Ways to Save: Energy Management and Information Systems

October 20, 2021 | By: Owen Kavanagh
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Identifying, calculating, and managing your energy consumption data is vital for building operations and improvement. Energy Management and Information Systems (EMIS) are an important set of tools to understand and improve your buildings energy performance.

EMIS

EMIS are tools to help building owners, managers, and engineers better understand everything going on in a building. EMIS are software that use data from weather stations, utility bills, interval meters, Distributed Energy Resources, Building Automation Systems (BAS), and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

This massive amount of data is stored and processed in a data warehouse before being used by an EMIS to analyze your building’s energy use. Building engineers can use this analysis to make repairs, improvements, and observe the changes implemented to check their efficacy.

There are a few categories of EMIS to choose from, each with associated vendors, implementations, and uses. The systems under the EMIS umbrella, as identified by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, are Monthly Data Analytics, Energy Information Systems, Fault Detection and Diagnostics, and Automated System Optimization. At their best, an EMIS can save 11 to 22-percent on energy costs across a portfolio. These systems have varying costs and benefits, but all of them are cheaper than a large upgrade or retrofit.

Monthly Data Analytics

The first and oldest of these systems are Monthly Data Analytics. These systems use utility bills to monitor energy use and track expenses and weather data to normalize the utility data for comparison. Monthly Data Analytics are excellent for observing historical trends, setting, and tracking goals, and comparing energy use between like buildings. These systems have been around for over 30 years and offer a wide selection of vendors.

Monthly Data Analytics can also tie into ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager to make the benchmarking process even easier. These systems are the cheapest to implement, though they do not affect the building directly. They are an analytics tool, and their data must be used by building managers and engineers to improve operations. Buildings using Monthly Data Analytics to track and benchmark their energy use saved 2.4-percent annually. ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager is an excellent and free example of this, other examples include EnergyWatch, EnergyPrint, EnergyCAP, and ENGIE Impact.

Energy Information Systems

The next EMIS is Energy Information Systems (EIS). EIS have been on the market for roughly 20 years and there are a wide selection of vendors to serve your building’s needs. These systems use data from weather stations, interval meters, distributed energy resources, and IoT devices. EIS are primarily used to analyze peak loads, benchmark, track whole building and submeter data, visualize data, and model energy use.

The data modeling provided by EIS is one of the greatest benefits to using them. This modeling can predict energy use, show cumulative savings, and help detect anomalies in energy use. Similar to Monthly Data Analytics, EIS are excellent for setting and tracking energy use goals. They can even track energy savings in real time using interval meters, weather, and occupancy sensors, allowing for building systems to be adjusted and monitored by the minute.

An EIS can incorporate electricity consumption and demand, natural gas, water use, steam generation and use, and any IoT sensors, such as CO2, moisture content, and more. EIS are powerful tools to analyze and visualize the data occurring in a building. A few examples of EIS include eSight, Powerhouse Dynamics, BuildingOS, Senseware, and Melrok. These systems usually cost more than Monthly Data Analytics and require a more involved implementation, but the real-time tracking and adjustments they offer can improve a building’s ENERGY STAR® and LEED scores over time and report median energy savings of three percent annually for users.

Fault Detection and Diagnostics

One of the newest EMIS are Fault Detection and Diagnostics (FDD) systems. FDDs are primarily used for detecting suboptimal operations and faults in HVAC systems. They use system-level monitoring with Building Automation Systems and IoT devices to isolate the root causes for issues and generate solutions. These systems save time by automatically detecting issues and allowing building engineers to move from reactive to proactive maintenance schedules.

FDDs can help prioritize the issues they detect. This can be visualized using multiple metrics, such as cost per quarter, energy waste, and severity. A few examples of FDDs include Envizi, BuildingLogix, Clockworks Analytics, and InSite. FDDs are excellent tools for assisting building operations. By themselves, FDDs offer median energy savings of nine percent annually, but they are most effective when combined with Automated System Optimizations.

Automated Systems Optimization

Automated System Optimization (ASO) consists of software that continuously changes Building Automation Settings to optimize energy usage in lighting, HVAC, and other systems while maintaining comfort. ASOs leverage FDDs to automatically solve the issues they diagnose. ASOs are the newest EMIS available, and they are creating smart buildings that can plan for weather and load changes with minimal supervision.

ASOs use interval meters, Building Automation Systems, and weather reports to optimize systems for energy savings and demand changes. Due to how new ASOs are, there are fewer vendors specialized in them than Monthly Data Analytics, EIS, or FDD systems. ASOs have a high cost to implement due to the upgrades that may be required to use them, and their exact energy savings are not yet known. Even with the high cost to implement, the proactive and automated maintenance performed by ASOs more than make up for it. A few examples of ASOs include QCoefficent, Shift Energy, BrainboxAI, and Yardi Pulse.

Putting it All Together

There are many EMIS to choose from, with numerous systems and vendors to help save on utility and maintenance bills. However, not every EMIS will work for every building system. Does your building run on a Direct Digital Control (DDC) or pneumatic system? Is it a hybrid of the two? An EMIS will be easier to implement in a DDC system, but it is still possible to implement EIS and FDD programs into a pneumatic system. It will require more fine tuning, and possibly a few tenant complaints, but implementing EMIS programs into a pneumatic or hybrid system will still reap rewards, either by solving inefficiencies or by providing information on the implementation of other sustainability programs.

One of the greatest benefits to an EMIS is the ability to process and use an enormous amount of data. Consider Variable Air Volume (VAV) boxes in HVAC systems. VAV boxes supply air at variable temperatures and airflow rates from an air handling unit. These boxes are the closest portion of an HVAC system to the tenant, as they sit just before the diffuser (the vent that sends air into the office). There can be hundreds, even thousands, of VAV boxes in a building.

Many VAV boxes encounter issues with no one noticing. From a stuck damper to a misfiring fan or airflow sensor, a lot can go wrong in these boxes. This is due to the enormous amount of VAV boxes in buildings, and that they can compensate for each other when one. This compensation will keep the building the correct temperature, but it will be inefficient. An FDD with an ASO can take note of historic trends and the condition of a component in real time to correct inefficiencies and check each VAV box individually to identify any faults. A building engineer cannot keep track of each individual box, but using the tools offered by an EMIS, they can optimize and identify faults in them.

An EIS may serve as an excellent way to improve upon current systems and optimize towards a more efficient and comfortable building. Combining multiple systems can help to optimize energy use, save time on fault detection and repair, and give a more comprehensive view of building operations. Energy Management and Information Systems are an excellent way to save, optimize, and upgrade your building’s energy use.

See the entire library of ENERGY STAR® videos and articles in our 2021 ENERGY STAR® Content Guide.

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