I know, I know… you are thinking that spring is coming and why do I need a heat controller now anyway? Whether you call it a heat controller, boiler controller or energy management system, there is never a bad time to install one in your building. You might even be thinking of ripping out the junk you have now and getting a better one.
Energy management systems promise a lot of savings. Some companies boast up to a 10% savings on energy costs. Is that realistic? Do you really get savings like that just by slapping a device on the wall of your boiler room and installing temperature sensors in your tenant apartments? Sounds simple right? It’s not.
This got me thinking about all the companies offering an EMS, mine included. Are we providing our clients the best opportunity to lower cost, reduce energy consumption, keep tenants warm and cozy and comply with the housing laws of the city and state? Is having the best product enough?
Buildings are like people; each one is different. They were made differently, aged differently, have been used and abused differently. I think you get the point. Each building has unique characteristics and each will react differently to the same energy management system.
So how do you achieve maximum results from your EMS? The answers are Assessment, Training and Monitoring & Service.
Understanding a building's heat distribution system is critical. Many older steam and hot water systems were designed to send heat to all apartments at the same time. There is a drawback to these systems since it cannot regulate sending more or less heat and hot water to individual apartment units. If an apartment needs an influx of heat, then all apartments will get a blast of heat. Same goes if apartments are overheating, the boiler will be called to shut down and then all apartments lose heat for that time frame. Over years these systems have been modified and parts may be deteriorating resulting in poor heat distribution.
The first step is to identify any existing heating problems. A thorough evaluation of the boiler system for any existing issues is a good start. Also, recording which apartments are continually overheating or constantly cold. Gaining an understanding of your building's distribution layout and looking for anomalies in heat patterns is vital. This will aid in the strategic placement of your indoor and outdoor temperature sensors.
Second, is the strategic installation of temperature sensors. It's recommended that no fewer than 15% of apartments are a must for getting an accurate reading on your building. Placing sensors in many apartments, upper and lower floors, sunrise and sunset sides, and in the correct location is important. Keeping outdoor sensors away from exhaust vents and indoor sensors away from windows, direct sunlight, heat sources and outside walls. Making sure setpoints and setbacks are configured properly for all apartment sensors. These are just some of the things that must be considered.
The amount of data an EMS will collect can be extremely overwhelming. Trying to understand all the graphs, flowcharts and alerts can cause the average person to stop engaging with the software. This is where training on the part of the EMS supplier is very important. Multiple training sessions must be offered to property owners and building managers. Not only with the software but on the local device itself. Also, the vendor must have a good video training portal for self-paced training.
Training to understand and interpret the data on boiler runtime graphs, domestic hot water temperature, stack temperature, water usage and boiler, apartment and outside sensors must be offered. What good are colorful charts if you can understand what they are trying to say?
Customers need to be trained thoroughly on how to properly operate their new EMS. Explain and discuss why overriding the system or increasing the temperature in the whole building just because of a single tenant complaint is not prudent and does not result in energy efficiency.
A good EMS provider will offer comprehensive monitoring and service agreements with its energy management system. Compare the variety of service options that fit different levels of engagements and budgets. Look for a company with a highly trained customer service team to monitor your building.
Purchasing a service agreement is highly recommended because it gives you peace of mind to know a skilled technician will provide onsite maintenance if you ever need repair or upgrade to your EMS.
Energy management systems are an effective tool for reducing the energy inefficiencies found in many older multifamily buildings and they can lead to substantial energy and cost savings. However, you must choose an EMS which provides clear “20/20” vision and control of over your buildings.