Diagnostic Tool to Identify Building Issues

Sept. 28, 2015

Cloud-based software could suggest solutions to cut energy use, improve occupant satisfaction.

A new tool for analyzing data generated by building components such as thermostats, air and water sensors, and energy meters could reduce inefficient operation. The new technology uses algorithms to automatically check and analyze large volumes of building data to notify FMs of problems before they become noticeable by occupants. In addition to alerting operators of potential issues, the system will also suggest the most likely cause, cutting maintenance time and eliminating the necessity to guess and check components to find issues.

With malfunctioning system components and control systems taking up a large amount of facilities’ energy bills, the researchers from Drexel University used a grant from the DOE to develop the new software as part of the DOE’s Building University Innovators and Leaders Development awards for higher education research on building energy efficiency. The fault detection and diagnosis tool will also be compatible with the DOE’s VOLTTRON open-source building control program. The next step, according to the researchers, is to test the new software on one of Drexel’s campus buildings.

“Faults can arise from a number of small problems that lead to a big one. A lack of cooling could be due to a refrigerant leak, a leaky duct, hot water valve, or malfunctioning fan, but most times it’s actually a combination of several of these problems. Our automated fault detection and diagnosis tool will point operators to the most efficient solution,” says Jin Wen, associate professor at Drexel’s College of Engineering and lead researcher on the project.

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