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Improving Your HVAC System With Fault Detection and Diagnostics

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Laura Miller

More than 30% of the energy consumed in the United States each year can be attributed to HVAC systems in buildings. And much of that energy is likely wasted because most of those systems don’t work as efficiently as they could. Optimizing HVAC systems and fixing faults could reduce overall energy consumption by 5-15%.

Data-driven fault detection and diagnostics makes this possible. When facilities managers integrate analytics with advanced fault detection and diagnostics, HVAC systems work at their best and their most eco-friendly.

The Limits of Scheduled Maintenance

Ideally, preventive maintenance keeps breakdowns from happening. In the absence of smart technology, this largely relies on a scheduled maintenance approach; HVAC systems in commercial buildings are inspected at regular intervals, such as after specified time periods or a certain number of hours in operation. But the usefulness of scheduled maintenance is questionable. 

Preventive maintenance in larger commercial buildings typically involves service contracts undertaken by authorized providers and relies on servicing forecasts made by the manufacturer. The scheduled maintenance checks may be a cursory inspection that doesn’t truly determine whether repairs are necessary or not. It’s often just a guessing game, with a service provider trying to identify subtle differences that may or may not suggest an impending malfunction. If a malfunction does occur, it may go undetected until the next check or until it noticeably compromises building performance. Not only is this approach highly inefficient, it is also expensive.

Beyond Rule-Based Fault Detection

Most modern buildings use some type of automated fault detection and diagnostics to reduce reliance on scheduled maintenance checks. Most of these systems are rule-based; if the value of a particular variable is higher or lower than the threshold, an alarm is triggered. While an improvement over manual inspection, the value of rule-based fault detection is limited.

The best fault detection and diagnostics tools offer more sophisticated capabilities. An analytics platform integrated with your building management system (BMS) will continuously collect, organize, and analyze data from all connected building equipment and devices. It uses machine learning algorithms to identify variations or changes that indicate a problem. It also evaluates a series of interrelated data points to make steps toward root-cause analysis rather than focusing on a single point in isolation from all other data on a given piece of equipment. 

With smart analytics, you are no longer reliant on manual checks on an arbitrary schedule. Instead, your HVAC system is constantly monitored for potential issues. In turn, you detect issues in their earliest stages, before they become big enough to trigger an event-based alarm or last long enough to cause total system failure.

When a problem is identified, technicians don’t have to start from scratch; the data-driven fault detection and diagnosis process provides them with a huge head-start in directing their remediation and repair efforts. invaluable insights that simplify HVAC maintenance.

The most advanced analytics platforms go even further by allowing for predictive maintenance. Rather than just telling you what has happened, it tells you what is likely to happen. With this information, your team can make fully informed maintenance decisions and strategically allocate resources to optimize operations.

Preventing False Alarms 

For some facility managers, smart technologies signal a concern over an increase in the number and frequency of false alarms. False alarms may be present for the following reasons: 

  • High false alarm rates may result from measurement noise. 
  • The effects from faults often proliferate across multiple components within an HVAC system due to the connected airflow. 

Sorting through these false alarms is a burden for maintenance staff and can create alarm fatigue; you stop taking alarms seriously and may overlook issues that really do need your attention. 

Analytics are a cure to the false alarm problem because they’re developed using advanced statistical techniques to ensure the integrity of sensor data and filter out false alarms.

onPoint Fault Detection and Diagnostics: HVAC Maintenance Made Easy

onPoint is an industry-leading analytics platform that transforms what fault detection and diagnostics can do. To predict discharge air temperature, for example, the software uses data points like outside air temperature, fan speed, and damper positions to create a model of behavior. With that, onPoint will predict what the temperature range should be and identify potential causes for deviation. These predictions are highly reliable and guide you to take meaningful action

onPoint incorporates several strategies to limit false positives and false alarms, including minimum durations and thresholds. The primary strategy, however, is analyzing data points to confirm data integrity and filtering out extraneous information. 

With onPoint, your BMS becomes the center of your maintenance, including your mechanical and HVAC service. This not only decreases reliance on manual intervention, but it helps you get more out of your existing preventive maintenance plan. Technicians are informed of specific issues that need to be addressed and have a checklist to make preventive maintenance visits more valuable and cost-effective

Advanced fault detection and diagnostics allow your HVAC system to perform at its best. And the benefits go beyond improved efficiency. With the power of data, you can take a better approach to maintenance, reduce costs, and create outstanding experiences for occupants. 

Buildings IOT’s state-of-the-art software features innovative fault detection and diagnostics capabilities to help you improve your HVAC system. Contact our team of experts to learn more about what we can do for you.



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