With interval data you usually receive information with a 24-hour lag, that was collected every fifteen minutes the previous day.
With real-time data you’ll be looking at what’s happening in your building right now.
If there was a spike in consumption in the middle of the night last night, or you had a higher baseload last night than you did the night before, you can see if the problem is still occurring. Plus, if it looks like there may have been active tenants in the building the night before, chances are someone around remembers exactly what was going on last night, and you can get your answer in a few seconds instead of wasting 15 minutes.
Real-time data also offers real-time alerts. If you have a problem with your HVAC system in the middle of the night on Tuesday, you want to be alerted immediately, so the temperature in the building can be regulated before tenants arrive on Wednesday morning. That data will not be nearly as useful if you don’t receive it until Thursday morning, 24-hours after the problem began.
Real-time data gives you a pulse, or a heartbeat, to monitor your building. If you go to the doctor when you get sick and they use a stethoscope to listen to your heart, a popsicle stick to look at your throat, and a light to look in your ears. they’re not looking to see what your body looked like yesterday. They want to know what your body looks like right now. You may not have been sick yesterday, or you may be much better today than you were yesterday. Either way, they’re not going to be able to prescribe the right antibiotic if they don’t know what’s going on right now.
The same thing goes for buildings. When you collect and retrieve real-time energy data, you get a more accurate diagnosis of your building that is significantly easier to take action on.
Before you go ahead and spend money on energy data, you should start by finding out if your utility company offers it to you for free. Many utility companies offer Green Button data, which is collected every 15 minutes, and reported back to you the next day. As we discussed earlier, this is not a perfect solution, but it is certainly better than only receiving data once a month.
Green Button data is a great thing for utility companies to offer, but it will not yield the same savings as real-time data that is delivered to you instantly, instead of the following day. There are a few things to consider when upgrading to a third party energy management solution.
First, Green Button data only gives you numbers. It does not give you clear charts to help you interpret your energy data. So when you are looking for a new solution you should certainly consider usability of the interface being offered.
In addition to usability, you must consider what you now know about the value difference of real-time vs. interval data. If you are going to pay for a solution that will make sense of interval data for you, you will spend a lot of money on data that you still get with a 24-hour delay, or that only comes a few times a day, instead of multiple times every minute.
So, if you choose to start with interval data, it is important to make sure your data analytics solution will allow you to seamlessly upgrade from interval to real-time data once you are ready for it.
Real-time data is not a significantly more expensive solution than interval data, because energy meters have become increasingly cheaper and easier to install. Once the meters are installed, the data collection is easy.
In summary, the first thing you should do is take advantage of the data that is already available to you. Find out if your utility company offers interval data through Green Button. If it does, real-time data collection is even easier to implement because a pulse can be collected from the utility company’s smart meters. Finally, when you decide it’s time to upgrade to a more efficient energy management system, consider the value of real-time data vs. interval data discussed in this article.