It’s all under control

With energy efficiency high on the agenda, I spoke to Navid Mehr, managing director of SC Controls about their extensive range of SeaChange modular building controls which is simplifying the way the industry thinks about building controls.

Since the launch of the first product range in the early 90’s, SC Controls has aimed to simplify the building controls market with an easy to use system suitable for commercial and domestic applications. They now have over 200 variants of the SeaChange control modules to cater for HVAC plants as well as natural ventilation, underfloor heating, solar heating, ground source heat pumps, and integration with other third party products. Navid says: “The concept behind the SeaChange modular controls is unique. When you buy a conventional Building Management System (BMS) you must also employ a BMS specialist to programme the intelligence into the system. With our range of products, the modules are pre-programmed with control strategies and because of their simplicity they can be maintained by in-house staff on a daily basis.” 

Modular building controls

The ability to make consistent energy savings in any environment is imperative if a building is to meet the energy targets set down by the Government. But as many people will know, it’s very easy to know what you have to achieve, achieving it is the problem, and that is where SeaChange comes into its own.

The SeaChange brand was one of the first plug and play modular control systems introduced to the UK market and it still offers one of the most comprehensive range of HVAC modular building controls.

Navid says: “In our experience, traditional programmable controls require complex, time consuming and expensive programming to create the control strategy for the building, however by using our approach, the energy saving control strategies are an intrinsic part of every control module delivering savings every time.

“In addition, because you are no longer reliant on the programming skills of a BMS specialist, the cost of maintaining the system is considerably lower because there is no requirement for time consuming in-house engineering or preparing bespoke control strategies on every project which will subsequently have to be checked and proved during commissioning. 

“Another added benefit is our webserver solutions. As the use of Ethernet and remote control and monitoring via internet is becoming a standard requirement on new installations, you do not need to be an IT expert to deliver a webserver solution.  Our SmartServer products are self engineering and require no programming and the site specific web pages are self generated and automatically configured once the device is connected to the system.”

System integration

Being a modular system you would be forgiven for thinking that it has its limitations, but that is where you would be wrong because one of the key benefits is that the application specific control modules include various options for integrating with other products.

Navid says: “We realised at a very early stage that simply offering HVAC controls wasn’t good enough for the industry because system integration plays a big part in energy saving.  We now have a far more comprehensive system which provides interface options with products from key HVAC manufacturers including Daikin, Mitsubishi, Sanyo, Toshiba and Fujitsu. This basically means that we can provide a single user interface that can control the heating, the air conditioning, natural ventilation and even the underfloor heating, removing the need to have several keypads on the wall and ensuring that all of the systems are working in tandem throughout the year.

“Integration is a very complicated subject and there is inevitably a lot of engineering involved, but by employing the same philosophy of a plug and play system we have been able to create links between disparate systems making the whole system simpler and considerably more cost effective for the end user.”

Making it work

We have already mentioned that one of the main benefits of the SeaChange approach is the simplicity of the installation and maintenance, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that just anyone can do it.

Navid says: “It is true that you don’t need a controls specialist to install our intelligent modular controls, but as with any installation you do need fully trained agents to deliver a control system to our standard and in compliance with our guidelines.  However because all of the energy efficient control strategies are pre-written and approved, this saves a huge amount of time on site and the overall cost of a fully installed system is considerably lower.

“Our products are sold through a chain of approved and accredited SmartPartners in the commercial sector who have undergone the necessary training to undertake the design, installation and commissioning which ensures a first class service on every installation.”

Another time and money saver is the fact that the system can be maintained in-house, but with facilities managers being called upon to do more as part of their role, training has become increasingly more important. Navid says: “We recognise the fact that facilities managers now have a bigger role to play which is why we provide a series of training sessions for maintenance teams.

“In our experience, clients and their in-house maintenance and facilities management team want to be more self sufficient by being able to address minor controls related issues without having to call out a BMS specialist. We therefore provide one or two day hands-on training courses that enable the end-user to grasp a better understanding and to be able to maintain their system on a day-to-day basis.  Of course there will be times when the client may have to call upon one of our SmartPartners for further assistance but this training does give our clients the confidence to invest in our products.”

Energy monitoring

One criteria which is being increasingly requested by the industry is the ability to monitor energy and with prices continuing to soar it is an integral part of any energy management strategy. Seeing this as an opportunity to further improve their offering, the introduction of the SeaChange Utility Meter Monitor was the obvious way forward.

Designed in conjunction with the BREEAM assessment, the module can monitor and quantify the energy usage in commercial premises and provide an early warning should the energy usage exceed the guidelines set by the building operator. This has the obvious benefits of being able to see where the energy is going but it can also act as an early warning system, alerting the building owner to a water leak for example, long before it becomes a huge issue for the building.

Navid says: “The introduction of the Utility Meter Monitor was a result of working with the industry to ensure that we are meeting their needs. With energy prices continuing to cause concern this seemed to be the obvious way forward allowing building owners to make the necessary changes to achieve savings. 

And finally

SeaChange energy management systems have been used in all types of buildings and applications throughout the UK and Europe; they have gained recognition in the field of energy efficiency and are included on the Carbon Trust Energy Technology List (ETL) – all of which gives this solution the right credentials for the job.  Having successfully completed to date thousands of installations, the product is proven and well established in the UK market.

But quite apart from all that, this is a plug and play system which is a very cost effective and simple way of achieving energy savings and which your facilities management team can manage on a daily basis. The system allows you to integrate all of your HVAC devices ensuring t
he systems work together in the most efficient manner, and with solutions for natural ventilation, solar heating and underfloor heating controllers, this is also a future proof solution.

The system can also be monitored remotely via a modem link or via the internet which ticks another box, allowing the facilities management team to keep an eye on the building wherever they are. In short this is a good modular solution which will go a long way to achieving the energy savings need for your building.

Some people would argue that the only way forward is with a full building management system and a controls specialist on hand to make the necessary changes to it. Quite simply there is no right or wrong answer. What is important is that you install a solution which suits the needs of you and your building.

SC Controls is part of the Ener-G group and are the commercial division for the SeaChange building energy management system.

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