 24/7. So, for example, don’t put the sensor next to the light fixture in the stairwell that’s always on.”
Retrocommissioning: A New Tool in the Quest for Energy Efficiency
Retrocommissioning Sensors Monitor Energy Waste