Open protocols ease installation of new energy management systems and interoperability of legacy controls
By Paul Harris,
Director of National Accounts, EnTouch Controls
When it comes to energy management systems most in the industry know the stalwarts of the trade, built on legacy systems, protocols and overlay networks. Such proprietary protocols grew popular decades ago prior to the advent of the Internet as we know it today. As these technologies continue to age, it is becoming apparent that new technologies exist that accomplish the same or similar benefits at a far more affordable cost. That’s not to say, however, that these legacy systems should be abandoned completely. It may be more prudent, though, to consider non-proprietary systems for new installations or retrofits since non-proprietary systems support open standards installation and interoperability comes with ease. So what should you know about IP (Internet-Protocol) and how it may change or integrate into your energy management interface?
Whether you are looking for a completely new energy management system interface, or looking to add to your existing system, you would be well served by investigating many of the new solutions that offer the easiest means of integration and the fewest possible points of failure. These solutions readily integrate with your existing solutions and require no proprietary or overlay networks to communicate with legacy systems or your interface of choice.
What is IP?
To some, IP is a scary term and they do not quite understand the benefit of a non-proprietary solution. Internet Protocol is the basis of the Internet itself and one of the most widely used forms of communication around the world. It is how the majority of systems you use every day connect to the Internet, your computer, email, DVR, Smartphone, corporate networks, video game systems and any other directly Internet connected devices. IP technology adds the familiarity of surfing the Web to your energy management needs. These solutions are basically plug-and-play out of the box.
IP based energy management interfaces provide many benefits for installers and end users alike. Since most buildings and businesses have existing high speed Internet like DSL, there is no need to pull cable or install an overlay network. You can easily shave hours, if not days off of an installation by leveraging the existing Internet connections. This means there is also no need for a central hub or brain to communicate with all of the remotely connected HVAC monitoring and control devices. Instead, simple Internet thermostats and networked equipment controllers are installed and directly connected to the facility’s existing data network through an already installed switch, router, or wireless internet network.
IP in Energy Management Interfaces
The best of breed in IP thermostats and equipment controllers have built-in web servers on the devices so programming and interaction happens through a computer with a standard Web browser interface. Such an interface provides a graphical experience and a quick way to program, configure, and schedule a single device or many devices all at the same time. This is as easy and natural as surfing the Internet and streamlines facility and enterprise-wide deployment. You do not need any special equipment to connect each device via serial ports or other proprietary equipment for programming.
Today, you can get the majority of Energy Management System features from simple IP based network thermostats and networked equipment controllers. Aside from ease of installation, many IP based devices have a free energy management interface that is easily accessible from anywhere in the world. This adds even greater flexibility to remotely monitor and control facility HVAC and lighting energy consumption.
IP Based Energy Management in the Real World
While a traditional Energy Management System makes sense in very large buildings, like hospitals and high-rise office buildings, much more flexible IP solutions are a natural fit when you need to monitor and control energy in many geographically dispersed locations. Such solutions are ideal in schools for the entire campus or for portable classrooms as well as retail and franchise locations. Even in schools, IP-based solutions typically cost one-tenth as much as a traditional EMS, yet still save schools 20-40 percent annually on utility bills.
Blue Ridge Technologies Schools with portable classrooms, retail facilities, and franchise facilities are some of the most underserved markets for energy saving solutions. Historically this has been due to the exorbitant costs of a traditional EMS and the difficulty to tie several EMS sites together. All this has changed now that a simple thermostat replacement can provide an internet connected energy control solution in which facility managers or their trusted service providers can monitor and control hundreds of facilities remotely. An additional benefit is that no formal, expensive training is needed to install or operate these IP solutions. Since IP equals Internet, most are experts before they even pick up their first controller.
Real Life Example of IP Thermostats Helping A School District Reduce Energy Use
With budgets stretched thin and student populations increasing, public schools are eager to learn how to make the most effective use of scarce resources to better serve their communities. The Lewisville Independent School District, situated in a rapidly growing area northwest of Dallas, Texas, operates 70 individual schools and ancillary campuses where over 50,000 students are currently educated – with another 10,000 expected to be added to the District’s rolls in the next few years.
Over 100 individual portable school buildings were retrofitted with an EnTouch solution, which immediately generated tremendous savings on heating and cooling costs due to the poor insulation common in these types of buildings.
By using the EnTouch’s Global Events capabilities, the District was able to more effectively control its HVAC systems, remotely scheduling their daily operation and shutting them down when they were not needed overnight and over weekends and holidays – all through a single online dashboard.
The lessons learned were amazing: EnTouch helped the District lower its HVAC system runtime by 40%-50%, which reduced its energy consumption by over 35% – saving the cost-conscious Lewisville ISD over $53,000 per year in lower electricity bills.
Best of all, the District leaned that its smart choice saved enough money to deliver a full return on their energy-management investment in a mere four months.
Read the full Lewisville ISD case study here.
Simplifying Savings and Service
For the building automation professional, IP technologies represent an exciting new opportunity to help a wider variety of businesses save money. Such technologies also provide smart and more efficient ways to operate service and recurring revenue models that benefit both service provider and end users alike. Any forward thinking facility manager, energy service provider, or building automation professional would be well served by educating themselves on the simple and affordable IP-based energy management solutions on the market today. Whether you need internet thermostats or networked equipment controllers, you’ll be amazed at how easily IP-based solutions can be integrated with legacy systems or used as standalone EMS alternatives.
This article originally appeared on automatedbuildings.com