With a BMS (Building Management System), Get Greener and Improve Power Quality

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It’s not easy being green, a point first made by a talking frog. Building owners and managers can become environmentally and financially greener by monitoring electricity and its usage. Doing this correctly requires tracking a variety of key building metrics, a challenging task that can help achieve a goal of greater sustainability. It also can pay off in terms of reduced expenses and longer equipment life. Finally, it can enable the extraction of value out of building data, creating opportunities for preventive maintenance and uncovering information for business level decisions.

First, consider the challenge. A typical building management system (BMS) handles, among other things, HVAC, or heating, ventilating and air conditioning. These systems are often among the biggest energy consumers in a building and so maximizing their efficiency can lower operating costs.

A BMS can make a facility greener by adjusting room temperature based upon occupancy or usage pattern. Doing so can save a percent of HVAC energy consumption for each degree of setback over an eight-hour period. The result of this and other adjustments can add up to a 30% energy savings overall.

However, that is only part of the total picture and ignores an important aspect: power quality. What happens as HVAC systems cycle on and off? Lights may flicker, a visual indication of the effect of switching large loads. What’s more, there can be a host of other factors that impact electrical quality, with some of these issues likely to grow greater over time. For instance, regulators warn that increasing the percentage of renewables may lower electrical quality because renewable supplies are often variable.

These internal and external factors have an effect on the health of a building’s power. The result can be harmonics, voltage disturbances, and faults. Such problems can be fixed or at least mitigated if what is happening is known.

Now, let’s look at the payoff. First, power monitoring can reduce operating expenses by reducing power consumption and improving energy accountability in non-critical systems. Depending on the situation, some of these savings will benefit building owners while others will advantage tenants. Turning off office equipment at night or installing systems that idle vending machines when no one is around can save up to $300 per year per piece of gear. Office and IT equipment, in particular, represent fertile ground for energy savings. For instance, the typical server can be effectively idle yet drawing full power the entire workweek, thanks to operating at only an average 18% of capacity.

There is another aspect to reducing expenses. Power monitoring can detect faults and thereby avoid problems, which helps protect costly office and IT equipment. In the extreme, an electrical disturbance can kill equipment, but even less severe issues can shorten lifespans. Monitoring can supply the information to diagnose such problems, saving money in multiple ways and improving the satisfaction of building occupants.

As can be seen, on demand energy information can enable building owners to ensure the safety and performance of facilities. It also can allow them to optimize buildings for the comfort of employees and customers.

Electrical system monitoring may help achieve sustainability and financial goals, but adding such a capability is not possible with most building management systems. Hence, getting greener in this way has, in the past, taken too much green. The cost of a power monitoring system has often been too great.

Importantly, power monitoring is not beyond the reach of every BMS. There is a trend in building management systems to integrate backend solutions so that information from disparate systems is displayed in a single pane of glass. A BMS that has embraced this approach can offer the ability to monitor electrical power and systems in a well-understood, cost effective, convenient and simple interface. Consequently, the real-time health of the electrical network can then be easily displayed and comprehensive reports on energy usage generated.

For an example of what can be done, check out Power Manager for SmartStruxure solution. It combines Schneider Electric’s expertise in building management systems and power management. Together, they help derive greater value out of building data, while satisfying the business imperative to control costs and mitigate risks.

It’s also a combination that makes it a lot easier, in many different ways, to be green

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