09/01/2008

Software Helps Battle Soaring Energy Costs

Learn about the features and options that energy-management software can offer

By Mindi Zissman

 

Some Good Questions to Ask
Energy-management software can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $90,000—a significant capital expense for any business. Before you adopt a tracking program, a thorough investigation of your organization's needs is crucial. Some questions to ask include:

  • What is the budget?
  • How many meters/building sites will be tracked?
  • How do we plan to import/export data?
  • What types of reports do we expect to generate?
  • How will we analyze energy savings?
  • Do we want the software to perform accounting functions?
  • What existing systems/business functions do we want the software to interface with?
  • Is staff training or ongoing technical support needed from our software vendor?

Energy-management software is cutting down on wasted power in many of today's buildings. Providing a growing number of old and new facilities with utility-bill and energy-use tracking, this software is helping facility managers battle soaring energy costs.

Available software packages identify ways to more efficiently manage energy expenditures, including shifting power usage away from peak-load hours and optimizing mechanical equipment, all by aggregating usage patterns and tracking expenses. There are a number of options when it comes to energy-management software, though the most common programs perform interval and/or utility-bill tracking.

Interval tracking is perhaps the simplest way to isolate energy use. Recording usage at 5- to 15-minute intervals, this function allows facility managers to trace usage patterns by tenant or area at any number of meters throughout a building.

Utility-bill tracking typically offers large businesses and government organizations a dashboard for organizing and measuring utility bills. Utilizing a variety of comparison functions, including time of day or year, seasons, individual tenants, etc., this application reveals the energy used or saved over time.

Both interval- and utility-bill-tracking software programs provide a range of features, including sub-meter tracking, standard or customizable reporting, and weather normalization.

Many facilities professionals are interested in energy-management software as a way to uncover tenant energy use. With mounted meters in each tenant space, sub-meter tracking reveals how each group uses power, merging flow rates with energy numbers. "Just by metering, [and] by the pure fact that people know something is being monitored, [you can] save anywhere from 2 to 4 percent," says David Bovankovich, vice president of engineering at Langhorne, PA-based E-Mon. "If you're proactive, you can save [as much as] 10 to 15 percent, depending on the application."

Energy Costs at Lincoln Elementary

This graph notes one elementary school's energy usage across two consecutive years, and reveals energy savings, as reported by its energy-management software. COURTESY OF ABRAXAS ENERGY CONSULTING

Once usage has been tracked, the way in which it's reported will vary. Less expensive energy-management software comes with standard reporting capabilities, including preprogrammed TIFF or Crystal Reports that feature energy data as collected. The more robust and pricey software, however, permits users to customize their findings, allowing the information and its presentation to be manipulated as desired. Some programs even facilitate the exportation of data into Microsoft Excel. Being armed with the right data allows a facilities manager to "anticipate what needs work before it becomes a major problem or fuel waster," says Dan Margulies, COO at Fresh Meadows, NY-based U.S. Energy Group.

Once reports have been generated, comparing them is another task. According to John Avina, president at San Luis Obispo, CA-based Abraxas Energy Consulting, weather normalization is a crucial feature in evaluating a building's energy savings over time. "You'd think you could just compare last year's bill to this year's bill, but the weather is different every year," says Avina.

Mindi Zissman is a contributing editor at Buildings magazine.

 

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Visit our website today to learn about the design flexibility of a Morton building and the endless possibilities of partnering with our designBUILD team.


Wood construction is both cost and energy efficient. Check out Morton Buildings and our designBUILD team online today to discover all the benefits of post-frame construction.


When choosing a metal-clad building for your next construction project, consider Morton Buildings, Inc., and their designBUILD team, we’ll make your dream a reality.

Bluebeam® Revu® simplifies digital facilities document management from design review to leveraging as-builts, maintenance manuals and O&Ms submittals.

Yaskawa drives offer quality performance for air handlers and cooling towers on the roof to secondary chilled water pumps in the basement

We Can Help You Reduce Energy by 30%

Our mission is to help our customers manage their buildings' energy costs, improve reliability, and enhance performance while having a positive impact on the environment.
CLICK HERE to find out how.

Need portable cooling?

Rent or buy spot coolers from full-service locations nationwide. On call “24/7”. Primary, supplemental or emergency cooling. Atlas Sales & Rentals, Inc., or call (800) 972-6600.

Click here for more info


Visit our website today to learn about the design flexibility of a Morton building and the endless possibilities of partnering with our designBUILD team.


Wood construction is both cost and energy efficient. Check out Morton Buildings and our designBUILD team online today to discover all the benefits of post-frame construction.


When choosing a metal-clad building for your next construction project, consider Morton Buildings, Inc., and their designBUILD team, we’ll make your dream a reality.

Bluebeam® Revu® simplifies digital facilities document management from design review to leveraging as-builts, maintenance manuals and O&Ms submittals.

Yaskawa drives offer quality performance for air handlers and cooling towers on the roof to secondary chilled water pumps in the basement

We Can Help You Reduce Energy by 30%

Our mission is to help our customers manage their buildings' energy costs, improve reliability, and enhance performance while having a positive impact on the environment.
CLICK HERE to find out how.


 
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