FM Articles

Maximizing Energy Savings With Commissioning

Energy Savings

Electrical use is one of the primary cost drains within commercial facilities, and those costs only continue to increase as properties and buildings age. Instead of reacting to maintenance issues for systems like HVAC, Compressed Air, Chilled Water, Boilers, and more, many facilities are now introducing Monitoring-Based Commissioning (MBCx) to create a more proactive approach that keeps their buildings and equipment operating like new, minimizing maintenance costs and maximizing energy savings, and ensures the occupants are comfortable.

Just as commercial properties are modernizing their interiors with smarter technologies for tenants, MBCx technology brings with it a more modern approach for maintenance and engineering staff, one which shifts away from the traditional reactive approach toward a proactive strategy that focuses on optimizing equipment performance to ensure maximum uptime and minimum maintenance. Advanced analytics and fault detection & diagnostics (FDD) used within MBCx gives building managers real-time data that is translated into prioritized actions for building staff to use. This then leads to automated identification of equipment faults, alerts to enable prevention of failure, and increased operational efficiency with faster time to resolution.

MBCx has been proven to save upwards of 10 percent of the overall electrical bill and can offer payback in as short as nine months, meaning the technology can, quite literally, pay for itself in a matter of months. After the initial payback period, the year over year savings go right into your pocket, saving you hundreds of thousands of dollars that would have otherwise been required for reactive maintenance and energy waste. Furthermore, in many states, MBCx can increase the initial savings even further by providing the utilities certified measurement and verification data required to secure incentives from your local utility.

How is MBCx Different from My Current Asset Monitoring?
Many property owners today are already familiar with basic asset monitoring, you may even have it already established in your own facility. MBCx is a step beyond that. Basic asset monitoring gathers data on how equipment and systems are operating and identifies issues with temperature, humidity, airflow and other factors that impact the comfort of tenants. These solutions only offer data for a diagnosis after a problem has already occurred, which can lead to more tenant complaints and energy waste. Monitoring only captures the conditions that occurred before, during and after an event, it cannot alone help prevent failure – so what good does that do you?

To make these basic asset monitoring systems smarter with a level of intelligence that alerts staff to take preventative action as needed, the monitoring systems need to move from continuously monitoring “equipment” to continuously monitoring the “system” and providing the information that allows facility staff to get ahead of maintenance and in fact prevent maintenance. Monitoring all available system data from upstream and downstream contributors, as well as understanding the interaction of AHUs and their Terminal Devices; Heat Exchangers, Cooling Towers, as well as Hot-Water and Cold-Water Systems, provides an understanding of the state of the working systems, not just the state of isolated equipment – giving your staff a better view of the bigger picture. With this broader view, it’s easier to identify what the issue is and where it’s coming from.

Transitioning Data Monitoring to Action and Savings
With the view that MBCx provides, building owners are able to step forward from just having data for diagnosis to having real, actionable information. The ability to have access to the right data at the right time, in context of how it’s used, is critical for minimizing time to resolution by providing an accurate diagnosis of an issue so the engineering and maintenance staff can more efficiently correct it.

MBCx is so effective in driving a proactive approach to maintenance and energy management because it is continuously monitoring how the systems are working individually and together and consolidates hundreds of thousands of data points on the equipment and systems into a single platform. Data can be used to identify opportunity savings immediately after the system is online so the biggest energy saving opportunities are identified and can be prioritized right away.

The comprehensive data can then be organized and tailored to suit the user, whether they’re senior, junior, and temporary, with the knowledge and action points they need to identify and resolve issues faster. This level of customization for each staff members view in the MBCx solution keeps the “noise” and distractions at a minimum, making incoming maintenance feel more manageable and less overwhelming to each individual. Most importantly, with this actionable information, property owners and maintenance staff will spend less money and searching for the cause of an issue and more time resolving issues.

This is a useful asset in a building that has already been up and running as it can immediately identify inefficiencies the moment it’s turned on. Additionally, it offers added opportunity savings in new buildings as the data and understanding of assets can be furthered when this solution is used during initial commission of equipment during the construction process. Having a baseline of how equipment can and should operate right out of the box can better help staff understand systems and optimize assets to ensure their reliability and maximize their lifespan.

Over the last several years, MBCx systems with built in commissioning metrics and advanced analytics have started to become the standard. With these systems, commercial property owners can identify the highest priority issues across all systems and constantly reap the benefits of any corrections.  Using a MBCx system can help keep equipment performance optimized, lower maintenance and energy costs, increase the life of equipment, and ensure all aspects of HVAC systems are working properly together. Commercial buildings will receive a lot of operational benefits and energy savings from MBCx systems, most specifically in their proactive energy and maintenance savings.

Jennifer Grimley is Sales Director at FacilityConneX.