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.
Energy Savings to the Cloud
You may have noticed the term ‘cloud’ or ‘cloud computing’ circulating around popular media. This has become an increasingly popular term and is used quite frequently by Microsoft in their recent advertising campaign. Although it is a widely used term it is not a widely understood concept. What makes cloud computing unique, or how does it work? Is it just a new term that means the internet or online?
In short cloud computing is defined as using a program online that would have otherwise needed to be installed on your computer. In other words, using a web browser instead of installed software. Many companies have already utilized a type of cloud computing when they install software on a server that allows remote access. Even though the software is not installed on the user’s computer they can still access is using an internet connection. The benefits of cloud computing is that it allows you to access information from anywhere with internet access or even on a smart phone. All essential programs and software are kept on a secure server for easy access from any location at anytime. The idea is not new, and in fact, it has been around since the 1980’s. Thanks to the recent upgrades in internet speeds cloud computing is becoming increasingly popular. It was not possible before because even just 10 years ago downloading a song took an hour instead of just a few seconds over a dial up connection. It is this increased speed that has made cloud computing possible and viable.
With the modern smart phones being able to access the internet from any location at faster speeds than our old computers used to be able to it is becoming clear that cloud computing will become the new norm. Many of us are already using cloud computing in one form or another. A common example of cloud computing are apps, whether on your phone, Facebook or any other system. Fifteen years ago if you wanted to play a game online that saved your information you had to download and install the game first, now you can play games simply by clicking a link. All of the information is stored on a server for the next time that you sign in and is constantly updated. Even apps such as “Farmville” are considered cloud computing.
Cloud computing is a powerful tool that constantly updates your information on a server 24/7 and allows you to access that information from any location in the world with an internet connection. Why leave cloud computing to chickens and cows on Farmville when you can use it to save your company a considerable amount of money? Continuous Energy Management and Optimization (CEMO) uses cloud computing to constantly update information on a database allowing 24/7 access on a web-based platform. The CEMO system display energy consumption and costs, all in real-time and displays historic information on an everyday web-browser. The CEMO system utilizes cloud computing to allow users the flexibility needed to control and manage their energy costs.
Renewable Management and Net-Zero Buildings
There are many different terms circulating right now about the future of energy. Alternative energy, sustainable energy, clean energy and renewable energy are some of the terms that are widely used. Looking at each of these terms it is easy to distinguish there really isn’t very much difference. Alternative energy merely means something that is different than what we are currently using. Sustainable or clean energy is described as an energy source that does not pollute or that can be maintained indefinitely. Trapped within all of these definitions is Renewable Energy. Since renewable energy is alternative, clean and sustainable it will suffice to say that the term Renewable Energy will cover all of these categories.
Another constantly changing term is Net-zero buildings. This term has been modified to be zero energy building. This type of building is defined as one that does not rely on the electrical supply grid. All the energy needs of the building can be harvested on site. Some definitions will include that the net-zero building may require energy at some points in time, but overall when factoring in the energy being produced and the energy being used the net result is no energy being consumed from the grid. Commonly the net-zero building and renewable energy will go hand in hand, and indeed, some definitions will include that net-zero buildings do not produce any pollution or carbon emissions, resulting from the use of renewable energy.
A common trend in the definitions of net-zero buildings is that some comfort must be sacrificed on the part of the occupants of the building. In other words, when the renewable energy source is not producing you live in the dark, or in brown-out conditions. This doesn’t need to be the case! With Renewable Energy monitoring you will know exactly how much energy you are producing or how much is coming from the grid. If you wish to not impact lifestyles then you can use this information to decide if you need more renewable energy, perhaps in the form of a new solar panel, or if the amount you have is sufficient to create a net-zero amount. Without knowing how much you are producing and how much from the grid you are using there is no way to tell if you are maintaining net-zero amounts. With real-time renewable portfolio management you can reach net-zero and maintain it.
Environmental Law and Carbon Accounting
The energy industry and the environment are two things which have been tied together since the beginning of the industrialized world. It comes as no surprise that the Department of Industry (DOI) wishes to discuss environmental law for energy awareness month. Environmental law is a complex system of treaties, statutes, conventions, common law, and regulations. The idea behind the law is to govern the impact humans have on the environment in terms of pollution and natural resources.
Two of the most discussed environmental laws at this point are carbon taxes and cap and trade. The main ambition fueling these institutions is the reduction of carbon, specifically carbon dioxide, which is a byproduct of fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum and natural gas. Carbon taxes have gained support in multiple groups over the last few years. The American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACESA) focuses on caps more than taxes. The ACESA is optimistic that these caps will create more jobs and give the United States an edge in the clean energy market.
Under cap and trade or carbon tax systems the economic incentives to lower carbon emissions can be substantial. In order to fully capitalize on a cap and trade system you would need to have a constant awareness of the amount of carbon being produced by your operations so that you can decide if you need to sell or buy carbon credits. In order to understand your carbon output you need to conduct carbon accounting which is generally a long process that is either carried out by an audit or through carbon inventories that will need to be accumulated and calculated in order to arrive at your organizations total carbon output. This can be an extremely long and expensive process.
Continuous Energy Management and Optimization (CEMO) contains powerful carbon accounting software that allows users to see the full picture of their carbon production in real-time for their facilities. The minute by minute information will show how energy efficiency or energy conservation is playing a role in your carbon reduction. The comprehensive dashboards will also factor in alternative energy sources or other carbon reducing practices. Without real-time information you are stuck waiting until an audit is completed or trying to guess your carbon reduction. You wouldn’t trade stocks without watching the market and the same applies for carbon credit trading. Why use guess work when you can have the power of real-time information at your finger tips?
Energy Management Software
The concept of Energy Management Software (EMS) is not a completely new idea. Various software programs have been around for quite some time. Upon examining the various equipment and software you may be left with the question of why do I want this or what makes this better? Congruent with every type of software there will always be revisions and improvements; word processing is a key example. Very simple early word processors lacked the essentials we take for granted today. The most basic systems, similar to notepad on Windows, lacked spell check, font changes, bold lettering or even font size changes. As technology advanced more features were added. The modern word processor has the ability to detect spelling errors, grammar mistakes and even errors in spacing. Energy Management Software is very similar to word processing except instead of checking a document for errors you are checking a facility.
In order to decide which system to go with you need to look at the basics making up an EMS system. At the base level EMS should be able to collect energy data in a real-time minute by minute basis, it should report, monitor and engage that data in a comprehensive manner. An adequate EMS system should be able to verify energy data and allow you to set accurate and reasonable baselines and reduction targets. It should allow you to monitor your peaks and trends and help you identify ways to save energy and money. A comprehensive EMS system should also engage not only the facility engineers and operation personnel it should also have the ability to engage those that occupy the building on a daily basis. With the growing trend in cloud computing the ideal energy management system should be one that is accessible from anywhere on an internet browser.
In addition to being able to report, monitor and engage an EMS system should also have the ability to check or look for errors. Consider the word processing example; the most common task completed on a word processor is spell check. It’s such a common task that it is completed automatically and has even been built into some web browsers. Is there an Energy Management Software that examines a user’s facility and checks for errors or ways the user could more efficiency use their energy?
The answer is, yes! The Continuous Energy Management and Optimization (CEMO) system offers an ISO 9001 Network Operation Center (NOC) that will constantly monitor your facility and send alerts and alarms if there is an issue. Comparable to spell check underlining errors in red the CEMO system will highlight your trouble areas. The CEMO system offers easy to read and manage online dashboards that are accessible from any location over a web-based platform. Users have the ability to engage their employees or building occupants by placing these online dashboards on display at kiosks or even on each computer monitor. The system also monitors your usage and shows peaks and demand in real-time, it allows you to set up reports and baselines based upon your demands, whether they are building code standards or budgets. Why use the most basic software that may be lacking the simplest features when you can take complete control with CEMO?
Smart Energy Use
Energy monitoring is a tool that can be used to reduce energy consumption, but how does it work? Simply knowing your energy usage will not decrease consumption. In some cases when individuals see their energy use in real-time they are more likely to use less, but, what if your operation is mostly mechanical and automated? Machines aren’t going to be able to see their usage and change their lifestyles; they are programmed to run a certain way. How can real-time energy monitoring effect your consumption and in return your costs?
The answer is in the graphs and the information itself. Commercial utility bills contain various charges and aggregated information. To fully understand how to lower your bill you need to understand your usage. Many utility companies will use time based pricing, meaning that during off-peak times energy costs are lower than during on-peak times. This rate change can be very substantial. Peak demand charges may also be added to time based pricing, meaning that the utility will not only charge you extra for operating during on-peak hours but they will charge you extra for the half hour or hour when your company uses the most energy. For many companies this is the morning when all their employees come into the office and switch on their devices, for others it is when their machines turn on or cycle, without monitoring there is no way to tell exactly when this peak is. The combination of time based pricing and peak demand charges could result in a single half hour equaling a fifth of your charges!
With real-time energy monitoring you will be able to see exactly when your peaks are occurring. Once you become aware of your energy use habits, start-up schedules and cycling you can make adjustments that will result in significant savings. Since demand charges are based on your largest consumption at a single time you have the incentive to make sure that nothing is cycling, turning on, or running simultaneously unless unavoidable. In this case, you will be using the same amount of energy; you will just be using it smarter.
If you do not have time to sit around figuring out the on times, cycling, peak demand and off/on-peak times you are not alone. Many facility and operations managers are so overwhelmed with everyday processes that they do not have time for in-depth analysis. That is where the Continuous Energy Management and Optimization (CEMO) system truly shines. Not only will it offer the real-time information needed to analyze the information yourself it also supplies a highly qualified team of facility and mechanical engineers that will monitor and analyze your building in real-time. You can customize alarms and alerts to notify you if there is a problem. The CEMO system gives you the clarity you need to find and stop peak demand charges before they make up a fifth of your bill.
Measuring up your Energy Usage
Receiving a high electric bill may come as a complete shock, especially if you are trying to conserve energy. There is nothing more discouraging then trying to conserve energy only to receive a higher bill. Most utility companies will deliver a bill once every 30-45 days, this means that what happens on day one won’t be visible until at least 30 days later. If something begins impacting your energy bill early in the month can you afford to allow it to rack up extra charges for a whole month before you stop it?
According to Energy Star an important first step to improving your energy efficiency is getting a handle on your energy usage. One of the tools they offer on their website is called the home energy yardstick. This tool allows you to input a year of utility bill information and will let you know how you rank in terms of energy efficiency. Ranking your use allows you to know if you need to take drastic measures or something simple. It will rank your usage on a scale of 1-10; 10 is the highest score you can get and 1 is the lowest. If you are below a 7 you should consider taking drastic measures to improve your energy efficiency. What if you do not have a year of energy bills? Or, if it is the fluctuation from month to month in your energy bills that is the problem?
Monthly bills can give you a picture of your overall usage, but it doesn’t help dial in on what is going on during that month. Real-time energy monitoring let’s you see exactly how much energy you are using throughout the day so that you can find and stop high energy using devices before they make it to your bill. Waiting 30-45 days for an electric bill is the same as if you pumped gas into your car for a month without any indication of how many gallons you pumped or how much it would cost. That sounds fairly ridiculous, doesn’t it? It’s the same story with your energy usage; don’t let it be a surprise at the end of the month. Knowing your usage allows you to make the changes while it is happening to avoid the large bills and save you money.
Should I Repair or Replace?
Energy monitoring is a great tool for detecting inefficiencies in your home. One of the biggest ways that it aids users is by allowing them to discover their usage habits. Small changes in your usage can result in significant savings. Monitoring also allows you to find energy vampires that are constantly left on or plugged in. What can it do for the large appliances that take up the largest portions of energy usage? Once you see the usage for these devices how do you know if it needs immediate attention? A simple answer is to look.
Once you have dialed in on your energy hogging units it simply becomes a matter of analyzing. A quick online search for the exact model you have should result in finding energy information or specifications about the device. Once you have obtained this information you only need to compare your current usage to the recommended usage to find out how your equipment is running. Another way to tell if your energy hogging devices are using too much is by observing how often they cycle, or turn on. If your refrigerator or freezer is cycling very frequently it may need to be replaced or repair.
The National Association of Home Builders completed and released a study documenting the average lifespan of your home devices. It may be interesting to note that the standard refrigerator only lasts 13 years and the average washer and dryer only last 10. This doesn’t mean your devices will stop working it simply means they will begin operating extremely inefficiently. It is important to note that a device will begin performing poorly depending on its usage and maintenance, simply because a device is getting old doesn’t mean it will run inefficiently. If age may be a misleading guide then how can you easily decide if it is time to replace or repair your large energy consuming devices?
Real-time energy monitoring allows you to dial in on your large devices. Once you observe their usage and compare it to user manuals or information online you should also consider its age. If the device is not very old and is running inefficiency you should consider a repair, if the device is old and running inefficiently it may be better to replace the old device. Energy monitoring allows you to know when to repair and when to replace. Once you gain this information look into rebate programs from your local utility and government. Saving energy and money becomes an easy decision when you have real-time information.
Lawsuit Claims LEED Program is False Advertising
The United States Green Building Council’s (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program has been taking a lot of fire in recent press. Henry Gifford, an energy efficiency expert, has decided to sue the USGBC stating that the LEED program is completely false advertising and that LEED buildings actually use more energy than conventional buildings. According to Gifford the LEED program monopolizes through fraud, is unfair to competition, uses deceptive trade practices, false advertising, wire fraud and even results in unjust enrichment; and these are just a portion of his claims. He states that the latest data shows that LEED rated buildings use 29% more energy than comparable buildings. Lawsuits abound in the United States, the question then becomes is the LEED program truly false advertising?
Ultimately the courts will decide whether it is or not, but, taking a look at the LEED program it is not hard to see that its main purpose and goal is not energy efficiency. The name itself describes the purpose of the program, it is focusing on design. The LEED program is currently on its third revision. It is changing to meet the growing concerns and needs of its users. The majority of the program focuses on recycled building materials, rain water capturing and reuse, and environmentally friendly practices such as native landscaping to the local ecosystem. Energy is not the only word in the title, environmental is also attached, and is truly the largest focus of the LEED program.
The LEED program is focused on constructing buildings that have the potential to use less energy. Once the building has been commissioned and becomes occupied it may change and fluctuate and indeed may use more energy than comparable buildings. The latest LEED version 3 has tried to address this by requiring five years worth of monitoring to make sure the building maintains these standards. Will a LEED building use less energy than a conventional building simply because it is constructed with the potential to do so? Of course it won’t, it can’t, because every building is constantly changing and constantly degrading. If you do not maintain your LEED buildings they will not maintain efficiency simply because there is a certification.
The question becomes, how can you tap into your LEED buildings potential? How can you take advantage of its built in ability to use less energy. The answer is Continuous Energy Management and Optimization (CEMO). The CEMO system is backed by an ISO 9001 certified team of facilities engineers. Real-time building performance information is delivered to the buildings facility personnel through comprehensive web-based dashboards. The same information is also monitored 24/7 by qualified individuals that will make sure that your LEED building is being optimized to its full potential.
LEED certification is not a “get out of jail free” pass. It does not mean that your building will automatically be super efficient for the rest of time. It does mean that your building has the ability to run efficiently. Designing a building to have the potential is extremely important, but, if that potential is not harnessed it is wasted and very easily will result in your building consuming more energy than a traditional structure. The CEMO system will make sure that your building reaches the potential that it was designed to achieve.
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