Myth #3: We Upgraded Our Equipment So We Must Be Saving

The latest technology will always be more efficient based on factory standards. However, once the equipment is installed, the way you operate and maintain the equipment is what truly defines how efficient it is. Without the proper training, manuals, spare parts, and communication, buildings with updated equipment may, in fact, use more energy than the average building. Below are examples of when installation of new, energy-efficient equipment did not create the energy savings originally anticipated.

Who Turned on the Lights?

Lighting occupancy sensors can be a crucial part of an energy-savings project. The concept is simple, there is a sensor within a room that, after a certain period of time of inactivity, generally around 20 minutes, the lights are automatically turned off. Some estimate that this can result in a lighting energy savings of approximately 24%. Sensors can be placed, for the most part, in any part of a room and some can even be pointed in a specific direction.

Many of our clients install occupancy sensors as part of their energy retrofit project. In one instance, a Fusebox client installed the sensors, but they were not seeing the expected energy savings at one specific location. District personnel driving by the location at night noticed lights were on. Administrators did not know why the lights were turning on when no one was in, or even near, the rooms.

At their request, a Fusebox team member walked the site. Along one hallway, with trees directly outside the exterior windows, the lights were on after hours. Because of the direction the occupancy sensor was facing, any time the trees swayed in the breeze, the lights were kicking on. Any motion in, or possibly near, unoccupied rooms can trigger lights to turn on and undermine savings. A small adjustment of the sensor stopped this from happening, and the sensors were only triggered when people came into the rooms.

Out of Control

Energy Management Systems (EMS) provide an efficient and effective way to control HVAC schedules and set points without having to program many individual thermostats. Most of Fusebox’s clients install or retrofit their EMS for optimal energy savings. However, remember Jevon’s Paradox from the first teaser article? There are times when an EMS is put in place but the schedules and set points are never properly set and/or calibrated, so the building ends up using more energy.

This is exactly what has happened with a number of our clients. While controls companies are very good at installing and developing controls systems, there is often confusion as to who is responsible for setting schedules and set points thereafter, and, all too often, this step is overlooked. That is where Fusebox comes in!

In one case, a client hired a controls company to install a new EMS. As Fusebox team members were managing the client’s data, they noticed a spike in energy usage. Come to find out, the controls company had never set any schedules or set points, and the HVAC was running in occupied mode 24/7 from May to August.

The utility company for this particular location determines the rate plan for an account based on the average demand from May through October. If the average is above 400 KW, the account gets shifted to Large rate plan, which is much more expensive. As a result of the EMS not being properly set, this account jumped from a Medium to a Large rate plan, costing them significantly. Fusebox worked with the client and controls company to properly set schedules and set points. The following summer, the average demand dropped under 400 KW, and the account was switched back to a Medium rate plan.

Remember, just because you have the latest technology does not mean you will automatically reap the energy-saving benefits. Sensors need to be appropriately placed, EMS needs to have the correct set points, HVAC dampers need to be opened at the correct percentage, sprinklers need to be scheduled, etc. This is where Fusebox can help you obtain the savings you are looking for!