Efficient use of electrical power and other resources helps keep operating expenses under control. A comprehensive energy control strategy includes lighting, ventilation, air conditioning and equipment operation. Many large businesses, factories, hospitals and banks follow the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification standards to lower utility operating expenses and reduce their impact on the environment.
The LEED program is overseen by the U.S. Green Building Council, a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C. While the program is voluntary, participation may qualify the business for tax rebates, zoning allowances and other incentives. However, the main benefit is a reduced energy footprint that helps the community and decreases operating costs.
Energy Savings – More than Just Turning Off the Lights
Parents often teach their children to shut off the lights when leaving a room, saving on the electric bill. However, true energy conservation and savings goes way beyond that simplistic approach. The human factor can be removed by controlling major energy systems through automation. Basic automation has been practiced for years by employing photo-eyes and motion sensors for lighting control. Basic electro-mechanical timers control many heating, cooling and ventilation chores with fair results. Even so, energy control strategies must include 21st century technology for increased efficiency and savings.
Two of the leaders in building automation are Siemens AG and Johnson Controls, Inc. These companies, along with others, provide comprehensive energy system control options. They offer their automation expertise to the building management team through extensive product lines and consultation services.
It is Never Too Late to Conserve and Save
Obviously, energy control and automation equipment is easier to plan for in new building construction. Installation of the components and cabling is simpler. However, existing structures can be retrofitted to bring energy control and efficiency up to current industry standards and practices. Energy control should be considered during building upgrades and additions as well.
When determining a project’s ROI, the LEED certification guidelines often provide guidance and useful information. In older buildings, a complete overhaul may not be cost effective or even possible. Even so, automating key areas in the facility may reduce daily operating expenditures. With that in mind, the management team should consider options from simple automated controls up to computer-managed systems that monitor, control and track the usage of energy supply systems and components.
Simple automation controls include programmable, electronic thermostats for heating, cooling and ventilation. These controls reduce energy consumption during non-production hours. Additionally, state-of-the-art timers and sensor combinations shut down unnecessary lighting fixtures during off hours.
Complete Automation for Total Control
On the upper end of the scale, energy consumption is controlled through a computer network, either an existing network or one that is dedicated to the automation system. Components tie into the network through Ethernet cabling or through a wireless connection. Depending on the size and complexity of the system, a single computer or a larger command center monitors and controls the automation process.
Once the automation scheme is set up, the computers monitor and track the process, reporting any malfunctions or abnormalities. Additionally, emergency lighting and fire alarm systems are often monitored through the computer or command center.
Automated energy control is no longer just a good idea. Rising energy costs and increased environmental responsibility make automation an integral part of building management.