Carbon Conservation & Energy Efficiency


Bruce Rowse & Team

Building Automation Systems don’t save energy

August 11th, 2009

Building Automation Systems (BAS), otherwise known as Building Management Systems (BMS) or Direct Digital Control (DDC) systems don’t save energy. But their operators can.

A BAS system will often cost the equivalent of around one year’s worth of energy bills. But unless its well operated it may never pay itself off.

BAS systems are complicated

BAS systems are complicated

BAS systems are complicated. In this respect they are similar to a jet airplane. But unlike airline pilots, in far too many cases the operators of the BAS systems have little or no experience, minimal training, and often very little time to operate it.

You wouldn’t buy a jet airplane without having appropriately trained and experienced pilots to fly it. But far too often organisations buy BAS systems without making the necessary investment in the people who operate it.

Unlike airplane pilots, where serious mistakes can be fatal, if the BAS operator makes a mistake the chances are very few people, if any, will know about it. Your building won’t crash and burn if the operator manually over-rides a time schedule and leaves a large fan running all the time. (I haven’t seen a BAS system yet where fans that should be on a time schedule have had their schedule bypassed.)

In many organisations, with energy costs 1% of less of total operational expenditure, the chances are that the accountant won’t be watching to ensure that any savings put forward in the business case for installing the BAS are actually achieved. Usually the only thing that everyone will know about, and have an opinion on, is the temperature inside the building. In response to this many BAS operators do everything possible to keep the building at a temperature that generates the least amount of complaints, no matter what. In some cases the energy implication of this are like a pilot flying from Melbourne to Brisbane via Alice Springs to avoid a bit of turbulence, rather than making intelligent small deviations to the direct Melbourne – Brisbane route to minimise discomfort to passengers.

And if you’ve outsourced the management of your BAS, are you auditing the performance of your contractor? How do you know your BAS contractor is operating your building for high energy efficiency? The contractor doesn’t pay your energy bills – and again may end up with the sole focus of keeping the building at a temperature that minimises complaints, without necessarily considering the increased energy consumption that this may cause. One of our customers has us auditing their controls on a regular basis, and we rarely fail to identify valuable energy savings because of wastage caused by shortcuts taken by their contractors.

Also unlike in an aircraft, when an alarm is raised by the system, the chances are that it will be ignored. Particularly if there are dozens or even hundreds of alarms going off every day, which is the norm rather than the exception in larger BAS systems.

And unlike a new jet, the chances are that your brand new BAS system may not have been correctly commissioned. For example one or more sensors could be in the wrong position and thus giving erroneous readings. An example is a recent customer’s building where the building manager couldn’t figure out why the system was running on 100% outside air most the time. After a great deal of investigation it turned out that the CO2 sensor (air quality sensor) was positioned in a copier room which had no mechanical ventilation (another mistake), and was thus reading too high, with the result that the system was running on 100% fresh air – at huge energy cost – to try and reduce CO2 levels.

To get the most from you BAS system invest in the person who runs it. Make sure they know the principles of energy efficient HVAC and building operation. Make sure they are well trained in operating your system. Set energy performance targets, and monitor them. Make sure they have enough time to actively operate the system, and aren’t just spending all their time dealing with alarms. Bring in experts to help configure the system and review it on a regular basis if necessary. Or else outsource management, but with clear performance targets and regular audits if necessary. And then the investment in your BAS will result in energy savings.

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Clean coal air freshener video

August 8th, 2009

Video by the Coen Brothers. See comments on this video on youtube.

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Lifecycle efficiency of LEDS the same as compact fluorescent

August 7th, 2009

Research recently undertaken by Siemens says that the lifecycle efficiency of LED lights is equal to that of compact fluorescents.

Measuring the lifecycle efficiency involves looking at the energy to manufacture and dispose of the product, in addition to the energy it uses whilst in operation.

The report was released by Osram, which is owned by Siemans, with the testing taking place by the Siemens Corporate Technology Centre for Eco Innovation, and reported on in the New York Times.

There aren’t many details yet though as to how the research was undertaken or the numbers behind the claims. For example, was the LED light used in the comparison of equivalent brightness to the CFL. 

But it does show that LEDs are getting closer to being the light of the future.

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The Climate Savers Computing Initiative

August 6th, 2009

The Climate Savers Computing initiative aims to reduce computer energy consumption by 50% by 2010. Organisations on its board of directors include Dell, Google, Intel, HP, Microsoft, CSC and WWF. It has hundreds of members, all committed to purchasing energy-efficient PCs and servers for new IT purchases, and to broadly deploying power management.

The CSC website includes case studies on deployment of aggressive power management across entire organisations, and a range of guides for activating power management settings. It has a large FAQ section, and if you want to learn about power management the chances are you will find an answer on this site.

Use this site to help you promote and roll out effective power management of your existing computers.

If upgrading your computers seriously consider a thin client or virtual desktop solution for maximum power savings, unfortunately the Climate Savers Computing Initiative doesn’t yet have much information on these solutions.

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Electric cars – affordable and available in Australia by 2012?

August 3rd, 2009

Nissan has just unveiled the prototype of its first electric car, the Leaf, available in Australia from 2012, and in Japan and the USA from next year. It will have a range of 160kms, a top speed of 140km/hr and a 5 to 30 minute rapid charge. The car is a 5 door hatch. Incredibly the battery pack will only weigh 200kg.

Nissan Leaf electric vehicle

Nissan Leaf electric vehicle

By going for a rapid-charge battery the Leaf is competing with the Better Place model of physically changing the battery once depleted for a fully charged battery. Presumably you could drive into a service station with rapid charge capability and be fully charged in 5 to 10 minutes, not an unacceptable delay if you don’t have to do it that frequently.

The relatively long range (160kms) of the Leaf reduces the need for a network of charge points at car parks, also key to the Better Place model. The Leaf is suited to home charging, with a 8 hour “trickle” charge.

Pricing has not yet been announced. Nissan are planning to sell the car but lease the battery to the first customers, with the price of the car (excluding battery) to be similar to that of a small family car. The cost of the battery lease and electricity to charge the battery will be less than that of petrol for an equivalent vehicle.

An advantage of the Better Place model though is its integration with the “smart grid”, whereby whenever the vehicle is parked a charge station is nearby it can be interacting with the grid and providing storage to renewable generation.

Other electric cars which may be available in Australia in 2012 include:

  • The Mitsubishi i-MiEV (perhaps available from 2010). A small car, also with a 160km range.
  • The Holden Volt. Another small vehicle.
  • Vehicles compatible with the Better Place model (in Canberra, where Better Place is starting its national rollout)
  • The Toyota FT-EV

Already available is the Blade, a modified Hyundai Getz.

Metropolitan fleet buyers – local government and commercial would be doing well to now start planning to introduce electric vehicles into their fleets from 2012. Which, if Nissan and Better Place deliver on their schedules and prices, won’t only make environmental sense, but will also make financial sense if the capital cost is no more, and running costs are lower.

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