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6 ways building management system automation helps you through the European energy crisis

The energy crisis in Europe continues to put massive economic pressure on businesses. According to the European Commission (EC), the current crisis is expected to extend through winter 2023 and beyond. While some organizations are beginning to take steps to improve the energy efficiency of their buildings, it may not be enough to meet the European Council’s voluntary base electricity reductions of 10% and a mandatory 5% reduction during peak hours.

This is the next blog post in our series, offering three recommended emergency measures to help commercial and industrial facilities through the energy crisis. The previous post explained why energy metering and management is an essential first measure for reducing energy consumption by identifying sources of energy waste and helping encourage energy-efficient behavior.

In this post, I’ll discuss the second of three measures your team should act on – leveraging building management system automation and control capabilities.

Why a building management system is central to reducing energy consumption

No matter the building or operation, energy is a significant expense. For example, a hospital’s heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system can account for 30% or more of the total energy consumed, and office buildings can be up to 40% or more.

HVAC energy consumption varies by geography, the mix of activities, and hours of operation – running multiple shifts over 24 hours will increase energy bills.

As the brain of your building, a building management system (BMS) keeps occupants comfortable and healthy but also can monitor and control almost every aspect of your building’s energy performance. As energy costs continue to skyrocket, improving your HVAC, lighting, and other systems efficiency can significantly reduce energy consumption and costs.

For larger buildings, you likely already have a BMS in place. Small to medium-sized buildings may also implement a BMS designed for your building rather than operating HVAC manually, causing you to miss opportunities to optimize performance and save energy.

Optimizing your BMS for maximum energy efficiency

Your BMS helps you understand HVAC energy use and allows you to fine-tune settings to reduce consumption. Let’s look at the many opportunities you can take advantage of.

  1. Set your BMS to “eco” mode. Optimize setpoints to save energy by automatically reducing room temperature – for example, from 21 to 20 ºC during winter.
  2. Adjust lighting control. Use occupancy sensors to turn off lighting for unoccupied rooms or schedule to turn off lighting when areas like a car park are not occupied.
  3. Install variable speed drives (VSD) on chillers and fans. Older compressors for ventilation systems may not have any speed controls. Adding VSDs to compressors reduces energy consumption by enabling ventilation to respond to the requirements of each space based on occupancy and air quality (CO2) sensor data.
  4. Identify and replace leaking valves. Identify valves in your HVAC systems that are wasting energy because they are outdated or leaking.
  5. Use load shifting or peak shaving. To help reduce demand peaks, identify loads or processes that can be rescheduled to off-peak hours. If you have an on-site Genset or renewable energy generation, use it to shave demand peaks when economical.
  6. Engage on-site BMS expert services. Energy Optimization Boost Services from Schneider Electric can help deliver an additional 3-15% energy savings by identifying more short-term opportunities. With only a few days on-site, a service team can help identify and repair faulty equipment or recommend the addition of more sensors, meters, or controllers. Other mid-term actions may also be proposed, such as replacing outdated equipment.

Optimizing your BMS and HVAC systems can help you immediately reduce energy consumption and peak demand while achieving a quick payback from lower energy costs. A building that currently consumes 300 kWh/m2/year can expect to reduce consumption to as little as 180 kWh/m2/year using automation and control. It will also help you reduce associated emissions to help on your journey to net-zero carbon.

The United Kingdom’s Nottingham University uses BMS automation and control to optimize room temperature set-points and heating/cooling lockout to eliminate unnecessary conditioning and simultaneous heating and cooling. This has resulted in up to 30% energy savings.

In my next post, I’ll discuss Measure #3: using analytics and advisory services to reveal even more opportunities to accelerate efficiency, cost savings, and decarbonization.

EcoStruxure™ Building Operation is our next-generation, open, and flexible building management platform. 

Start your journey now – learn how to manage this winter by downloading our eGuide, “Three emergency measures for the European energy crisis.”

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