Getting the most from your system

Many building managers are given the responsibility for reducing energy use in their businesses and often the most difficult part of the process is knowing where to start. 

Measuring the effectiveness of any energy reduction campaigns in the business is very important. For example, it is crucial to show return on investment for any investments in energy saving equipment. It can also help to encourage staff to save money by switching off lights or making sure PCs are not left on standby. Evidence that such steps are working is a good motivator.

Building controls and BMS can help to track changes in energy use, as well as helping to reduce building energy consumption in the long-term. However they can only do so if correctly operated and maintained.

An energy audit will give you a clear picture of how your building is performing in terms of energy at the current time. This will enable you to track energy and cost savings which result from any energy saving actions. It is also a good opportunity to check the BMS itself to ensure you are aware of problems such as number of alarms, or maintenance call-outs so that improvements in these areas can also be tracked.

Checking your BMS for physical faults is a good first step.  Are sensors operating correctly? If office equipment has been moved, you may find this impacts on sensor performance. For example, if a photocopier has been placed under a sensor, it may result in unnecessary cooling of the space.

It is also good to ensure that controls are operating as required.  A common problem is that controls are set to manual override, and this often results in building services plant operating when not required. Another often overlooked issue is that meters are not connected to the building management system – which means that data on energy use is not being collected or stored.

Building operators should also look regularly at the requirements they have set for the BMS. Are your set temperature points too high or too low? This is a widely acknowledged cause of high energy bills. A few degrees can make a big difference to your energy use.

Are you fully aware of all the energy-saving features available on your BMS? These can be overlooked where a facilities manager has inherited a BMS system, and handover documentation is not complete. Check with the BMS manufacturer that you have all the information you need. Educate other staff too – the more they understand the controls, the more likely they are to use them sensibly.

Data collection is increasingly important for building managers. But don’t collect data for its own sake. It is possible to be so swamped by feedback from meters that it’s difficult to tell what actions need to be taken. Make sure you have an adequate storage system for the information – and that you can use it to manage the system.

Finally, use the information from your BMS to manage energy use and building operation. A BMS can help you pinpoint areas where energy is being wasted; or spot problems before they result in system shutdown. Regular reviews of the information and the system are important.