Optimizing HVAC in Commercial Buildings with Analytics
Building management systems (BMS) usage is rising between 15% and 34% annually. As the American...
Today’s commercial buildings account for more than 35 percent of the electricity consumed in the United States. And in most commercial buildings, heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) systems consume more than 30 percent of total energy use.
In recent years, intelligent data analytics have evolved alongside advancements in IoT devices, smart equipment, and system automation to offer new opportunities to optimize systems throughout commercial properties. Given the high level of energy consumption related to HVAC systems and their direct relationship to occupant comfort, the need for quick and effective commercial HVAC troubleshooting has been a key driver of the development of these technologies. For service contractors, advanced analytics customized for the needs of each building enable teams to rapidly address problems that arise with HVAC systems and related equipment, reducing energy waste, keeping occupants comfortable and improving building performance.
One of the most effective tools for addressing commercial HVAC troubleshooting of issues like faulty equipment, connected equipment concerns, and occupancy discomfort is a smart analytics platform. These platforms continuously evaluate equipment performance data and offer actionable insights to resolve malfunctions and address suboptimal performance as efficiently as possible. Some of the most important problems analytics can help you address include:
HVAC energy consumption and waste can have significant environmental and financial consequences, making them a top concern for building owners and tenants alike. Smart analytics allows you to offer your customers effective solutions to improve efficiency and reduce energy costs.
With traditional systems, high HVAC energy consumption is only identified through a high utility bill or when malfunctions have already reached a point of crisis. At this point, troubleshooting becomes a process of reacting to an emergency—and often a difficult one. Smart analytics with machine learning capabilities, however, collects and prioritizes data from HVAC equipment, giving you deep visibility into the system at all times.
Advanced analytics platforms are configured by controls experts to monitor equipment and reduce waste via cutting-edge fault detection and diagnosis. By tracking historical equipment and energy usage patterns and learning how the HVAC system behaves, an intelligent analytics platform can quickly alert you to faults, energy spikes, and other anomalies, pinpoint the causes of problems, and suggest pragmatic solutions. Rather than responding to a high energy bill, simple alarm, or multiple, unprioritized alarms, you can begin the troubleshooting process armed with meaningful information to more easily resolve issues. Anomalies can also trigger automatic adjustments, reducing reliance on manual intervention.
"Installing currently developed and properly tuned controls could cut commercial building energy consumption by approximately 29%." - U.S. Department of Energy
Having the information you need to improve problem areas like malfunctioning equipment will help customers reach their energy savings goals. However, analytics doesn’t just detect and diagnose faults; it helps contractors and customers understand the intricacies of commercial HVAC operations for maximum energy efficiency. This includes the ability to correlate equipment fixes and system changes with energy use, allowing you to evaluate your energy efficiency strategy and show your customers the impact of your work.
Contractors know all about downtime and truck rolls, particularly as it relates to HVAC troubleshooting. If you don’t have remote access to the HVAC system and someone calls in a problem, the only solution is to send out a truck. That takes time and often means major complaints from customers. This is especially true when problems are not detected until they have resulted in catastrophic equipment failure and significant downtime.
The fault detection and diagnostic capabilities of a state-of-the-art analytics platform can minimize downtime by catching problems in the earliest stages, simplifying diagnosis, and allowing for faster—or even automatic—troubleshooting. When that platform is cloud-based and offers a mobile-accessible dashboard, even greater benefits can be realized, as the need for on-site troubleshooting is reduced. And when you do need to attend to the problem in person, you’ll know what the problem is before you arrive and what resources you need to make the repair.
With intelligent analytics, contractors tasked with offering support for common indoor air quality and comfort issues add innovative solutions to their toolkits. This is particularly valuable at a time when COVID-19 is causing serious concerns about the safety of commercial buildings and HVAC systems are becoming an important part of protecting occupant health.
The first step to improving indoor air quality and reducing related health risks is ensuring ventilation systems are properly maintained and optimized. The insights produced by an analytics platform can help you identify vulnerabilities and correlate air quality with specific equipment and building conditions, allowing you to make any necessary changes. It can also help you improve occupant comfort by detecting heating, cooling, and ventilation anomalies and automating key HVAC functions. For example, temperatures can be set according to occupancy and buildings can be preheated or precooled to account for anticipated weather changes, helping to ensure an ideal indoor climate.
HVAC system tampering or modifying can compromise occupant comfort due to unwanted heating or cooling, contribute to system breakdown, and cause enormous energy waste. Eliminating access to controls is a first step toward eliminating tampering—but it is often not enough. Continuous monitoring and detection of unexpected events or trends via a smart analytics platform allows you to more easily discover and resolve HVAC tampering.
With today’s cutting-edge technologies, commercial HVAC troubleshooting can become easier, faster, and produce better results.
Modern HVAC systems offer significant advantages over older systems, particularly when it comes to energy efficiency. However, with equipment and building systems becoming more advanced, commercial HVAC troubleshooting is more complex than ever before. With intelligent analytics, contractors can streamline HVAC systems, transform troubleshooting, and deliver greater value to customers. By creating new opportunities for efficiency and performance, a platform like onPoint Analytics is an ideal solution for all stakeholders.
Jon Schoenfeld, PE is Buildings IOT's Director of Energy & Analytics. He's been developing advanced algorithms for building automation applications for more than a decade and he applies his tremendous building expertise as he oversees the team of building scientists creating the onPoint platform.