Business energy monitoring: what every organisation should be doing and why
Energy conservation, carbon footprint, sustainability… there’s plenty for organisations to think about when it comes to protecting the planet. Energy monitoring is a great way for businesses to focus their attention on what they’re using, how much and when – which then allows them to make strategic decisions.
Energy use is a significant cost. Wasted energy costs businesses, not just financially but in terms of meeting compliance for environmental legislation. Reducing energy use makes sense on all levels. Cost savings, fighting climate change, increased compliance and enhanced reputation.
A simple but highly effective solution is to harness the power of the Internet of Things (IoT). Using this smart connected technology in the workplace to provide highly accurate real-time data on energy use helps organisations understand in granular detail about what they’re using, and what they’re wasting.
Smart IoT sensors attach to walls, doors, desks and windows to monitor temperature, room occupancy, humidity and CO2 levels. They can help your building ‘talk’ to you, translating all activity into usable data. In turn, you’ll be creating a more comfortable, pleasant office environment for your workforce, and making energy and cost savings in the process.
They can also come in the form of CT clamps, or current sensors. These can be placed on cables to assess how much power is running to and through them, measuring energy consumption at a circuit, zone or machine level, while temperature sensors can give an indication how much energy they are generating.
How do they work?
Our wireless sensors are very small and discreet, and are incredibly easy to use. They simply stick onto the required surface, with no need for any disruption to day-to-day-business.
Smart gateways convert sensor data to industry-standard MQTT protocol and makes it available locally or via the cloud.
Our sensors and actuators interact directly, allowing you to automate local control systems.
Sensor data can be used in systems with protocols such as Modbus, letting you monitor, control and report within an existing BMS.
What are the benefits of using smart sensors?
- Access to real-time information that can be responded to instantly: The software on cloud platforms can quickly and easily turn the data from your sensors into usable, actionable insights. For example, if a room is too hot, your cloud programme will alert you and you can make an instant change. Likewise, if CO2 levels rise or the temperature of a piece of equipment gives cause for concern. Being able to respond to situations in such a timely manner allows you to stop problems before they start, resulting in lower maintenance costs and prolonging the life of buildings and equipment.
- Low cost: IoT solutions can be installed relatively quickly and easily. They don’t require hard-wiring – most sensors can be stuck on to existing objects and are small and unobtrusive. They can be used in buildings of all ages and don’t require complex rewiring.
- Flexible: IoT systems are usually designed to be used with a number of cloud platforms and allow data to be transmitted using a number of the most common internet protocols (or languages) such as MQTT or J-SON. This allows for greater interoperability, enabling different systems to speak to one another and giving greater choice of the platforms you choose to use to interpret the data. Using the cloud also makes it much easier to access the information. It can be viewed anywhere you can get online, rather than being restricted to one particular computer.
- Resilient: Because your data is essentially being stored on lots of different computers, or servers, there is less chance of it becoming corrupted or lost. There’s also less chance of there being downtime – for example if your own computer or system needed repairs you’d be unable to access the data during this time. With IoT systems it’s all stored in the cloud, in multiple locations, so there is much less chance of your data being unavailable or there being a break in service.
- Secure: Storing data on the cloud means it is always safe. If it was stored on your computer and it was stolen then all the data would be lost, but using the cloud means there is always a version within easy reach. Cloud applications like IBM Watson and Microsoft Azure also use the highest levels of encryption to stop them falling victim to hackers.
- Helps ensure a consistent, reliable power supply: By monitoring the energy flowing into and out of machinery you can spot potential issues before they arise, for example surges in demand at particular times, and put plans in place to change these. This can help to prevent sudden fluctuations in demand and power surges, and ensure you always have power when you most need it.
- Decreased downtime due to maintenance issues: Current sensors and CT clamps can help improve predictive maintenance, highlighting potential issues with machinery before it fails altogether. This helps to minimise equipment downtime and keep production up and running.
- Helps plan for the future: Being able to monitor power usage trends means you can develop realistic targets for future energy management. The detailed data means you can look at specific machinery, rooms or offices and develop action plans for energy reduction. The data can also be a helpful way of driving staff engagement. Being able to see exactly how and why what they do has an effect is a really useful tool in making sure everyone in the business plays their part in reducing energy use – a key part of any successful energy management strategy.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states that workplace temperature shouldn’t be below 16oC, or 13oC if the work involves rigorous effort. However, there is no specific guidance as to a maximum temperature.
It can be hard for employers to get the balance right for all their staff, as people all have their own preferences as to their own ‘optimum’ working temperature. But what they can do is make sure the environment is comfortable, not just in terms of temperature but also humidity and CO2 levels, as well as radiant temperature generated by office machinery and equipment.
Smart IoT sensor technology can help you see accurate, real-time data, enabling you to see areas that are too hot or cold, or have high humidity levels. This allows for more automated control, increasing workplace comfort and having the added bonus of improving energy efficiency.
Doors and windows
An open window is nice in the summertime. But if you have radiators blasting out heat which is instantly disappearing through open windows then you’re wasting a huge amount of energy. It’s the same scenario with doors, fridges, freezers – a carelessly left-open door can use up masses of energy, unnecessarily.
Smart sensors can help you detect open or closed windows or doors – including fridges and cupboards – so you can avoid this needless waste, and cost.
Here’s a scenario. You have three rooms in your office, and one day a week there’s just one person in each room. Meaning you’re heating/cooling and lighting three rooms when you could just be using one. Measuring desk occupancy using smart sensors means you can understand more about how desks, rooms and spaces are being used, so you can plan for optimal energy usage.
Machines, computers and other equipment left switched on when not in use are energy thieves. Using smart sensors to monitor assets helps you to detect any problems, and switch off anything that’s not in use.
Compliance and regulations
Energy Performance and Buildings Directive
Under the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), the UK government is currently working towards a target of reducing carbon emissions over the next three decades, meaning businesses will certainly be coming under increased scrutiny over the coming years.
An EU initiative (which has now become part of UK legislation) the EPBD seeks to encourage cleaner, more sustainable building stock, with the eventual aim of making all European buildings CO2 neutral by 2050.
Under the EPBD, all new buildings must be ‘nearly energy zero’ by the end of December 2020. Although the UK government has yet to set its definition of this, The European Commission defines it as having very high energy performance, with the low amount of energy they do consume coming mainly from renewable sources on site or nearby
Key areas where smart technology can help:
- Healthy indoor climate: Once minimum standards have been set for air quality and comfort levels, temperature and air-quality sensors could be used to monitor conditions and automate control.
- Inspection of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems: Building automation and electronic monitoring has proven to be an effective and cost-efficient replacement for inspections. The EPBD emphasises that actual energy efficiency can only be assessed through regular monitoring.
- Installation of self-regulating devices: The directive strongly recommends the installation of self-regulating devices for individual room temperature control. Since control circuits require sensors, actuators and control equipment, this requirement can only be implemented through building automation.
- Smart readiness indicator: The EPBD introduces the ‘smart readiness’ indicator concept. Defined as the building’s capacity to use information and communication technologies and electronic systems to adapt the operation of buildings to the needs of the occupants and the grid, improving the energy efficiency and overall performance of buildings. This will be introduced through smart systems and devices such as building automation and control systems, self-regulating indoor air temperature systems, built-in appliances, EV charging points and energy storage.
Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS)
Large organisations must take part in the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS), introduced by the UK government. They need to assess their energy on a four-yearly basis and find ways to make energy improvements. Using smart sensors can help organisations establish current usage and identify areas for change.
If your organisation is working towards ISO 5001 Energy Management, using smart sensors to track your energy use can help you understand how to use your energy more efficiently and to plan for the future. Following the protocol to achieve ISO 5001 will help you achieve a number of internal benefits, and certification demonstrates your environmental commitment to your customers.
Smart IoT sensors are the perfect way to monitor all your energy use. From the data received, you can start to plan and adapt accordingly. You’ll soon see increased energy efficiencies across your organisation, with the associated cost savings.