A Guide to BEMS: Building Energy Management Systems
Over the last decade, we’ve become more aware of how much we actually affect the environment. The biggest offenders are residential and commercial buildings. They consume a ridiculous amount of energy – something that shouldn’t be too surprising considering the fact that we spend about 90 percent of our time indoors. Consider these statistics released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):
- Commercial buildings consume almost 20 percent of all energy produced in the United States.
- Combined, residential and commercial buildings consume more than 70 percent of the electricity produced in the U.S.
- Combined, residential and commercial buildings produce 38 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions produced in the U.S.
To combat this, many building owners and operators are implementing building energy management systems. Energy management systems will not only help reduce the negative effect your commercial building is having on the environment, but they can reduce your overhead costs as well by cutting your building’s energy consumption.
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What are Building Energy Management Systems?
A building energy management system is a system that monitors and controls the energy needs of your building. This allows you to use as little energy as possible while maintaining comfort and production levels. There are three main ways to manage energy within a building:
Energy conservation refers to reducing your building’s energy use by eliminating energy waste, through economy or through more rational use.
Energy recovery refers to the reuse of one system’s energy byproduct for the input energy of another system. For example, using waste heat that’s generated from a manufacturing process for a completely different purpose, such as heating your building’s water.
Energy substitution is the method of replacing a source of energy or fuel with one that is more economical or less polluting.
When it comes to collecting energy-related data, a building energy management system will do much more than a typical energy audit. An energy management system will collect your building’s data from legacy as well as new sources. Then it centralizes and analyzes that data, so you can make informed decisions about both immediate energy saving possibilities as well as future, large-scale energy saving products that you can invest in.
A comprehensive energy management system should provide:
- The ability to gather data from every available energy source, whether it’s old, new, integrated or stand-alone.
- The ability to identify problems and trends by analyzing both single-variable and multi-variable data.
- The ability to provide alerts if your building’s energy consumption exceeds the parameters you established.
- The ability to integrate with control systems to automate responses and input data.
- The ability to provide early warnings for any mechanical or electrical failures.
- The ability to identify energy waste and to recommend fixes, allowing for easier payback.
- The ability to benchmark your building’s energy use against other buildings in similar climates.
Different Functions of Building Energy Management Systems
There are many different types of building energy management systems available. But not every energy management system is suitable for your building. Different systems have different functions, and the types of functions you’ll want in your energy management system depend on your building’s specific needs.
A few of the functions that a building energy management system might include are:
Advanced building analytics
A feature that analyzes the energy performance of your building using in-depth data and real time data, and that can detect and correct performance issues automatically.
Advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) analysis
This feature allows AMI data to be collected from a utility at specific time intervals. This provides a more accurate understanding of your building’s energy consumption.
Automated demand response (AutoDR)
This feature helps to automatically reduce energy use during peak load events by automating the control of your building’s components or systems.
Automated building control
This feature allows your energy management system to interact with your building’s devices and systems in an active manner.
Basic energy information portal
This refers to either a website or standalone portal that displays your building’s basic energy consumption information. It can also provide tips and suggestions for energy savings.
This refers to replacing building equipment to make your building more energy efficient. For example, replacing light bulbs with more energy efficient versions or upgrading HVAC equipment.
Energy consumption benchmarking
A feature that compares your building’s historical energy consumption with current energy consumption to help you understand your building’s on-going performance.
This is a functionality that allows your energy management system to interact with your building’s systems to optimize their performance on a real time basis.
Ongoing performance analysis
This ensures your system is working optimally.
This feature allows your system to respond to changing factors, such as high energy costs or system resource capacity needs.
A display that allows you to easily access and understand energy consumption data.
Measurement and verification
This ensures that your energy efficiency measures or system improvements are producing the results that you expect. It’s particularly important to identifying your system’s ROI.
Notifications and alerts
A feature that notifies you of any issues, from maintenance needs to problematic equipment.
Factors to Consider
Every building has different needs, which means that some building energy management systems have functions you don’t need, or lack functions that you do need. To determine what your needs actually are, you should consider:
The size of your building
A sophisticated building energy management system that boasts a wide variety of functions may not be necessary for a smaller building. Depending on your building’s size, there are specific features you should look for.
If you have a smaller building, you should look for a system that uses a basic energy information portal, provides information on incentive availability, provides historical billing analysis and provides behavioral, educational and basic retrofit suggestions.
You’ll want to consider a system that provides energy monitoring, retro and continuous commissioning, NOC availability, maintenance and trouble ticket management, AMI data analysis and retrofit program suggestions.
Bigger buildings will most likely require advanced building and predictive analytics, building optimization and continuous optimization, demand response, automated building control, autoDR and enterprise integration.
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The location of your building
Climate has a big impact on energy spend. If you’re in a climate that experiences extreme temperature changes, a system that can deal with weather-related energy effects is vital.
The number of buildings
If you have several buildings, you may need a system that can summarize and compare data from each site.
The use of your building
Different uses need different functions. An office building requires more attention for occupants than a warehouse might, for example.
Your building’s occupancy
Maintaining occupant comfort is an essential consideration when choosing an energy management system.
The necessary resources to run an energy management system
Just because a building has an energy management system does not mean that they have the resources to make the most out of it. You won’t be able to use the system to its full capabilities without the proper allocation of resources.
If you’re serious about reducing your building’s energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, use a building energy management system. One way that you can begin managing your building’s energy usage is through the use of our BOSS Smart Plugs. For information about our Smart Plugs and our advanced Atmospheres software, contact us today.