How The Magic Happens: Power Meters and Pulse Meters to Collect Energy Data December 11, 2014 | Samantha Dubrow

At Aquicore, we spend a lot of time discussing how important it is to get your energy data out of the basement and into a digital form that you can use to optimize your building. We’ve explained the differences between traditional, web-enabled, and wireless meters, and how these technologies are industry game changers.

Now, let’s take a few minutes to talk about the equipment that is already in your building and sending data to your utility companies. Then, we’ll share our secret to easily connecting that data to the cloud so you can access it in real time, regardless of the age, type, or size of your building.

 

What You Already Have in Your Building

Somewhere in your building, there is at least one power meter collecting energy data and sending it to the utility company. Otherwise, you’d never get a bill. To determine your next steps, you need the answers to the following questions:

Is your data digitally accessible? More than likely, your utility company either uses smart meters or collects data manually from an older generation power meter. In the former case, your data is exiting the basement digitally through a pulse output. In the latter case, to automate the data collection process you will have to install a web-enabled power meter or ask your utility company to install smart meter. Many utility companies will do this at no cost, but the delay can be significant.

Does the meter measure data that is useful to you? It is possible that there are several older generation power meters in your building and that they are not monitoring your space or equipment in a way that is useful to you. Not to worry – it isn’t complicated or expensive to install a new, web-enabled pulse or power meter that collects exactly the data you need.

 

When to use a pulse meter

Pulse meters can be used to get the data from your existing smart utility meter out of the basement and into an analytics platform. Your building must have smart (newer generation) meters, and the utility company must provide you with a pulse output. Utility companies do this on request, however, depending on the utility company, this can take up to 6 weeks, and there can be a subsequent charge.

The good news is that web-enabled pulse meters are basically plug-and-play. Once you’ve hooked up your smart meter to the internet, it will send regular pulses corresponding to electricity consumption. Each pulse corresponds to a certain amount of energy (kWh), and so by counting the pulses, an analytics platform can easily determine how much energy is being used in real time.

For example, if one pulse is equivalent to 0.5 kWh, then four pulses per minute signifies that you are using 2 kWh per minute. If a few minutes later there are only three pulses over the course of a minute, you are only using 1.5 kWh. Pulse meters are generally the cheapest and easiest way to collect energy data because they can be attached to existing smart meters.

 

When to use a power meter

A power meter is generally the best option if your building doesn’t have smart meters installed. Even with smart meters, power meters may make sense if you want access to particularly granular information, like from a particular piece of equipment, or if you want to check whether your utility meter is reliable.

You can use power meters for any building of any size or age, and as a result, in-depth analytics solutions are available in buildings that never had them before.

 Power meters measure amperage with current transformers in the shape of a donut that attach around power conductors. They read the voltage directly, and by comparing the two, the meter can calculate the power being used. As meter technology becomes more cost effective, these devices are becoming increasingly affordable to deploy.

 

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Building Age and Meter Type Don’t Matter Anymore

Water and gas data outputs work the same way as electricity, except you use a flow meter instead of a power meter. A flow meter can calculate gallons of water used or measure gas consumption in cubic feet.

There was a time when getting energy data out of buildings was not an option for most buildings. But now, no matter how old your building is or what type of meters you have, there is a way to collect the data you need to optimize your building’s performance.

Whether you have an existing power meter and just need to add internet connectivity or you do not have a usable meter and need to install a web-enabled power meter, solutions exist that are fast, simple, and easy for taking control of your buildings.

 

Still have questions?

 

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About The Author

When Samantha isn’t writing for the blog or managing our HR like a champ, she studies Organizational Psychology at George Washington University.