There are several ways to monitor your energy consumption, ranging from annual benchmarking to real-time energy data
. Some solutions are more expensive than others, some are more granular, and some are more accessible. Choosing a solution all depends on what you’re looking for.
Two things are for certain:
- You need a way to collect data
- You need a way to make changes based on your data
The question is whether the data collection and the controls can be integrated, and more importantly, whether they should be integrated.
Meters and Building Management Systems Have Different Functions:
Meters are the best way to collect data, and web-enabled meters will get your data out of the building’s basement by sending the data to the cloud where it can connect to a third-party software. With submetering you can get a more granular view of your building’s operations by breaking down the building by space, by use, or by source
. However, meters only give you information. Metering by itself will not save you money or make your buildings more efficient. Instead, metering gives you the information you need to make smart operating decisions.
Building Management Systems:
A Building Management System (BMS) can be found in nearly every commercial building, and is used to control the building’s systems such as the HVAC and lighting. However, most BMSs don’t do anything to monitor these operations. You can use the BMS to make the temperature in your buildings warmer or cooler, but not to see how these changes affect your energy spend.
There are some newer Building Management Systems and Building Automation Systems (BAS) that are able to collect data and display it for stakeholders, but these exist in very few buildings.
Meter and BMS Integration Is Possible, But Not Always Feasible:
In some cases, it is possible to integrate meters with the BMS, in order to track and control building operations on the same platform. It’s important to consider that this is easy if the BMS is very new, but otherwise can have a much longer and more expensive implementation than just metering separately from the BMS.
While cloud metering can be implemented in just a few days with less than $2000 in installation costs, the payback is usually less than one year. However, with BMS integration it can take more than six months to fully integrate the two systems with a $5000 installation fee (assuming you do not have a new BMS), and the payback can take 2-3 years.
The Key is to Meter First
You might have a BMS that is 15 years old and works perfectly well, but cannot easily integrate with meters. More often than not, that is the case, and it’s not a reason to keep you from gaining control of the building’s performance.
Even without BMS integration, meters give you a ton of great data, and cloud meters let you access the data anywhere. With just one meter, you can see whether your building returns to its baseload at night, and your start and stop times are running. With submetering, you can separate your HVAC from your lighting, see which consumes more energy, and choose to adjust operations accordingly. Without BMS integration you can’t actually change the settings from the cloud, but you can get all of the information you need from meters to make a wise decision.
When you meter first and send your data to the cloud, it becomes very easy to integrate with the BMS later when you’re ready. Vendors are understanding more and more that it’s better to have open APIs that can work together, as opposed to having a locked system. New companies are developing their products as part of the larger ecosystem, open to connections and integration. If you choose an open system now, BMS integration may very well be affordable in the next 2-5 years.
So, whether you have an old BMS that doesn’t need to be replaced just yet, or BMS integration isn’t in your budget, you can meter first, get actionable data, and leave the option open for a full upgrade when you are ready.
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