How to Get the Most from Monitoring Building Energy Use

Abstract:  Before measuring your building’s energy use, break it down.  There are three energy uses to consider when assessing a building’s operations, writes David Jaber: active energy, maintenance energy, and energy for heating and cooling. Furthermore, while it’s vital to have the right monitoring tools, it’s also necessary to establish forecasting and analytic tools to turn that raw data into energy-saving policies, Jaber writes.

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Not all energy is created equal. But it goes far beyond the renewable-vs-non-renewable sense that so many already consider.

There are really three kinds of energy:

  1. Energy required for site activity, i.e. the purpose for which a business is in business;
  2. Energy required for the maintenance of the building, 24-7, regardless of activity, and which makes up the baseline energy use — emergency lighting, stand-by water heaters; and
  3. Heating and cooling to keep the buildings at a comfortable temperature.

You can also think of these energies in the context of dependence, for which there are also three categories: Energy is:

  1. dependent on business activity,
  2. dependent on nothing (i.e. it’s constant), and
  3. dependent on weather (and insulation levels . . . and occupancy levels, potentially)

When we look for patterns in energy use, these different energy types become very relevant. If you’re trying to figure out what might be causing excessive energy use, you need to be able to isolate potential causes — whether it’s occupant activity, weather changes, or something else. Ideally, you would have these three energies metered differently.

For example, if all you have is the total energy use on one meter for a site, in the case of energy-intensive industries or facilities, you won’t be able to see any weather variations, since any weather-related energy use will be dwarfed by energy use in normal site activity.

But when you do have these energies isolated by meter, or when your building is dominated by one type of energy, you can then normalize energy use with what’s driving energy use: You can compare activity energy use to the level of activity, compare weather-based energy use to weather, and so on. And then you can see whether there’s a correlation.

If energy doesn’t correlate with its driver, you know you’ve got a problem.

Read the complete article at GreenBiz