Not all data reporting is created equal.
Any solution that allows building teams to see how their consumption data varies throughout the day is capable of yielding significant energy efficiency results, but some systems are more useful than others. When you are shopping for a solution to track your building’s utility consumption, pay careful attention to whether solutions offer interval or real-time data.
Generally, real-time data is presented as it is collected. While there are still technically ‘intervals’ of data collection, they may be as close as several times per second, presenting a streaming view of consumption. Interval data is collected at wider intervals – often every fifteen minutes – and presented at a 24- to 72-hour delay. As a result, there are several things that building teams can do with real-time data that are simply not possible with interval data.
Interval data gives you your building’s data at a delay. That means that by the time you know how your energy consumption was distributed throughout any given day, it’s too late to do anything about it.
Energy utilities charge different rates per kilowatt-hour depending on the demand at different times throughout the day. Rates are cheapest early in the morning, before most people wake up and start using electricity. Rates are highest during the working day, when the most energy is consumed.
Real-time data gives you the opportunity to track your energy consumption as it is happening. If too much electricity is being used during the peak demand period, non-essential processes can be stopped until later in the day. With interval data, you can only guess at how much energy you are using at any given time.
Most problems that occur in a commercial building are naturally time sensitive. A broken HVAC unit will result in un-conditioned tenant spaces, interrupting business and damaging landlord-tenant relations. A leak is even worse; not only is water wasted, but that same water can result in serious property damage. A gas leak is potentially lethal.
These aren’t problems that can wait, but interval data won’t alert your team to the problem until one to three days after the fact. In this time, the problem can compound and become significantly more expensive to resolve.
Real-time data solutions detect these problems immediately. Better systems will also monitor that data automatically, flag increases or decreases in consumption that look out of place, and send your team alerts to make sure that potential problems are caught immediately.
Electricity bills are calculated based on two main factors: total consumption and peak load. The total consumption is simply the number of kWh a building or tenant has used during the billing period. Peak load is the highest rate of electric consumption at any point during the billing period. This means that a building with a very even consumption might have bills that are the same as or lower than those for a building that has a lower total consumption but more variance.
Electric utilities do this to encourage peak load management. Large amounts of electricity are difficult to store, and the grid has to be ready to provide enough energy to satisfy the total peak load – the largest rate of consumption for an area taken as a whole. This means that the utility has to have enough capacity to handle peak load year round, even if this point is only hit once.
Buildings can significantly cut their energy bills by reducing their peak load, but to do this, they have to be aware of it. Real-time data helps buildings to see how much they’re consuming and cut energy use before it goes too high. Over time, this can be developed into strategies that further reduce peak load. Interval data will tell you if your building is approaching peak load as well – one to three days later. By this point, it is likely too late to do anything about it.