- Energy bills provide overall usage data, but are very limited for tracking energy performance.
- With real-time monitoring, you can track data, such as room temperatures and air flows, in detail.
- This data helps you quickly identify energy conservation measures and track the savings.
Your energy bills provide overall usage data, but as a tool for tracking energy performance, they're very limited. Bills only arrive once a month and don't account for factors such as weather and occupancy levels. By installing an energy monitoring system, you can take a deeper dive by tracking data points in real time, such as room temperatures, carbon dioxide levels, air flows and zonal energy use.
With continuous monitoring of such data, you can quickly identify and implement simple energy conservation measures (ECMs). These include optimizing set points of:
- Air temperatures
- Fan and pump speed
- Chilled water temperatures
- Static pressure points
These and other measures typically cost little or nothing to implement and provide almost immediate energy savings, which you can monitor and record in real time.
The following organizations have successfully used energy monitoring systems to reduce energy use and costs.
Tower Companies manages 5 million square feet of office space. By carefully monitoring energy data in real time, Tower was able to implement improvements, resulting in a 14% reduction in energy use across its portfolio and savings of more than $1 million per year. What's more, the company realized a 17% drop in energy use over two years for ENERGY STAR® certified buildings.
The City of Beaverton uses a software program to create a "smart model" of a building with interval data and hourly weather information. Daily energy use is compared to this model and when energy consumption is too high, an alert is immediately triggered so staff can track down and solve the problem. A web-based dashboard also identifies spikes, trends and malfunctioning equipment. ECMs implemented, such as changing night cleaning schedules and adding timers to lights, saved more than $35,000 at two buildings (the public library and city hall) over 18 months. The library and city hall achieved 23% and 15% energy savings respectively.
Best Buy implemented real-time energy management in hundreds of stores. The company relies on dashboards and an offshore energy center, which dispatches tickets in 30 minutes. This centralized monitoring service receives 18 million data points a day. By selectively using this data, the company identified and implemented 12 ECMs, resulting in average annual energy savings of 15%.
Steps to implementation
Real-time energy monitoring is an ongoing commitment. You can't just install the system and forget it. Staff education and engagement is critical to success. It's also important to reward and recognize employees who provide ECM ideas and take ownership of the data. To optimize savings, you should:
- Establish green teams across all buildings
- Develop communication programs
- Report energy savings at staff meetings
- Provide enough time for evaluating problems and data
- Promote the benefits and increased value of the building from reduced energy consumption
A real-time energy monitoring system is a significant investment. To help finance the cost, consider a strategic partner who shares in the benefits and provides guaranteed savings. You may also want to do a pilot test of the system. A number of companies provide energy monitoring solutions, including Siemens, Lucid, Centric Energy Systems, BizIntellia and others.
Your organization can also use internal funds to pay for the system, which are recouped with the energy savings. Build the cost of the system into the business case. You'll likely find that the savings more than justifies the cost of any future energy efficiency improvements.