Simplifying Energy Data Gathering and Reporting
For the energy or facility manager the traditional style of data gathering can be a very strenuous process. Many facility managers may have a system in place gathering data in real-time and this is a huge step in the right direction, but what is happening to all the data? All too often the data is being collected, stored on a CD or DVD and tossed in a box for storage where it is never heard from again. There are many facility managers gathering the data themselves by reading the meters on a daily basis or from their monthly utility bills. Once the information is gathered where does it all go? In most cases it winds up in excel or some other type of spreadsheet. Once here it will be graphed and calculated in order to receive costs per square foot, energy consumption per square foot, peak demand and other important information. Other calculations may be completed to weather normalize or to figure in heating and cooling degree day variations.
An extensive amount of a facility, operations or energy managers time is spent dealing with large amounts of raw data. After the manager has gone over the data, completed calculations and made graphs it becomes necessary to show that data to others in the company. Unfortunately, many individuals lack the same love for excel spreadsheets and raw data many engineers hold close and dear to their hearts. It is this lack of love that makes communication difficult between those actually working in the facility and those responsible for the budgets or purchases for the facility. Jargon and slang specific to each operation are similar to a foreign language, when communicating with someone speaking a different language a translator becomes necessary.
Communication comes in many shapes and forms but it is said that a picture is worth a thousand words. The Continuous Energy Management and Optimization (CEMO) system offers invaluable information in easy to understand formats. Simple graphs and dials are available on easy to read and understand web-based dashboards. Behind the dashboards is a powerful system using cloud computing to complete the calculations, gather the data, store the information and graph it. All of the information is stored in a database where it can be access at any time or dumped into excel for more in depth analysis. The CEMO system will save the facility or operations manager countless hours of their priceless time. It will allow them to see, in real-time, how their operations and facilities are performing to help make necessary decisions which will lower costs. The dashboards make communicating issues easier than ever, and since it is online a plant manager in California can show information to a CFO in New York in a matter of seconds.
Don’t Sacrifice For Savings
In today’s rough economic times average consumers are faced with the challenge of stretching their pennies as far as they will go. This does not mean you need to sacrifice. Using your money wisely will allow you to enjoy the same luxuries you are accustomed to at a lower price. The trick becomes seeing opportunities and taking advantage of them. Several products exist that will pay for themselves in a very short time and allow you to enjoy the simple things in life while spending less. If you need to stretch your budget but don’t want to sacrifice consider these alternatives.
A high efficiency shower heads will allow you to take the same length of shower and still use less water. Using less water will result in fewer charges and the shower head will quickly pay for itself. Another item to consider is your morning coffee, latte or espresso. Some consumers will not only stop at their local coffee shop on the way to work but also throughout the day. The bill for a coffee a day can easily end up in the thousands for an entire year. Consider purchasing a coffee pot and brewing your own coffee, if you prefer lattes or espresso find a machine that accommodates this; you will still end up paying less and saving money in the long run.
Throughout the day many users will consume bottles of water, either at home or on the go. Consider purchasing a refrigerated filtered water pitcher. Not only will it save you money on the expense of the bottled water you will be creating less garbage. Buying a reusable bottle will allow you to have clean filtered water on the go.
Energy and electricity is a major cost for most consumers. Generally in order to save energy sacrifices must be made, not with the purchase of these products. Programmable thermostats will allow you to keep the temperature at appropriate levels throughout the day without requiring any extra attention. Why heat or cool an empty house? Another useful tool is the home energy monitor. This tool allows you to see if anything is using electricity before you leave the house or go to bed. If something is using electricity without your knowledge it is also wasting your money, find it, stop it, and use the monitor to ensure it remains off. The average home has almost 40 always on devices stealing your hard earned money.
Fostering Energy Accountability and Awareness
Many issues are best solved in a group environment. Most addictions are stopped through group interactions and accountability. Even if it is just two people together in the form of a psychiatrist and a patient, the best way to change your habits is to be held accountable for them. This holds true even when it comes to our addiction to energy. One of the best ways to reduce energy consumption is to hold those using the energy accountable for it. Another useful tool in terms of reducing energy consumption is energy awareness. Being aware of how much energy you use can have a great impact on how much energy is saved; in many cases consumers are simply unaware a device uses as much energy as it does. Before undertaking an energy management plan you need to decide how you plan to make the users accountable and aware of their energy consumption.
Posting monthly energy bills can help users become aware of how much they are using on a monthly basis, but it will not help them dial in on habits or tell them how much various practices are consuming. In order to truly receive information that will allow you to change your habits you will need real-time information. Real-time energy consumption information allows user to see exactly how their actions are affecting consumption. The system will also need to keep the users accountable for their use. Posting a live stream of information for all to see can be a useful tool, setting alerts and alarms when certain levels are achieved can also help foster accountability. Monthly bills result in a single reminder once a month that may last a few days, but real-time information is constantly there reminding users they need to save energy. A system combining real-time energy awareness with accountability will result in the most successful energy management plan.
The Continuous Energy Management and Optimization (CEMO) system allows users to set alerts and alarms, view information on company intranet sites, public kiosks or displays and offers real-time energy consumption data. The tools offer the accountability and awareness needed for successful management practices. In addition to these tools, CEMO takes monitoring to the next level by offering detailed data, analytical tools, and expert advice needed to take active control of energy consumption and costs. With all users aware and accountable of their use and experts weighing in on how to further improve consumption electric use will easily fall resulting in lower energy consumption and costs.
Higher Prices Arrive Spring 2011
As Deregulation grows closer in the PECO market some things may remain unclear when it comes to judging prices. The first question is how much am I currently paying? PECO offers a “price to compare” which gives customers a price to use for comparison between the current prices and an alternate supplier. In addition to offering their current price they also list the future price at the beginning of next year, when deregulation officially kicks in. As with most utility bill pricing there can be some confusion. The current rate is calculated from two charges, generation and transmission, and is 9.94 cents per kWh, the rate at the beginning of the year will be 9.92 cents per kWh for three combined charges. At first glance this appears to be a great price decrease! Don’t get excited just yet, things will change in the future.
To begin a new charge will be added to your PECO bill. This charge is being labeled as an Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) fee which will remain consistent at .12 cents per kWh. The three fees now combined to make your total charge are the AEPS, Generation and transmission fees. The other distribution related fees will remain consistent regardless of the supplier. The price to compare is the combined total of the three fees. The rates will change regularly, depending on the season. The estimated rates for April 1 - June 30 are 10.16 for below 500 kWh used and 11.40 for above 500 kWh used. For the same time period last year the rate was 6.92 for under 500 kWh consumed, that equals an estimated increase of 31.9%! This is even larger than the close to 30% increase PPL customers saw a year earlier.
What does this mean for the average consumer? It means that momentarily your electric rates may get slightly lower, even with the addition of a new fee, which at first seems great. But be weary of the impending summer. Electric rates will generally fluctuate as heating season ends and air conditioning begins, this year looks to be a real shocker.
Thanks to the new deregulated system you do not have to stand for the drastic increase. You have the ability to pick your electric supplier. One example for PECO customers is Viridian Energy. Viridian prides itself in saving consumers money over the course of the year. They currently boast $35.56 a month in savings for customers in the United Illuminating district. The ability of PECO customers to sign up for Viridian started November 22. The sign up is hassle free and only requires an account number from your current utility bill. There are no contracts or sign up fees. The only thing you stand to lose is your money in the form of higher electric bills.
What Does Green Mean to You?
The term green can mean something completely different depending on who you ask. Some will describe green as recycling or conservation, some will speak of the environment and others will talk about construction and building materials. Each company seems to carry a different standard in terms of being green. While changing all of your lighting to high-efficiency bulbs may be considered green many companies seek a certification saying it is before they make the claim. This only multiplies the mass confusion by adding dozens of sustainability indexes and certifications. One thing remains constant between corporate guidelines, sustainability indexes or government regulation; a certain amount of measurement or verification must take place.
There are multiple government guidelines including Energy Star and the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED program which each require multiple efficient or environmentally friendly upgrades. Adding to the guidelines are the many popular sustainability indexes, many of which rely on the measurements and verifications used in the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). There are even indexes focusing only on major corporations, such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. In addition to these indexes and guidelines many companies are also forming their own Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) goals or indexes with a focus on sustainability or being green. It doesn’t stop here; utility companies that offer incentives often use the International Performance Measurement and Verification Protocol for their measurements. With the barrage of multiple guidelines, measurements and regulations how do you find a tool that allows you to keep track of, and benchmark against, the exact regulations and codes you wish to use?
The Continuous Energy Management and Optimization (CEMO) allows you to benchmark against the exact building standards, sustainability index or guidelines that you wish. It has the ability to track your efforts towards meeting a CSR goal, green certification or other initiative. Each CEMO system is programmed specifically to meet your needs. This can even include budgets or historic usage as a baseline. Whatever figure you wish to measure yourself against the CEMO system has the capability to use. With so many different guidelines and standards it is easy to get lost in mountains of paperwork. CEMO takes the hassle out of measuring your efforts by providing quick and simple web-based dashboards that update your results in real-time. The faster you can see your exact measurements and results the sooner you can make changes to accrue success quicker and less expensively.
Stop the Bleeding in your Facility
The modern building is a sophisticated and complex structure. Even though they may look the same on the outside each is completely different on the inside. A facility, just like a person, has many complex interwoven parts. Ducts and HVAC systems make up the respiratory system, insulation is can be compared to muscle or fat keeping the body warm and water piping can be compared to the circulatory system. Although each building has the same parts no two buildings are exactly the same; correspondingly no two people are exactly the same as well. As soon as a building is occupied things begin to change at an unpredictable rate. Each tenant may occupy the space differently; some may abuse the structure, and not maintain it. The ecosystem where a building is located plays a substantial role as the different elements create wear and tear. A healthy building needs to be constantly maintained, just like a healthy person needs to regularly visit a doctor.
Larger buildings will generally have facility specialists, the doctors of the facility world; these specialists are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the building. Just like a doctor these facility specialists will have an area of concentration they prefer the most. Some will focus on water, some on natural gas and others on electricity. The facility specialist’s focus is generally dependent on their own personal interest or the geographical area they are in. A facility specialist in southern Texas may not focus much attention on heating, just like an athletic doctor may not focus much attention on making sure his patients are getting enough exercise.
Regardless of the specialty there are many tools in a doctor’s arsenal that will work regardless of the medical concentration. Stitches work for external, internal, dental and even cosmetic purposes to allow the body to heal. A similar system is available to the facility specialist in the form of the Continuous Energy Management and Optimization (CEMO) system. The CEMO system ties all the pieces together onto one easy to read web-based platform. It allows you to find and stop the energy or water that is bleeding from the facility. On the same platform you have the ability to view water, gas, electric and even renewable energy sources. Anything that can be metered can be monitored by the CEMO system. When dealing with something as complex as a facility you must have a tool that can combine everything into one easy to use platform. Using the CEMO system to stitch the holes in your system will result in more than saved energy; it will produce financial savings as well.
Taking the Home Energy Scoring Tool a Step Further
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) puts a great deal of focus and concern into the area of weatherization. An abundant amount of recovery act funding went towards weatherization and in return the reduction of energy consumption. In an attempt to make the auditing and assessing aspect of weatherization readily available and understood by both experts and consumers alike the DOE has created the Home Energy Scoring Tool.
This tool is available online for free and unlike similar tools, such the Energy Star Yardstick, the Home Energy Scoring Tool does not take your actual bills or consumption into account; instead it takes the information about your home gathered by an assessor and provides you with a rank. The walk-through needed to gather information for the free online tool collects data from 45 different points. Once completed the tool will calculate your score and compare your home to other homes in your area. The tool is designed to measure the home itself, not how the home is used. To substitute for the home’s actual use it makes the assumption that it is occupied by 2 adults and 1 child and that the thermostat is set at a certain level depending on the time of year.
Upgrades and improvements are then generated by the online tool and listed so they can clearly be seen and considered. The potential savings are also generated to show users how much they could affect their costs by making the improvements. The tool calculates a score of 1 to 10 which shows how your home is currently performing; the higher the score the better the performance. After this initial ranking it compares how it currently is performing to how it could perform if all of the potential upgrades were made.
If you plan to invest in home improvements this is a great tool to help you judge which improvements will result in the biggest savings. The upgrades pointed out by the audit will result in significant savings by improving energy efficiency. But, keep in mind that these readings do not take into consideration your actual use. Your home may be completely efficient, but your bills may still be high. If you are scoring high on the Home Energy Scoring Tool but your bills are still higher than you think they should be it may be time to look at how you use energy.
A home energy monitor provides a glimpse into your real-time daily energy use habits. Using this tool you can narrow in on waste. The average home has over 30 devices that are always using electricity, whether it is a charger that is still plugged in or a device in standby mode. Some devices in standby mode use as much electricity as in the on mode. The first step in changing your habits is to detect these always on “vampire” loads and stop them. A quick glance at the monitor occasionally will assure these loads are still off. Without continuous monitoring these vampires will sneak back slowly but surely, which is why continued monitoring is required. Using the monitor to maintain these devices can result in significant savings. One device by itself does not create a significant vampire load, but 30 or more devices combined can equal a lot.
Combining Conservation and Efficiency
Saving energy comes in many shapes and forms. It presents itself in two ways, conservation and efficiency. Conservation is the act of turning off the lights when they aren’t in use or unplugging unused devices. Efficiency comes in many forms, and can include lighting, insulation, appliances and many other options. By itself each of these items has the potential to save some energy, but, used together efficiency and conservation can save an abundance of energy.
Efficiency and conservation alike have slogans that accompany them, pithy sayings such as, “Pull the plug on energy waste, saving is simple.” While it is true that you can save a considerable amount of energy and money by simply turning devices off or unplugging them completely you can save even more by combining this practice with energy efficiency. This offers a one two punch to your electricity. By utilizing the two you will begin using the least amount possible when the device is in use and none at all when it is not.
While it may be true that empty rooms love the dark they may also love CFLs or LEDs just as much. Buying products that have Energy Star labels ensures they are energy efficient, combining these products with the best conservation efforts ensures the most savings. Having an Energy Star rated TV may reduce your bill a little, but ensuring the TV is unplugged when not in use may save a lot. But what is the best way to tie energy efficiency and conservation together?
The home energy monitor allows users to observe their energy use habits. This allows them to pin-point exactly how to conserve more electricity or how to make the best energy efficiency purchase. Once you have discovered your habits you can begin to dial in on individual devices, this will help you find devices that can be more efficient. Discovering you leave the computer on and turning it off may be a great way to conserve, having the computer set itself to sleep mode is a great way to be efficient, having the computer go to sleep mode throughout the day and turning the computer completely off when it will not be used for eight hours is a great way to save a tremendous amount of energy and money. Combing conservation and efficiency is the best way to lower your energy use, and a home energy monitor can help you discover areas where you can conserve and become more efficient.
The Power of Knowledge
One of the best ways to lowering your energy consumption and costs is to eliminate waste and unnecessary use. Using a whole building energy monitoring system allows you to see two things very clearly, your base load and spikes. A base load is the electricity that is always on. There are some devices that may draw electricity 24/7; although these devices may be small their combined affect is significant. One user contributed 33% of his use to his base load. Another item to note is the spikes. Spikes occur when large items cycle or turn on. An example would be a furnace or HVAC unit, machinery, dryer, microwave or other large devices. If you are running a business a common spike will be when employees come into work and turn on their computers or other devices. Using the information from monitoring your energy you can reduce your usage and costs in two ways, attacking the base load and the spikes.
Monitoring will allow you to see your base load in real-time. This gives you the ability to make an informed decision and to see the effects instantly. The best way to manage a base load is to make sure it is as low as possible when a building is not occupied or at night. To do this you need to find the devices that draw energy 24/7. Even simple things like a porch light being left on all day can make a huge difference. Once your consumption base load has been reduced to its bare minimum you can use the energy monitor to assure yourself that it is at this minimum each night before you go to bed or before you leave the building. This especially becomes important for facilities over the weekend when the building is not in use.
The second way to reduce your consumption with energy monitoring is in the area of spikes. For facilities controlling peaks has a lot more application then at home. Commercial buildings are charged peak demand charges, because of this knowing exactly when your electricity peaks and managing those peaks can mean the difference of thousands of dollars. At home, and at a commercial building, it can also be an indication of how those large devices are working. An inefficient device will use far more electricity than an efficient device. If the peaks and spikes are higher than they should be consider repairing or replacing the device.
Real-time energy monitoring gives you the information needed to make informed decisions. It also gives you the peace of mind to know that everything is off and that you are saving the most money over the weekends or overnight. Having a device that allows you to view historic data will also help you narrow in on items that are turning on in the middle of the night or excessively cycling when not in use. There are many different benefits from having real-time information. The power of knowledge can never be under estimated.
The Best First Step Towards Improved Efficiency
Every energy consumer has various and different reasons for seeking energy efficiency improvements within their home or business. What motivates one person may not be of any interest to another. The five main concerns that bring awareness to the need to improve are saving money, comfort issues, a health concern, carbon footprint or an incentive program. Knowing what to do next becomes the biggest problem. There are many different programs available, all of which boast success. There are many ways of going about achieving savings and many ways to throw your money away on unneeded improvements if you are not careful. Regardless of the method you choose you should be able to track the success in the amount of savings you receive or through a reduction in your energy consumption.
The prospect of being taken for a trip by a fast talking salesman is always in the back of the average consumers mind. The average electric bill arrives 30-45 days after the fact; a lot can happen in that amount of time. If you are planning on undertaking any energy efficiency, home improvement, home or building performance or energy management project you need to make sure you have a way to measure and verify the results. A simple utility bill will not supply enough information to draw an accurate conclusion. The solution comes in the form of real-time information by utilizing energy monitoring.
An energy monitor has the ability to display real-time energy consumption and costs. Having real-time information allows you to measure and verify results instantly. Real-time energy information can also help you dial in on specific areas that need improvement. Once you have pin-pointed the needed improvements energy monitoring will let you know if it was successful at lowering your consumption instantly, not 30-45 days later.
Before you undertake any major efficiency or improvement project you should begin monitoring your energy consumption. Without real-time energy information trying to improve your energy consumption is similar to attempting to paint a portrait in the dark, you may get something, but it won’t be pretty. Lord Kelvin, who completed important mathematical calculations on electricity said, “If you cannot measure it, you cannot control it.” The best first step in taking control of your energy costs is real-time measurement.