Win the Battle for Energy Efficiency in Your Facility
Energy Efficiency B a m s h a d
Source: B a m s h a d / Flickr
In this era of escalating energy costs, every penny conserved through the avoidance of needless spending or consumption grows increasingly valuable.
Going green is within everyone’s reach and getting easier to put into action. Control and automation tools can help you get there.
By Joel Shore

The frog was right: It’s not easy being green.

In this era of escalating energy costs, every penny conserved through the avoidance of needless spending or consumption grows increasingly valuable. Alas, getting there means passing through a gauntlet of technological options, sticker shock, IT resistance, and cultural disinclination. Ironically, it’s often not the wallet driving the push toward green, but rather the public relations benefit of touting one’s energy efficiency. Fortunately, that’s changing, and it won’t be long until the financial benefits are reason enough.

Control and Automation Energy Efficiency Tips

Best Practices: Eventual implementation of programmable tools that monitor lighting, heating, plug-in and hard-wired loads.

Pain Points:
Devices whose energy consumption levels and operational status are difficult to monitor.

Top Trends: The smart grid is the future. As renewable energy becomes more plentiful, the grid will change from the traditional generation of enough electricity to meet demand to a model in which loads will be turned on and off to match the amount of power available.

Budget Savers: Monitoring instantaneous demand is key to containing energy consumption. In commercial buildings, where the costs for lighting and electricity exceeds all others, smart monitors should be used to turn off lights, cut back air conditioning or heat, and even scale back hot water heating.

Source: Anna Demeo, lecturer in physics and sustainable energy at the College of The Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine

“This is no longer just about shutting off lights or turning down the air conditioning, it’s about the very kind of lights being installed and what kind of intelligence is being used to determine when a space is in use or when it should be shut down completely,” says Jay Rogina, principal at Spinitar, an A/V and communications integrator based in La Mirada, Calif. “Organizations are quick to get excited about going green and saving money, but they don’t understand that they’ve got to spend a lot up front to get the return on investment over several years.”

Lighting, where an incandescent bulb costs just a few dollars compared with a commercial-grade LED replacement lamp that can exceed $90, is a prime example, Rogina says. “The up-front cost of LED lighting adds up quickly when you are retrofitting hundreds or thousands of fixtures. We need pricing to fall more in line.” Not to mention that facilities managers and CFOs expect to see ROI achieved within their lifetimes.

Efficiencies can be attained through building anew, retrofitting the existing infrastructure or playing smarter with the cards already dealt. Opinions and solutions are equally varied.

As energy codes and guidelines grow increasingly restrictive, designers no longer have the luxury of turning to yesteryear’s design philosophies. “You cannot simply dim the lights or alter the temperature to meet energy saving mandates,” says Fred Bargetzi, vice president of Technology at solutions manufacturer Crestron. “The only way to build a truly efficient building that will meet energy requirements today and be adaptable to meet future requirements is to take a holistic view of the entire building’s control and automation.”

Like it or not, making that happen is going to depend upon design teams including the control and automation system supplier in a design assist role as a partner from the earliest planning stages. Currently, when design teams pursue a “three bids and a cloud of dust” procurement approach, they get disparate systems that often cannot be integrated, Bargetzi says. This type of system offers minimal expandability or protection of the owner’s investment in controls and automation.

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