Contractors Grab Onto Controls Brass Ring

August 15, 2001
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DEARBORN, MI — Echelon’s “Open Systems 2001” meeting is in the midst of visiting 31 cities in the U.S. and Canada. The News caught up with the company here in Dearborn, where representatives described current trends in LonWorks® commercial building controls technology.

While there we met contractors that used to do more traditional hvac work, but have now branched out into more sophisticated controls integration.

Developed by Echelon and adopted as an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard, the LonWorks platform enables system devices such as mechanical and hvac systems, thermostats, electric meters, lighting, elevators, and security systems to be able to communicate with one another and across the Internet.

Echelon pointed out that “All LonWorks-based building systems can be monitored, controlled, and managed over the Internet. There’s no need to reconfigure or change any of the components on the network.”

Around 300 products are LonMark® certified.

The company pointed out that using these products, which come from a variety of hvac, security, elevator, and lighting systems manufacturers, “makes installation easier.” These products also offer easier management and monitoring over the Internet.

The applications have been “battle tested” for many applications, the company said.

The meeting featured several manufacturers and distributors in hvac and other areas. They included Belimo, Distech, Equilon, t.a.c., Circon, Honeywell, Johnson Controls, and Engenuity.

There also were three contractors: Mechanical Heating & Cooling, which does Circon work in the Detroit area; McKenna Heating & Cooling, a full-service hvac contractor that sponsored the session’s luncheon (a switch on the usual manufacturer-sponsored lunches); and Johnston Services, from Alto, MI — in the old days, the company was a controls contractor. Now it’s a systems integrator.



Contractor’s Story

One of Johnston Services’ more memorable recent jobs is also a testimony to how quickly hvac and building controls change.

This seven-story building in Grand Rapids originally had pneumatic controls to control the mechanical system, including a custom-made air-handling unit (AHU) on the roof; those pneumatics had 1980s controls technology layered on top of that.

The layering created confusion for the building staff and caused the system to run poorly, to the point where it was controlled manually for sanity’s sake. This medical office building is the type of job Johnston Services takes on.

The poorly functioning layered controls “wrecked a lot of equipment,” said William Johnston, president.

However, when the contractor integrated the systems into a LonWorks-based format, tenant complaints went from seven to 10 a day to zero. Sensibly, the contractor recognized the value of the pneumatics and left many in the system. “The pneumatics were great; they had robust operation,” said Johnston. “We left as many as possible.

“We just made the whole system smarter,” he continued. “There’s better IAQ, and appropriate air changes for a medical facility.”

There are also more profit opportunities for contractors who perform the work well, and possibly an increase in interest from “techies” looking for a job related to electronics.

For more information, visit the company’s website at www.echelon.com.

Sidebar: President Bush Gets EMS Demo

WASHINGTON, DC — Echelon Corp., Sunnyvale, CA, met with President Bush and his advisors here to show how advanced technology can help manage the country’s growing energy challenges.

Ken Oshman, Echelon’s chairman, president and ceo, showed how homes, buildings, and factories networked with the company’s technology platform can enable them to use energy more responsibly and allow utilities to better match supply to demand.

Echelon’s LonWorks technology platform has already been used in more than 16 million devices worldwide, including such high-energy-use applications as heating units, chillers, boilers, production systems, and air conditioning systems. Tying such devices to energy management systems (ems) offers consumers, energy producers, and service providers the opportunity to actively manage power production and consumption to yield an optimum balance between conservation, production, and convenience, the company said.

Echelon demonstrated how LonWorks-enabled smart devices in a home could respond to real-time pricing signals from an energy provider to change their energy consumption. This model lets consumers specify their preferences for how they want the various devices in their home to behave as energy costs fluctuate.

Oshman explained that the Italian utility Enel SpA is currently using the LonWorks platform to outfit virtually the entire country. Enel is installing smart, networked electric meters for each of its more than 27 million customers that will allow for a variety of approaches to energy efficiency.

In other company news, Echelon and Messe Frankfurt GmbH are holding LonWorld™ 2001 Oct. 23-24, in Frankfurt, Germany. Further information can be found at www.LonWorldexpo.com (website).

Publication date: 08/20/2001

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