ACHRNEWS

Reducing energy costs via the Web

June 1, 2000
The Web keeps intertwining into every area of business. Virtually everything can be accomplished over a web browser.

Since we’re all wired into the Internet, and connecting to a building’s controls just means a few more wires, why not do energy management online?

And, service contractors, why not install the system in all of your customers’ buildings so that you can monitor and control energy usage with the click of a mouse?

Allan Schurr, vice president, marketing and business development, Silicon Energy Corp., Alameda, CA, steps in to proffer his firm’s web-based energy management software: new Silicon Energy 1.4. The software’s application program interface (API) is designed to allow the package to integrate with a variety of equipment. Schurr refers to these interfaces as a “library of gateways,” and notes that his firm “can build a custom gateway if needed.”

Any new gateway, if common, will be added to the standard library.

Rather than connect directly with, say, a meter, Silicon Energy 1.4 typically interconnects with an intermediate control system.

The software, for example, “talks to a Cutler-Hammer system which talks to each meter,” said Schurr. If the building has chillers, the web-based software could be talking to a Trane control system.

“In most cases, we can integrate with their existing control system,” Schurr noted. But it is possible to connect directly to a device when necessary. The software can also integrate to an energy-related database.

Industrial strength

The customer needs to have an industrially hardened PC server at its site. Data is collected, such as hvac operation and kWh data, and the PC “would normalize and convert the data,” explained Schurr.

With Internet capability, a corporation can access data from all of its building sites with a secure link back to the corporate local area network (LAN) or wide area network (WAN).

“Practically, there’s no limit to the number of buildings you can connect to,” Schurr said. And to ensure secure data transfer, security measures consist of authenticated users, encryption of all data, and password protection.

Typically, a building “dials out to the local ISP [Internet service provider] and dumps a set of data every hour,” said Schurr. Transferring data can also be event-driven.

The collected usage and operating data are held on the PC server along with other relevant information, from internal and external sources, such as production volume, current utility rates, and weather data.

How a service contractor uses it

Using the Web, a service contractor can track all of a customer’s buildings and receive an alarm whenever a problem condition occurs.

Alarms can dial a pager or send an e-mail message. They can also alert an operator.

The contractor “can send an intervention control for a short time to change the operation,” said Schurr.

Load management, peak demand, and equipment performance can be continuously tracked, to aid in finding opportunities to increase energy efficiency.

“Opportunities for saving energy come from a lot of areas,” said Schurr. He indicated that 10% to 20% savings using this software is a conservative estimate.

However, depending on operation, maintenance, and administrative costs, “It’s not uncommon to see it higher.”

Makes changes

The Web-based software “can automatically make a change based on a predefined set of conditions,” Schurr said.

For equipment maintenance, you can keep track of run-hours, said Schurr; “When it reaches a predefined threshold, it can set an alarm that says, ‘Time to maintain Fan 132.’”

Conditions that indicate coil fouling also can be indicated.

Just about any-size company can use the software, Schurr asserted. It helps contractors speed response time and minimize equipment downtime.

The software has been in operation for about two years since its release, and is now used in more than 1,000 buildings.

The software works within Microsoft Internet Explorer. The PC server uses the Microsoft Windows NT operating system with SQL Server.