Get Smart and Save Energy

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Using status and usage data from interconnected switchgear components enables more energy-efficient operation of building systems.

With the growing array of data-providing components manufacturers now offer, building systems designers face fewer limits to developing high-performing systems that also save energy. That’s a good thing, because buildings account for almost 40% of the energy being used today in most of the world. And it has become clear in recent years that large reductions through wiser energy use in this area are possible.

The breakdown of how building systems typically use energy is straightforward:

  • 50% for heating
  • 20% for electrical auxiliaries
  • 15% for lighting
  • 10% for ventilation and air conditioning
  • 5% for hot water for sanitary uses

Manufacturers of all types of equipment used in building systems have made great strides in developing energy-efficient products. But even more efficiency can be achieved with a three-pronged strategic approach based on measuring actual usage, collating the data, and setting up operations that use historic and real-time data to actively manage energy use.

Having a system helps

Today’s smart switchgear technology provides continually updated status and usage data on electrical protection, command, and metering components. At the same time, controls for gas, water, and HVAC systems are also rich sources of similar status and usage data. But turning this increasing amount of raw data into actionable intelligence requires collation (collection and combination) before it becomes useful in making operational decisions.

That’s where a multiprotocol communication system, such as the Enerlin’X platform from Schneider Electric, can provide the missing link. This digital system consists of a combination of consistent gateways, interfaces, and displays. These devices collect information about circuit breaker and actuator status, as well as usage data, and make that information available through web connected dashboards – for viewing – and switchboards – for system and component control.

Schneider Electric’s Smart Panels simplify switchgear installation and operation by providing integrated power and communication capabilities in the same panel.

How the data stream flows

Input data are collected from several basic types of components, including:

  • Circuit breakers
  • Energy meters
  • Analog sensors

Interface devices collect the data from several components, make the conversion from Modbus to Ethernet if required, and send the data on to the system gateway. At that point, the collected information is all available via Ethernet and can be used to feed local or web-based dashboards and IP connected switchboards.

This is where the energy management possibilities become really interesting. Because the system collects both basic and advanced data and collates it into such an easily accessible format, that information can be used to show a clear picture of both current status and trends. And because the information is so highly reliable, energy management systems can use it to operate at peak efficiency.

One such system, Schneider Electric’s StruxureWare, uses automated data collection via secure wireless or a cable connection to the Internet. This provides the kind of scalable solution that can facilitate intelligent energy use over a wide range of buildings and systems.

An example installation

Electrical engineers at Leeds Beckett University in Leeds, West Yorkshire, U.K., recently installed Schneider Electric low voltage distribution metering in one of the university’s 95 buildings that was undergoing major refurbishment.

The primary intent was to improve power supply monitoring and usage by providing data to inform decisions about where and how power consumption could be reduced. However, in addition to facilitating such long term goals, the system is already making maintenance of the existing infrastructure easier and more effective. For example, the interface is allowing operations personnel to see problems in the system before they can escalate and cause damage.

To learn more about the Leeds Beckett University installation, click here.

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