EOS Labs https://energyeos.com Financial Intelligence for Next-Generation Utility Efficiency Management Sat, 19 Dec 2020 01:51:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.3 https://energyeos.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/cropped-EOSLabsFav-32x32.png EOS Labs https://energyeos.com 32 32 The Blind Spot in Energy Efficiency Management https://energyeos.com/the-blind-spot-in-energy-efficiency-management/ Mon, 03 Jun 2019 12:18:57 +0000 http://energyeos.com/?p=928 The general sense of the word “healthy” indicates routine behavior such as diet and exercise, but it also excludes certain conditions such as injuries and illnesses. When one’s desire is to become healthy, the general expectation will be around two areas: becoming consistently fit, and avoiding the occasional injury or illness. While both goals are as important, they are achieved through very different methods.

Similarly, our buildings work like our bodies. To enjoy an energy efficient building, your overall strategy must address two different areas of energy efficiency: The regular routine (automation) and the irregular (anomalies). Each area has its own unique requirements and methods to manage. Addressing only one of the two areas of efficiency—or often just as bad, applying the same strategy to both areas—means you are likely wasting energy. And that’s leaving dollars on the table.

3 Concepts You Should Be Familiar With

Energy Waste: Energy waste occurs when your building is using more energy than it should for the present intended operation, and is, thus, wasting dollars. This can be caused by a malfunction, sub-par sequence of HVAC operation, behavior of occupants, and many other factors. As electricity is invisible, identifying waste and quantifying the dollar-impact is a complex problem to solve.

Automation (the steady state/regular area of energy): This is the regular or ‘routine’ area of managing consumption. You get this by managing the control systems in the building.

Anomalies (the unexpected/irregular area of energy): This is when energy consumption spikes, or when energy consumption is otherwise behaving differently than usual. An anomaly can indicate an energy-wasting condition, but often not. To better tell if an anomaly is truly a wasteful condition, a deeper dive is needed in normalized consumption trends, EMS data, and sequence, business operations, etc.

A Big Problem: Up to 43% in Energy Savings

The BOMA International Building Energy Efficiency Program (BEEP; BOMA 2006a) reports energy potential savings are 10.5-43.2% through changes in O&M and occupant behavior (i). This means that between 10.5-43.2% of your energy costs can be avoided and are thus considered waste.

But why so much waste? There are a few factors driving this:

  1. Most buildings are designed with business continuity in mind. So, when a malfunction occurs in a component, in most cases it will default to “fully-open” status. That way continuity of business is a default. But it comes at the cost of wasting energy.
  2. Buildings and systems are engineered with safety factors. Thus, when a wasteful malfunction takes place, waste rate can be higher than the normal usage rate.
  3. Consumption (kWh) is a function of time. A “small” waste running extended hours will always add up to a considerable amount of waste.

Big Risks from Small Instances

As with most blind spots, they are often hidden in plain sight. And so we need to re-train ourselves to see them. Here is an example to illustrate. Imagine two different sized tanks. Both are always full of water. One of your tanks is larger, while the other is smaller (see Figure 1).

Knowing a fact about the nature of tanks that, on average, 30% of tanks leak and waste water—which of the two tanks will you spend your time monitoring?

The common practice is to monitor the larger tank, because, the thinking goes, since it is larger, it will leak more. But this is a false assumption. The reality is that we don’t know which tank will leak more. It is possible that the larger tank never leaks. Or, if it leaks, it could be at a much lower rate than the smaller tank (as in Figure 2).

This is because, in most cases, the size of the system is only one factor amongst many others that determine the size of the risk.

The same concept applies to energy consumption in buildings. Energy waste can occur in any area of the building and can be generated from smaller systems—and it is not limited to the nominal capacity/size of the system. Meaning, just because the system is small doesn’t mean it cannot be a large waste risk.

Consider another example: a malfunctioning VFD on a 30% oversized motor can more than double the consumption, and waste 137% of its normal consumption. Meaning, if such motor normally consumes $100, a failed VFD can end up wasting $137 on top of the normal $100 (ii).

Another example of small consumption adding up to considerable waste would be a space heater under a cubical that is run for an extended period.

The Blind Spot

Now that we know waste can occur in considerable amounts in almost any electrically powered system in the building, detection of such waste requires monitoring of every possible cause of waste. But using data generated by the control/automation systems (associated with mostly larger systems) as a waste monitoring strategy leaves a large area of the building unmonitored. Smaller systems, like the VFD, space heaters, or myriad others show us this.

Put another way, the blind spot in energy efficiency comes when we try to manage waste in the same way we manage the normal consumption, that is using controls. We must think differently and use a different approach to capture energy waste. One way to eliminate this blind spot is by monitoring general areas, and not systems.

Key Takeaways:

  • Waste isn’t limited to systems under automation/controls; Waste can occur outside of controls coverage.
  • Automation itself can be a cause for waste. Thus, waste mitigation strategy must be built outside and independent of the building’s controls.
  • Waste isn’t only correlated to the kW power of the system, it is also dependent on its fail-to defaults, runtime, applied safety factors, and other factors.
  • Controlling the large systems that normally consume large amounts of energy is encouraged and in most cases necessary.
  • Managing energy waste is a totally different area of energy efficiency than managing the normal consumption of systems. It requires a different approach and way of thinking.
  • To accurately detect energy waste, you must have the kWh, Amps, etc. of the main feed(s) and sub-meters. Detecting waste through controls data, status and command is not reliable, and neither it is a substitute for understanding your building’s consumption behavior and trends.
  • If detecting waste through controls data analytics has been a success for your portfolio, there is a high chance (statistically speaking) that you have a large opportunity that you haven’t tapped into yet (within the blind spot).
  • For waste mitigation purposes, if you can’t monitor every possible energy point/system, monitor areas instead.

(i) BOMA 2006a. Energy Efficiency Program (a series of six courses) – referenced in ASHRAE’s Energy Efficiency Guide for Existing Commercial Buildings: The Business Case for Building Owners and Managers, 2009, page 5.

(ii) First Affinity Law: (P2/P1)=(N2/N1)3

Thus, P2= (60/45)3 * (P1) = 2.37 (P1)

The Invisible Enemy of Energy Management Programs (And 5 Steps to Beat It) https://energyeos.com/the-invisible-enemy-of-energy-management-programs-and-5-steps-to-beat-it/ Wed, 05 Dec 2018 13:45:35 +0000 http://energyeos.com/?p=939 In our cars, the mileage per gallon tells us how fuel efficient they are. When you buy a car with a 28 mile per gallon rating, you know that this is really the car’s upper potential. In reality, you typically won’t get this much out of it, at least not after you’ve used it for some time. And of course, there are many factors that cause this.

The same thing is true for buildings. The efficiency you get out of your building today—the energy cost in any given time period—is rarely what your building is capable of. Instead, most buildings are operating in a place of efficiency degradation. Early, before your building was in use, its best possible efficiency was determined during the design, programming, and construction phases. But over time, due to many factors, your building’s performance began to lag.

In order to avoid wasting capital dollars on building improvements, you need an energy efficiency strategy designed to maintain your building at its best possible efficiency. Specifically, this means addressing the factors that can cause the efficiency of your building to drop below its optimal level.

While this may seem obvious, it’s actually one of the biggest causes of waste in buildings today. Gordon Holness, past president of ASHRAE, notes that the “analysis of many new buildings indicates that their performance significantly deteriorates in the first three years of operation (some say by as much as 30%)—even those designed as high-energy-efficient green building”. “Research,” he continues “has also shown the potential for a 10%-40% reduction in energy use simply by changing operational strategies.” (1)

Managing efficiency degradation is not only possible, it is the cornerstone for an effective energy management program.

What is Efficiency Degradation?
In short, energy efficiency degradation is the difference in energy efficiency between what the building is capable of and how it is actually performing on a regular basis (see Figure 1 below).

Some of the prime suspects for efficiency degradation are aging equipment, malfunctions, changes in the operations of the building (what areas of the building get used, when and how), less than optimal sequence of operations, systems running on manual mode, behavioral factors, and how repairs are managed and prioritized, amongst others. Efficiency degradation is a normal and natural trend in every building.

Capital Improvements: The Common (Costly) Solution
Efficiency Capital Improvement is the solution most utilized when buildings are not functioning optimally. It is the process of improving the building’s best-case-scenario efficiency by replacing or retrofitting old building components, systems, or assets. Some common examples include installing VFDs on your HVAC or retrofitting all of your lighting with LEDs.

While these improvements can help, they often come at a hefty cost, making their ROI sometimes not realized until years into the future. And while this investment is typically worth the money, avoiding efficiency degradation is another great option on its own–and a great foundation to accompany any capital improvements.

A Better (Cheaper) Solution
While capital improvements may be unavoidable, it is recommended to always have an efficiency degradation avoidance (EDA) strategy in place. This is because simply put, you will always save money this way.

See the comparison in Figures 2a and 2b below. In Figure 2a, a capital improvement combined with an EDA strategy results in a notable increase in your building’s best possible efficiency. However, as Figure 2b shows, when you do not have an EDA strategy in place, capital improvement will not meet its fullest potential. You’ve likely heard of cases where high dollar capital improvements did not meet the expectations. This was due simply to lacking an EDA strategy.

Creating Your Efficiency Degradation Avoidance (EDA) Process
Eliminating energy waste by running your building at its optimal efficiency is a no-brainer—if you can design a simple but effective process that fits your business. My recommendation is to follow this five-step process for designing a system that works well for your specific building and business need.

  1. Define Benchmarks. Know your current efficiency level and identify the potential efficiency of your building. If the difference in efficiency is attractive economically, take action to the next step.
  2. Create a Checklist. Identify the factors driving your building’s efficiency down, and create a checklist of what to watch out for.
  3. Make Corrections. If you run across a time where efficiency is too low compared to the building’s capability, or if you ran through the checklist and found a few issues, take action and correct them.
  4. Verify. The temptation of most is to skip this step. Once you’ve made the correction (Step 3), the building efficiency is expected to increase back to the level of its best potential. Very often, you need the right technology to verify the impact of your actions here.
  5. Build a Routine. This is a best-practice that should be implemented in the building O&M standards of operations.

Note: (1) Gordon Holness (ASHRAE President 2009-2010), Energy Efficiency Guide for Existing Commercial Buildings: The Business Case for Building Owners and Managers, 2009, page xii.