A New Approach to Energy Use in Buildings

November 26, 2007
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USE Manager’s Dashboard is a Web-based portal, which enables a property manager to manage a portfolio of buildings efficiently.

FRESH MEADOWS, N.Y. - Property owners and managers are becoming energy shoppers - people searching for the best bang for their energy-usage buck. Gone are the days of metal giants in dark mechanical rooms controlled by janitors and inexperienced maintenance people. Low energy costs and poor building design characterized those days.

Today, the HVAC industry is being asked by property owners and managers to design energy-efficient systems that can be controlled wirelessly and can respond to any ambient temperature change or space-use scenario. That is especially true of the oil heat trade, which is seeing its customer base turning to Internet solutions to streamline energy usage.

One company recently launched a new product designed to fit the model of budget-conscious building owners. US Energy Group of Fresh Meadows, N.Y., launched its USE Manager, an Internet-based, building management service and platform enabling real-estate management organizations to run their businesses more efficiently.

Not only does the USE Manager provide a needed service for property owners and managers, it provides another revenue stream for HVAC contractors.

“USE Manager is an advanced, online, remote monitoring program that heating/mechanical contractors can use to solidify their business-customer relationships, especially with customers having large portfolios of properties,” said Warren Zaretsky, US Energy Group vice president of marketing. “Because it is typically sold as an annual subscription service, it is also an excellent source of continuing revenue for them.

The US Energy Group understands that property owners and managers need to oversee all of their properties, often in just minutes a day and from anywhere in the world. With a service like the USE Manager, they can instantly view operational issues and “alerts” needing immediate attention, efficiently delegate repair and maintenance work, address city violations, monitor and conserve fuel usage, and save money.

Dan Margulies, chief operating officer of the US Energy Group, said the product has a direct tie-in to HVAC contractors who are selling and servicing building controls. “Suppose you are a heating contractor,” he said. “Your customer has our Energy Management System [EMS] and designates you, the contractor, to receive e-mail alerts about the heating system.

“The stack temperature climbs over several weeks from 450° to over 600° and USE Manager fires an e-mail alert. The contractor calls the customer and recommends a tube cleaning, or, if the customer has a service contract, generates an immediate service call. When the tubes are cleaned and the stack temperature drops down again, the contractor can tell the customer that thanks to his prompt service, he is saving money and energy.

“The same thing might apply where instead of a stack temperature, the alert reports a sudden increase in boiler make-up water, indicating a steam return line leak, or, perhaps a tube leak. In either case, prompt attention can save hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars.”

Pictured are the USE Controller EMS, which saves 15 percent on fuel consumption with an ROI of less than 2 years, and the Verifier Digital Fuel Gauge, which is accurate enough to verify deliveries.

HOW USE MANAGER WORKS

A team of live portfolio managers, called Efficiency Drivers, monitors the information and personally recommends specific ways to fine-tune the buildings. The USE Manager integrates information from the USE Controller EMS and the USE Verifier™ digital fuel gauge.

Property owners and managers have different options they can use to integrate the USE Manager into their own buildings. Three are:

1. The USE Manager synthesizes information from the USE Controller EMS. The EMS, which guarantees, in writing, a minimum 15 percent savings on fuel consumption and returns investment in less than two years, is designed to control the cycling of the boiler much more efficiently than old systems relying on one outdoor sensor, generally referred to as a “heat timer.” The USE Controller EMS adds a number of strategically placed sensors within the building’s interior. The EMS computer weighs the outside temperature against the different inside temperatures obtained from the sensors and schedules the boiler to operate efficiently to heat the building to exactly the right level.

2. The USE Manager also integrates information from The Verifier digital fuel gauge, an advanced ultrasonic measurement system which enables apartment and commercial building owners and managers to verify the amount of oil they receive and control their inventory and budget, essentially making sure they receive all of the oil they have paid for and are utilizing it efficiently. The fuel gauge confirms an oil delivery within 1/10th of an inch, recording the date, time, and exact amount of oil delivered to the tank. It also maintains extensive inventory records and provides alerts to avoid costly run-outs or leaks.

3. The USE Tracker Program provides information without the installation of any equipment. It tracks oil and gas purchases and makes computerized comparisons with degree-days, provides daily fuel pricing information, and reports building violations. Property managers can upgrade at anytime from the USE Tracker to the full USE Manager.

Zaretsky said that once the hardware is installed, the HVAC contractor and his or her customer can both have independent control and shared access to a wide range of essential information. “The key business development point is that USE Manager’s extremely robust alerting functions allow contractors to partner with their customers for optimum systems management,” he added.

“Information is easily accessible online and critical alerts are pushed out to those with pre-assigned responsibility and accountability on both sides of the partnership. System issues and problems are recognized immediately and can be dealt with before they escalate.”

Some of the alerts - of interest to oil heat contractors - include:

• When boiler run-time is too long and “burning more money than fuel”;

• When it takes too long to build pressure;

• When apartment temperatures are too hot or too cold;

• When coils are too hot and hot water can “scald a tenant into a lawsuit”;

• When hot water is too cold and a “posse of tenants lynch the super”;

• When stack temps are too high and money is “going up the chimney”;

• When the system’s losing or leaking water and “bleeding money”;

“If the Verifier is also in play, automatic oil deliveries can be scheduled confidently, delivery discrepancies can be addressed immediately, and consumption can be accurately measured, compared, analyzed and budgeted,” Zaretsky said. “By combining accurate inventory tracking and real-time pricing, the customer can maximize his benefit from advantageous price fluctuations when ordering.”

Mike Schmelzer, director of the National Association of Realtors, noted in a US Energy Group testimonial at its Website, “In the first year, we saved $50,000 in heating costs. After we saw that, we decided to install this system in every building we own.”

Currently, the USE Manager, the USE Controller EMS, and the USE Tracker Program are available in the New York metropolitan area for immediate purchase from US Energy Group. Prices are determined after a site-survey and vary based on the number and size of the buildings, boilers, and zones and on the options selected. The Verifier is now available nationally from U.S. Energy Group.

For more estimates, installations, and information, contact Zaretsky at 718-380-1004 or visit www.use-group.com.

Publication date: 11/26/2007

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