Data from a Distance: Remote HVAC Monitoring and Analysis

11/01/2014 | By Janelle Penny

How metering and software can complement your maintenance program

Retrofitting Remote HVAC monitoring eqiupment complements existing maintenance programs by alerting FMs to malfunctioning equipment and analyzing energy consumption data.

If an air-handling unit at one of your facilities stops working, how soon will you know about it?

In many buildings, occupant complaints are the first indication that it’s too hot, forcing FMs to backtrack to the faulty equipment.

However, facilities retrofitted with remote HVAC monitoring could conquer the problem more quickly – the air handler’s sudden demise may trigger an alert to the facilities team, or a metering system may notice a sudden drop in energy consumption from the faulty equipment.

Could a remote HVAC solution complement your maintenance program? Read on to examine how this software suite can improve your operations.

Investigate Your Options
If you already have a BMS, it likely came with some basic power meters that the HVAC monitoring system can use to capture data, explains Jeramy Freeman, national business development manager for Schneider Electric. Smaller buildings without BMS installations can use smart room controllers and metering to collect data. Critical facilities, such as hospitals, data centers, or military installations, usually have sophisticated system monitoring equipment installed that allows easy integration of the HVAC monitoring devices.

But collecting this much data is a means to an end, not the end in itself. Your ultimate goal is enabling off-site troubleshooting and control, not just collecting numbers and measurements.

“Automated fault detection and diagnostic solutions are ideal for analyzing historical trends to determine energy waste and pinpoint mechanical inefficiencies and the root causes of comfort issues,” says Freeman. “Equally important is the ability to take immediate action when HVAC energy consumption is out of anticipated limits. It’s possible for remote analysis and automatic correction to be performed, but currently it’s more typical for control actions and day-to-day immediate corrections to be performed locally by the building management system and service personnel.”

Alarming and notification capabilities for sudden spikes are available with some products, while others include remote diagnostics that can help narrow down or even fix problems from afar. Other packages can export data into CSV or Excel formats for industry-specific requirements, notes Paul Rauker, vice president of systems and controls at Daikin Applied.

“A retail development may want to see what weather conditions were vs. sales,” Rauker explains.

3 Best Practices
Though specifics will vary by installation, most users want to keep an eye on maintenance needs and comfort issues, particularly temperature and humidity, Rauker says. In addition to environmental factors, consider these three tips to optimize your use of remote HVAC monitoring.


  1. Pick a sensible measurement interval. Some products are capable of measuring close to real-time. Others make it easy to compare with utility records by using the same 15-minute kW demand interval that utilities use for billing, Freeman says: “By metering and recording in a similar fashion to the utility, it’s possible to reconcile utility bills to catch any potential billing errors.”
  2. Start small, then scale your analysis gradually. HVAC systems can yield an overwhelming amount of data. Instead of taking on all of it at once, Freeman recommends first focusing on root-cause inefficiencies, energy and equipment use, and fault identification, then continuing to monitor and analyze remotely to ensure cost savings are sustained and systems remain in good working order.

    This also provides users with recommended projects and their ROIs, which demonstrates a need for funding to make building improvements. “The value of big data is your ability to extract and analyze it and come out with a value-added action or information that’s valuable for both the end user and third-party technical service personnel,” adds Rauker. “You don’t want to overwhelm people with data and then expect them to figure it out.”

  3. Build on your data for bigger and better savings. “Advanced opportunities exist for customers who know their building’s energy performance and ability to control it, such as utility rate negotiations and taking advantage of incentives and demand response opportunities,” explains Freeman.

Janelle Penny is senior editor of BUILDINGS.

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