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What Do Energy Management Systems Really Cost?

Jul 18, 2017 1:36:25 PM

Energy Management System (EMS)

The true cost of the energy management system (EMS) is far beyond its initial cost of installation. The present architecture of most EMS products available today was brought to market in the 1990s, and most U.S. buildings have not undergone significant EMS upgrades since 2005. This means technology invented before the first iPhone was released may be managing energy efficiency and consumption in your building while also exposing your business to cyber security risks and depressing the productivity of people in your building.

The True Costs of the EMS

  1. Insufficient energy savings compared to modern building automation system technology
  2. Cyber security weaknesses
  3. No machine learning or predictive system capabilities
  4. No equipment performance insights
  5. Inability to optimize airflow and air quality
  6. Absenteeism, presenteeism and other costs associated with building occupant discomfort or "sick building syndrome"

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The EMS and Energy Savings

You can expect between 10% and 30% energy cost savings with the typical EMS, based on the claims and studies of industry EMS vendors. However, according to a 2015 global study by researchers at National Taipei University of Technology's Department of Energy and Refrigerating Air-Conditioning Engineering in Taiwan, the average EMS across the broad range of building types (excluding industrial and factory buildings, which achieve lower savings) saves about 16% of energy costs.

This is because even the common up-to-date EMS does not change the energy efficiency of equipment in your building, and it does not predict future energy loads. It only meters and monitors equipment, and it can only turn equipment on/off based on a predetermined schedule.

The EMS makes use of programmable thermostats. In 2016, the Gas Technology Institute, a nationally recognized, third-party verification lab, published results from a study that compared an up-to-date EMS system's programmable thermostat (programmed for optimal efficiency) to a predictive, proactive smart thermostat solution for HVAC energy efficiency.

The graph below depicts the data collected from November 2015 to March 2016. The predictive, proactive system saves between 30% and 70% more energy (BTUs) heating the same size space up to the desired temperature of 72°F.

Gas Technology Institute (GTI) study smart thermostat

The EMS and Cyber Security

Do you remember the Target cyber security breach in 2014 that compromised about 40 million debit and credit card accounts via their corporate network? The hackers gained access through one of Target's HVAC vendors that was using poor cyber security protocols with a standard EMS.

Preventing and thwarting such attacks in an increasingly Internet of Things (IoT) world requires a system built to make it difficult for hackers to take over devices. Until the IoT industry unites to create uniform standards, it is up to the consumer to ensure devices are safe and secure. This begins with changing the default password on each connected device, placing each device behind a strong firewalling router and enabling the firewall function.

Very few EMS firms take these steps or encourage users to do so, thus leaving facilities, corporate networks and consumers vulnerable to malicious attacks from botnets (a network of infected machines, also known as "zombies") that can collapse networks and compromise sensitive data in a flash.

Botnets cyber security

The EMS Is Not Predictive or Proactive

EMS companies have not leveraged the significant technology revolution of the last 10 years. The last time EMS companies developed substantial upgrades was in 2005, before the first iPhone debuted! They are not at the forefront of cloud computing, machine learning or IoT — all of which are driving the innovation, efficiency and security of smart building automation systems.

The EMS doesn't analyze energy usage in comparison to your building's geographic orientation, building usage pattern or local weather. It doesn't optimize the energy consuming equipment in your building according to all of these variables either. Instead, the EMS leaves all this work up to you.

A predictive, proactive system offers all the features of the EMS plus the cloud computing, machine learning and IoT capabilities that enable correlation of all variables listed above and more to optimize the energy efficiency of all your equipment.

Cloud Computing and Machine Learning

The EMS Doesn't Optimize Indoor Air Quality

The EMS doesn't collect hundreds of data points per minute and use cloud computing algorithms to be predictive and create proactive strategies throughout the day and the following day. It doesn't optimize outside air by analyzing the local weather forecast and conditions, building orientation, position of the sun, humidity and mean radiant temperature to deliver comfort and energy savings. It doesn't model the thermal envelope and air quality of your building by each zone before developing a strategy to achieve perfect balance.

75F Heatmap of Dynamic Airflow Balancing

The heatmaps above compare a typical EMS controlled building (left) air temperature balance to a predictive, proactive system air temperature balance (right). Green is optimal for both guest comfort and energy efficiency.

The EMS and Productivity

Improved indoor air quality (IAQ) and comfort in office buildings has been shown to boost cognitive abilities of workers in studies conducted by top researchers in the U.S. and Europe. Researchers at Harvard, Syracuse and SUNY universities collaborated at found 26.4% higher cognitive scores and 30% fewer sick building syndrome symptoms in high-performing, green-certified buildings. Additionally, they found that doubling ASHRAE minimum ventilation rates with energy efficienct HVAC systems can add an estimated $6,500 or 8% in productivity gains per person per year, not accounting for other potential health benefits.

What do you think provides better results? The typical EMS or the cutting-edge, easy-install-and-use, predictive, smart building automation system?



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