Connectivity Boosts Efficiency


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Today’s power monitoring and building management systems offer a greater degree and depth at which building owners and operators can make data-based decisions, says James Winstead, director of digital power sales for Schneider Electric.

“In the past, you would schedule your maintenance regardless of need. Now you’re going to conduct performance-based maintenance specifically on a device that indicates a need for maintenance,” he adds. “You’re not waiting for something to fail. You’re going to make adjustments and repairs before the failure occurs.

“There are a lot of ways to now analyze the data and make predictive and prescriptive decisions long before a failure occurs.”

Schneider Electric designs SCADA-based metering software for the energy management sector. Its PowerLogic ION9000, an EcoStruxure Power connected power quality meter, is designed to access smart power event analysis, minimize downtime and power vulnerabilities, improve reliability and efficiency, and unearth energy efficiency opportunities.

Such high-performance metering provides a higher level of granular data that can be transformed into actionable information, notes Winstead.

“The trend with metering is connecting a lot of devices inside the building infrastructure,” says Winstead. “There are hundreds of devices and thousands of variables that go into a system. Having that very granular data is a difference maker.”

The system provides value in a number of applications. Healthcare facilities serve as one example.

In healthcare, the ION9000 has extensive harmonic analysis capabilities as non-linear loads and identifies issues to allow installation of mitigation solutions to ensure there are not unintended consequences with medical equipment that can lead to poor patient care.

“Healthcare is a critical mission application where for the safety of the patients, staff, and visitors, power interruptions of any kind are not acceptable,” notes Winstead. “When you’re able to look at power quality data over time rather than just as an instantaneous value, you’re going to be able to perform automated analytics on that data and predict where the failure might occur that could impact your surgery suite or dialysis equipment and potentially impact patient care.”

At data centers where a one-hour power outage on average costs $1 million and energy costs consume up to 50 percent of a typical data center’s operating budget, the PowerLogic ION9000 meters are designed to provide accuracy, enable the quick location of disturbances, help predict maintenance needs, and aid in monitoring ongoing operations such as battery health and runtime variations.

In industrial applications, the ION9000’s real-time, historical and PQ information dashboards, reporting, and control, combined with EcoStruxure Power edge control software, is designed to help prevent downtime and quickly pinpoint the root cause of power system failures.

Building types such as commercial facilities, hospitals, data centers, or educational campuses may have hundreds of electrical devices, with each of them having hundreds and perhaps thousands of variables associated with the total 
electrical system, Winstead points out.

The data emanating from the ION9000 is not only useful on the premises but is sent to the cloud as part of a larger analytics package. Among its features is detection of disturbance direction so that in the event of a failure, it points the building operator in its direction, enabling faster mitigation.

“This meter is going to allow you to get very granular in the collection of that data. Then you’re going to take that data and either examine it on premise or you’re going to send that data to the cloud and have some very advanced analytics looking for trends and information that’s going to point you to the potential failure before it ever occurs,” says Winstead.

Schneider Electric partners with its end users to remotely go into the building’s service and assist with data analytics.

“Facility engineers do not always know what they’re looking at when they’re looking at all of this mass data,” he explains. “We help them identify vulnerabilities that are hidden in the building infrastructure systems.”

Continental Control Systems offers energy meters in one- to three-phase, 120 to 600 VAC, revenue-grade accuracy, approximately 50 power-related measurements, bidirectional power, and communications in BACnet, LonWorks, Modbus, or kWh pulse outputs.

“We make a measurement device and the current sensors that go on the line,” says John Browne, applications engineer, Continental Control Systems. “The first thing you need to know is how many electrons are going through a wire. We do that by sensing the magnetic field around the conductor. To understand energy, you also need to know the pressure that is pushing the electrons through the wire. That pressure signal is commonly called voltage.

“Traditionally, since the late 1800s, meters were simply used for billing and they still are,” says Browne. “There’s a gray area between simply billing and understanding energy use where you try to avoid the cost of energy use with the time of use meters, which is very critical to the grid.”

There are other applications for collecting energy data to better manage usage and many other measurements are used to understand what’s going on, Browne adds.

For example, fault detection and diagnostics encompasses more than energy, he says.

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“We did a project in Salt Lake City where they put meters on the schools. They weren’t interested in managing the energy. They just wanted to see if the school had electricity during a storm; otherwise, if there was no power, there wasn’t going to be any school that day.”

Honeywell’s Flourine division uses the meter as a sales tool to show clients the improved performance of the system, Browne notes.

Continental Control Systems last year completed a project for Boeing to develop a special energy meter that has temperature measurement capability, which the company is using on rooftop HVAC units.

“If you know the amount of energy being used and you know the temperature of the motor, you can tell a lot about a system over time,” says Browne.

Fault detection and diagnostics information is crucial in critical operations such as water and wastewater treatment plants, Browne points out.

“It gives them all sorts of data,” he adds. “If you watch the pumping mechanism for five years as it wears out, usually the impeller wears down and pumps less and less. Since it’s working less, the energy goes down and so you know your pump is wearing out.

“Sometimes you’ll see the energy go up. That’s usually the bearings going out in the motor. These are critical things you can’t just shut down. Fault detection and diagnostics really helps in terms of maintenance planning and not having unscheduled outages.”

Transformative Wave works with utility companies for rebates. “EasyIO IP-based distributed building controllers are programmable, which offers companies like Transformative Wave a platform to design, engineer, and deliver a solution relevant to the application or market,” says Gina Elliott, vice president of EasyIO Americas, adding that the company’s partners engineer solutions based on an end user’s specific needs.

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Transformative Wave is an OEM partner of EasyIO and uses the company’s IP-enabled building controls to develop and build a market- and application-specific software solution to run on EasyIO F-series’ open and non-proprietary technology, Elliott says.

In the market of small- and medium-sized businesses, “this is vitally important as the needs of a fast food restaurant with energy-intensive equipment is quite different than that of a small office building on an eight-hour schedule,” says Elliott.

“In addition, the market requirements may be very different as well. The rules and regulations in California are vastly different from Louisiana, and the government and utility rebates and incentives will also be different. EasyIO allows partners to utilize our technology to specifically meet these needs.”

Jami Marler, vice president of marketing for Transformative Wave, notes that 69 percent of all air-conditioned commercial space is served by package rooftop units (RTUs). The CATALYST advanced RTU control (ARC) technology was developed to address the “tremendous inefficiencies” that exist in rooftop units, she adds.

In addition to offering a variable speed drive, the CATALYST also encompasses advanced economizer control and demand control ventilation with set points related to carbon monoxide.

“The system will automatically take into consideration the return air to understand whether there needs to be more or less outside air brought into the space,” says Marler. “It also performs advanced economization, which takes advantage of the outside environment. If the outside air is cooler than the return air, it will bring in the outside air for free cooling when cooling is needed in an effort to reduce compressor run times.”

When paired with the eIQ Platform, the building automation solution that delivers web-based control of the CATALYST, the system can deliver what is called ‘Advanced Cool’ technology where, based on the RTU operational data and temperature, the CATALYST can preemptively cool the space with advanced economization.

The pre-cooling phase is designed to help the system take advantage of free outside air rather than relying on compressors to make cold air.

For end users, not only does it enable them to reduce energy costs but the improved efficiency of their building assets extends their longevity.

With more than 438 stores throughout North America and the United Kingdom, Whole Foods endeavors to lead the charge for energy conservation, earning the company numerous EPA Green Power Partner of the Year awards.

After evaluating the effectiveness of the CATALYST technology as part of a research study performed by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for the Department of Energy, Whole Foods was ready to execute a full rollout of its technology across its North American portfolio in 2015.

Transformative Wave’s CATALYST features a smart variable frequency drive (VFD) for end users seeking supply fan control and includes added ventilation and equipment protection features beyond other VFD technologies.

Another feature is BMS scheduling and comfort control of HVAC with optional lighting and portfolio asset management resources. Additionally, CATALYST features a building automation solution with web-based visualization of RTU efficiency, system performance, fault detection, and energy accountability tools.

CATALYST Lite is designed to be applied to any packaged RTU with a three-phase supply fan motor. Often, CATALYST Lite can be transferred from one RTU to another of the same size and horsepower with no additional programming.

CATALYST is being applied to RTUs across stores in each of Whole Foods’ North American regions. Whole Foods utilizes a combination of both the full CATALYST and CATALYST Lite applications as well as the eIQ Platform for building automation control, performance reporting, advanced fault detection, and diagnostics.

The eIQ Platform provides real-time monitoring from any internet-connected device for up-to-date reporting on performance, energy consumption, and energy savings, as well as delivers comprehensive diagnostics and fault detection to actively monitor performance of equipment, including abnormalities which trigger alarms and notifications. The goal is to provide asset accountability tools to help building operators make informed decisions about their facilities.

It can also allow participation in utility demand response events by using preset parameters or monitoring an automated signal from the local utility to limit consumption when an event is called.

It is designed to offer preventative maintenance cost avoidance by providing fault detection to inform building operators and service providers when real issues exist, oftentimes before it results in a comfort complaint, says Marler.

“With the eIQ Platform, they can see in real time the status of their equipment, the inside, outside, and set point temperatures, the fan speed and status, and whether the unit is appropriately delivering comfort to the space it serves. For multi-site operators, these insights can be viewed on a single page to highlight the most important issues within the portfolio in an effort to provide efficiency in dealing with facility accountability,” notes Marler.

“If it’s a restaurant, for example, they can see significant savings as our system monitors the equipment and temperature of both the kitchen and the dining area and dynamically adjusts the amount of outside air needed to satisfy the exhaust needs while varying the blower speeds to meet the true needs of the space,” she adds.

The eIQ platform utilizes many data points, including weather data, which enables end users to better assess how the system is working and how much energy reduction is being attained, Marler says. “Our system has the ability to control other assets, such as lighting, within a facility.”

“The significant energy savings and quality installation process are just two of the reasons we selected CATALYST and Transformative Wave as our partner for RTU retrofits across the United States and Canada,” notes Mike Ellinger, the global maintenance and refrigeration coordinator for Whole Foods.

With the installation of 1,181 rooftop units paired with CATALYST technology, Whole Foods yielded an annual savings of more than 15,246 MWh across all sites, equating to a 42 percent reduction in overall energy cost and consumption.

Whole Foods has various independently owned operations over different regions, “so they wanted a technology that all of the different regions could get on board with,” says Marler. “What they found with Transformative Wave is the ability to meet the needs of each region, whether it be with the CATALYST, CATALYST Lite, and/or the eIQ Platform. Those with the eIQ Platform have the added fault detection and diagnostics to help see the signs of a faulty rooftop unit so they can take action and avoid losing customers or products based on the needs of the space.”

The advanced fault detection and diagnostics also enables end users such as Whole Foods to do remote diagnostics.

After years of facilities addressing the low-hanging fruit by switching over to more efficient lighting systems, managers are currently engaged in the next step for achieving efficiency by addressing advanced rooftop unit control technology. Many utilities nationwide are now offering rebates, which helps improve the ROI, notes Marler.

For those who haven’t done LED retrofits yet, there is a benefit in doing both LED and HVAC as a packaged installation, says Marler, adding “when you change the lighting impact to the space temperature, that directly impacts how much heating and cooling you need. In the past, lights would put off a lot of heat and so building owners wouldn’t have to heat the building as much as they would now with more efficient lighting in the building.”

Transformative Wave also offers an IoT-based Building Management System technology, Cobalt, which utilizes autonomous controllers placed on the various equipment assets in the facility. It’s designed to enable end-users with any size portfolio to harness energy savings and system control from the convenience of their smart phone.

On commercial and industrial campuses, HVAC consumes about 40 percent of electrical energy, with lighting running 30 percent, says Robert Chiste, CEO of Encycle.

“While lighting has undergone a dramatic transformation in recent years, there still was a need to bring deep energy consumption savings to the HVAC sector,” he says.

The challenge for rooftop units on commercial operations is that they are “basically controlled by either a one-to-one relationship with a thermostat or one-to-one relationship with a building automation system,” says Chiste. “But they are not viewed as a system where they are controlled in such a way to optimize the efficiency.”

Where there are units running individually, there’s the potential for some units to “actually be fighting with each other and the result of all of that is that they consume more electricity than they have to,” says Chiste. Swarm Logic was designed to have multiple units communicate with each other.

Swarm Logic is a SAS model directed to the needs of the HVAC sector. Connecting via the cloud to an existing building control system, such as a building automation system, connected thermostats, or IoT platform, Swarm Logic is designed to dynamically synchronize HVAC rooftop units to transform them into smart, networked, energy-responsive assets.

“It might be just a slight difference in telling unit seven to hold off for one minute before it comes back or tell unit two, which is running at full capacity, to cut back to 60 percent capacity,” he adds. “We’re using big data because we’re collecting hundreds of thousands of pieces of data every five minutes throughout the system and by doing that, we’ve learned a lot about how this HVAC system wants to run.”

Not only does that serve to operate a system efficiently but it offers the ability to project in short order how a given-sized building with certain size rooftop air conditioners can be controlled due to the database, Chiste says.

Efficiencies derived can run in the thousands of dollars per site and when multiplied across a number of sites for large chains, for example, the efficiencies yield not only large savings in dollar terms but in CO2 as well, he points out.

Large enterprises are moving more toward rooftop solar, fuel cells, and battery storage, he adds. Energy management systems leverage an opportunity building owners and operators have to further save energy on HVAC systems.

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