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Bringing energy consumption under control

Published:  06 August, 2012

t-mac, controls, BMS, BEMS
Effective energy reduction — Lisa Gingell.

Comfort and the efficient use of energy can be the same thing — as Lisa Gingell of t-mac explains.

If building managers could take a moment to listen to their buildings they may very well hear a gentle hum — the sound of the air-conditioning system hard at work. So unobtrusive are these systems that they will often go unnoticed, but their effect will be all too clear when the energy bill arrives.

It is a fact that air-conditioning has a major impact on the bottom line, and also the carbon footprint of many commercial buildings. The Carbon Trust estimates that air-conditioning alone has the potential to double a building's total energy consumption and associated carbon emissions. A ‘chilling’ thought for all building managers!

With the UK now officially back in recession, it is clear that no business can afford to waste money unnecessarily by failing to use their air-conditioning systems correctly. So how can businesses exert greater control over air-conditioning to ensure it is being used efficiently in the building?

Fortunately, developments in technology have made managing air-conditioning a breeze. By using intelligent technology such as a t-mac building energy management system (BEMS), building managers have been able to reduce their impact on the environment and make savings on energy bills. Using BEMSs has also helped companies to comply with Government legislation and ultimately take control of their energy consumption.

BEMSs enables businesses to monitor environmental conditions within the building, link in environmental factors outside the building, and also connect directly to an air-conditioning system’s on-board controller. The technology offers much more than simply being able to turn equipment on and off. The system manages air-conditioning set-points, fan speeds and modes to increase energy efficiency, and create a comfortable environment for building occupiers.

As a direct result of using the t-mac BEMS to manage and control air-conditioning systems, companies can also identify issues relating to their HVAC devices The technology can communicate directly with air-conditioning systems to read equipment diagnostics and fault codes. This helps businesses to instantly identify performance inefficiencies which can be costly in terms of excess energy consumption, as well as causing business downtime.

With air-conditioning under control, attention can be turned to the building occupiers. How they use the system and their expectations of the building’s environment can all have a negative impact on energy consumption. As such, educating employees is an important factor in any company’s energy-management strategy.

Energy-saving control of air conditioning has been rolled out across 1600 Ladbrokes stores in the UK.

By showcasing energy consumption, educating staff on how best to use the systems within the building, and highlighting the cost of inefficient use, technology can help change employee attitudes towards building conditions. This will ultimately have a positive impact on energy efficiency and cost reduction exercises.

A recent project we completed in Chesterfield is a prime example of how technology can help businesses to reduce their energy consumption. We carried out a trial in Ladbrokes’ store to identify how much energy could be saved by controlling air-conditioning and ventilation equipment.

By monitoring and controlling equipment performance and use, we ensured that the store’s air-conditioning system was only on during business hours, was operational in accordance with internal temperatures, and was disabled when necessary. Footfall was also monitored by connecting a door sensor to the t-mac unit which provided a people count, which can influence internal temperature during opening hours.

t-mac worked closely with Ladbrokes to develop a custom version of the t-mac system, known as the Lad-Mac, which specifically addressed the control requirements identified in this trial.

By working closely with Ladbrokes staff we ensured that the system would be easily implemented and accepted by employees across the estate. An on/off switch was incorporated into the trial unit which, if required, could be used to override the Lad-Mac system and its pre-set control temperatures. However, by monitoring and reporting back on staff usage of this, it was found that employees rarely used these switches, indicating that the suggested control strategy was working well.

After achieving a 4% energy saving for the Chesterfield store, the system was rolled out across 1600 Ladbrokes stores — a sure-fire winner!

I believe that, in terms of energy costs, air-conditioning is the silent assassin in many buildings. But by using energy-management technology to its maximum potential, businesses can regain control of air-conditioning, and see a return on investment within 18 months through reduced energy bills.

While air-conditioning systems may be energy-intensive, innovative technology can help businesses to ensure that their energy management strategies aren’t simply hot air!

Lisa Gingell is business-development director with t-mac Technologies.



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