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What impact can real-time sensors and systems have on facility energy use

Increasingly large corporations are taking a strong look at their energy use, not just to be greener, but to drive down energy expenses. The rising cost of energy has created the incentive to look for greater efficiency. Harnessing real-time sensors in your facility or campus can provide dramatic cost savings that quickly repay this investment.

The next wave of wireless IP-addressable temperature and control sensors are making a big impact. With these wireless devices, there’s very little installation hassle or cost. The system is designed, sensors are put in place, and immediately an organization has a much better understanding of their facility’s energy use.

On the system side, the centralized analysis tools reveal energy baselines so that you can begin to make adjustments in your energy use. The ability to view and control energy use reveals a whole new level of facility maintenance opportunities. For instance, the benefits of switching to compact fluorescent lighting becomes quickly apparent with viewable energy savings.

Patterns of energy use over time also become apparent. Because energy costs rise based on peak demands, the astute facility manager can discern these patterns and adjust demands by staggering the use of high-energy appliances, and dramatically draw down their energy bills. Instead of an early-morning ramp up of all systems, perhaps there are opportunities to run things at night or to run machines at slower speeds and volumes over longer periods of time.

The cost savings can easily equal 15 percent of a yearly utility bill. While that cost savings may not sound like much in the context of a home owner, consider the energy costs of such facilities as a complex manufacturing plant, a hotel, or a large retail outlet. A 15-percent savings in those contexts could easily measure in the millions of dollars.

These sensors and energy analytic tools should usher in a whole new business model for facility maintenance. Instead of just incentive pay tied to facility upkeep measures, facility managers should be given incentives for how efficiently they run their facility. Given the right incentives, owner/operators may be quite pleasantly surprised by how efficiently their operations can run.