Power quality and energy consumption are closely linked to overall building performance, yet building managers often focus more on mechanical equipment operations.
Power problems are responsible for more than half of equipment downtime in most buildings. Adding power management to BMS capabilities can reduce energy costs and improve building performance while also enhancing occupant comfort.
Power and energy management systems have long been used in power critical industries like data centres and hospitals. However, advances in technology now make it easier to utilise such power and energy management tools in commercial buildings.
In Australia, there is a growing opportunity to increase the efficiency and functionality of buildings and support them to achieve lower maintenance costs, increase equipment life span and reduce energy consumption. Energy use is a main target for improvement in building environments as 42 per cent of the world’s energy is attributed to buildings. There is also growing evidence that environmental conditions inside a building can offer significant benefits to worker performance and customer satisfaction. With proper planning, facilities managers can leverage power and energy management systems to improve energy use, enhance occupant comfort, reduce maintenance costs and emergencies, and continuously optimise building performance.
Power monitoring is a specialised discipline that focuses on managing electrical distribution systems in order to maximise the efficiency and reliability of a facility’s electrical infrastructure. It does this by utilising electrical power metering devices to measure the quality and quantity of power flowing through a given part of the electrical system.
It functions much like a BMS, but power management helps identify which building systems or pieces of equipment are contributing the most to electrical energy waste. Power monitoring maximises efficient day-to-day operations by providing visibility into real-time properties of a building’s electrical supply. It enables building management, operations and maintenance teams to see how different building systems and equipment affect the electrical system. It also highlights how different systems and equipment affect each other. This visibility allows facilities staff to detect and resolve problems more quickly, minimise electrical waste and operate the building more efficiently.
There are multiple advantages to monitoring and managing power consumption and quality, including reduced costs, enhanced performance and improved occupancy comfort. Specifically, the benefits of power management include:
- Maximised equipment performance – Power problems such as transients, swells, and under/over voltage can have harmful effect on HVAC equipment. From 30 to 40 per cent of all unscheduled HVAC downtime is related to power quality problems and up to 80 per cent of the time, these disturbances are generated by user-owner equipment. Power quality management identifies the problem early so that damage and downtime can be minimised.
- Loss of capacity – Harmonic distortion, a power problem caused by non-linear loads, is a common electrical problem that can cause damage to electrical components.
- Verified energy bills – The majority of energy billing errors occur on the administration side of the utility, not the meter. Power management provides the intelligence to read kilowatt hours and make comparisons without mistakes.
- Tracked electrical loads – Tracking load profiles through a power management system can identify early signs of trouble. The power management systems will be able to track down the causes of issues and correct them before the problem becomes severe.
- Applied analytics – Power monitoring produces large amounts of data which can be mined with analytics to reveal hidden trends.
Most building owners with non-critical power needs have some power monitoring equipment (such as meters) in place, but do not have electrical experts on staff to interpret the energy data that is gathered. Yet they still want visibility into their electrical system for better incident response times and lower energy spend.
Energy use is a major facilities management concern, and buildings have been identified as the largest energy consumers, yet most building owners and operators fail to measure and manage power. Even BMSs only partially address this issue. The power system can have a major impact on efficiency, reliability, energy use and costs. An investment in power meters, when linked with a BMS, provides much-needed visibility into how power relates to equipment performance.
With proper planning, facilities managers can leverage power management to improve energy use, enhance occupant comfort, reduce maintenance costs and emergencies, and continuously optimise building performance.