Electrical submetering is smart energy management
Monday, March 31, 2014
Submetering allows for monitoring of the electrical consumption of individual components within a building, such as heating and cooling systems, lighting, refrigeration and more. This method utilizes individual "submeters" that allow facility managers to observe the energy use and performance of their equipment, creating opportunities for energy and capital expenditure savings.
While metering programs do not provide direct energy savings, they are an enabling technology that can provide indirect benefit. Metering systems can be used to identify discrepancies in energy consumption, target areas with the highest savings potential, and provide measured impact validation of energy projects.
The visibility of real-time energy consumption data will boost energy awareness programs, influencing participation of personnel and occupants as they see the effects of their activities.
Many college communities, medical centers and large manufacturing facilities run like small cities with their own substations, generators and redundant loops to eliminate downtime. The energy consumption alone can be staggering.
Submetering can provide value by isolating general spaces or specific systems to troubleshoot issues and provide accountability for energy use. This method can provide an additional level of granularity of measurement and lend support when implementing energy management programs.
Potential energy savings from submetering can fall into four general categories:
1. Increased awareness: Campaigns for awareness of energy use can drive down consumption and create synergy within departments through competition or a reward system. Recognition programs can increase awareness and interest.
One such campaign that has been adopted on many college campuses that can be modified for other settings as well is to embrace "conservation vacations." As students check out of residence halls, they will unplug computers, TVs, refrigerators and other electronics. As employees wrap up their work before the three-week holiday break, they will turn off power strips or unplug computers, printers, copiers and other equipment.
These small actions can generate significant savings while increasing awareness.
2. Increased accountability: Additional energy savings can be expected if facility managers are held accountable for knowing — and controlling — energy costs. This should be a recurring topic during monthly meetings and should be a shared responsibility.
3. Increased automation: Further energy savings can be achieved by automating part of the submetering process and then linking the functions of process controls to energy related factors.
4. Increased assurance: Substantiated metering data allows for better transparency in the shared savings process and gives the organization confidence that the monthly payments are in accordance with the agreement. It encourages partnership between facility managers and the C-suite while providing quantifiable data that can be used as part of the decision-making process for potential construction projects or renovation.
Monitoring, controlling and reducing energy consumption is a minimal requirement for today's facility managers. Targeted submetering of utility services can yield key data for operational baselines, project development and savings validation. It can also provide ongoing information for the sustainability of potential projects.
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