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Submetering Technology Helps Facilities Pursue Greater Energy Efficiency
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: This PagePt. 2: Installation Considerations for Utility MetersPt. 3: Streamlining and Maximizing Submetering Systems
Submetering has arrived. Not that long ago, an institutional or commercial facility was likely to feature one device to track its total energy use. But due to rising utility costs, a growing number of maintenance and engineering managers have turned to submetering to more accurately track utility costs for numerous areas within facilities.
Diagnostic considerations now are prompting even greater interest in submetering among managers beyond simply determining individual shares of utility costs within a facility. The shift in motivation for submetering has meant major changes in the installation and operation of submeters. Instead of installing submeters to track the energy use for various areas of a building, managers now are having them installed on individual pieces of energy-using equipment.
This strategy enables managers to track the utility use of that system or piece of equipment and evaluate its performance. When tracked over time and changing conditions, data collected from these submeters can help identify problems and energy-conservation opportunities.
Tracking Energy Trends
The key to managers' efforts to controlling a facility's energy use is understanding the direction energy use is heading in their organizations. Power submetering plays a major role in achieving this goal by helping managers identify areas in which they can schedule corrective action.
As a data-gathering tool for a facility's energy-using systems, submeters also can improve an organization's bottom line by bringing greater visibility to the overall energy footprint. By introducing energy profiling down to the individual piece of equipment, organizations can begin to understand the importance of changes in operational strategies.
Measurement and verification are areas in which submetering technology excels. Technicians can install a submeter in many locations in an electrical-distribution or branch-circuiting system, so managers can specify meters for use in areas in which they are most effective in gathering data.
Managers can identify and address operational inefficiencies by collecting this data. This step also can uncover interesting trends — for example, two large motor loads starting simultaneously and causing system spikes. Alternating these loads can eliminate spikes and improve energy efficiency.
Submeters can alert technicians about the potential failure of a component before it fails. Monitoring the current draw on a component generates a profile. If it starts to draw more than the recorded profile current, technicians can set an alert that a potential problem exists. Submetering technology also enables technicians to take preventive measures before a costly failure occurs, and the resulting savings in downtime and maintenance costs can more than cover submeter installation.