What is RS-485 and what does it have to do with buildings or building controls? If you’re asking this question either you’re just curious, or maybe something isn’t working quite right and you’re Googling to find an answer. Either way, I plan on giving you a high level understanding of RS-485 in this post, and how having a better grip on how it works can help building operators and controls contractors control their building more effectively.
Metering equipment, such as light loggers, temperature loggers, and AC current loggers can be very useful tools and sometimes necessary in the world of energy efficiency consulting. They can provide useful data on how equipment is operating and performing. I have written about metering in previous blog posts including one called “EM&V Metering: Right Place, Right Time, Right Duration” where I described the importance of identifying the correct way of deploying meters. In this post I am going to discuss the importance of verifying that meters or loggers are working correctly even before a metering plan is developed or the devices are deployed, as well as the importance of ensuring that the correct sensors are chosen for the application.
If you’ve worked in the Building Automation Systems (BAS) industry, you’ve probably heard of LonWorks, BACnet, and Modbus. These three open system networking technologies have been the foundation of most building automation systems over the last decade. They allow devices from different manufacturers to communicate data without issue (most of the time) so that a building’s chiller, boiler, and pumps may all work together as one system to give a building owner an integrated system that enables a high level of functionality.
There are two ways to operate a building: passively or actively. Operating passively means the building performs its intended function – the lights are on and the building is temperate – but no one is monitoring and analyzing the operating costs or planning for equipment issues. Actively operating a building involves close monitoring of the building operating costs, thoughtful maintenance of building systems and their operating schedules, and capital planning for future equipment replacements. There is a new (relatively inexpensive) tool emerging on the market that can help both of these types of building managers move toward simple, effective, and knowledgeable operating oversight.
A friend of mine recently sent me an article from the Automatedbuildings.com online magazine entitled “Death of the Controls Industry” written by Therese Sullivan (Principal of Building Context Ltd). The article contains summary of a presentation given by Darren Wright, Director at Arup. Darren Wright makes the case that we have a major problem in the building energy market, and it’s directly attributable to the controls business model still not being open source.
For many building operators and facility managers, it is generally accepted that there is too much to do, and not enough time or money to do what needs to be done. Facility management staff often fall into a routine of “putting out fires,” which takes time and resources away from preventative maintenance activities. The symptoms of this routine are a high percentage of expenditures for equipment failures and a large backlog of deferred maintenance. When I see the scramble of “putting out fires,” I often wonder what could be done differently to help stop the pattern of equipment failures and deferred maintenance.
Recently there has been a lot of talk resurfacing about what defines an "open system." It is a concept that has been debated and sold for well over a decade in the HVAC automation industry. There still seems to be some ambiguity about what this really means.
Topics: Standards and Metrics
Building automation systems (BAS) have been around since the 1980s. They, like any other computer based technology, have evolved several times over parallel to the widespread adoption of information systems across all industries. Their key benefits are understood to be primarily HVAC system control, automation, and HVAC system optimization. But with the advent of systems being more distributed and more open over the last decade, there has been one benefit that gets overlooked a lot: BAS trend data.
Most state and utility energy efficiency programs undergo a “process evaluation” to assess how well the programs achieve their objectives, and how the programs could do better. Process evaluations can provide essential feedback from the perspective of program administrators, end-users (e.g., households and building owners) and suppliers (e.g., mechanical and lighting contractors). Feedback is great for improvement, right? Well, yes, if you can act on it, and if acting on it will have impact.
In a previous blog post, Jennifer Chiodo discussed why energy benchmarking is beneficial for everyone, whether it’s for a residential building or a commercial building. Benchmarking allows you as the building owner to not only understand how your building is doing from an energy standpoint over time, but it also compares the building to other similar buildings in its class. Using the Energy Star Portfolio Manager online benchmarking tool, you can monitor a building’s energy usage over time by setting goals and comparing the overall energy use intensity to a baseline year.