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Energy Management Systems Put You in Control

Key Points
  • Energy management systems monitor conditions and control energy-consuming equipment.
  • System designs range from single-point control devices to complex, facility-wide systems.
  • With an EMS, you can control lighting, space conditioning and other building systems.

Energy conservation is a team effort, but getting everyone's cooperation can be difficult. Oversights, like leaving lights on in unoccupied rooms or allowing unused equipment to continue running, can cost your organization a substantial amount of money.

An energy management system (EMS) can help your facility become more efficient by putting you in control. An EMS controls the building environment, operates various equipment based on a prescribed sequence of operations, monitors equipment performance and sends out alarms and alerts. A properly installed and maintained EMS can result in energy savings of 10 to 30 percent.

How an EMS saves energy

An EMS reduces energy use by monitoring conditions and controlling energy-consuming equipment. Commonly used to control lighting and space conditioning, these systems are versatile enough to automate your entire building. With an EMS, you can track building system operations, perform diagnostics and optimize performance, saving energy and reducing labor costs. An EMS typically interfaces with existing building controls.

An EMS takes various forms, from a single-point control device to a complex system that manages energy use throughout an entire facility. A cross-functional EMS provides the greatest potential for maximizing energy and cost savings. Centralized controls allow you to interface with remote equipment to diagnose problems.

EMS components

Energy management systems vary by facility type and the level of control needed. Commonly used energy management devices include:

  • Timers turn lighting and equipment on and off according to a schedule. Small loads are switched directly while large loads are controlled indirectly with relays.
  • Occupancy sensors detect whether people are present by sensing heat (infrared) or sound (ultrasonic).
  • Programmable thermostats adjust building temperatures automatically, according to operating schedules and seasonal changes.
  • Photocells regulate light levels, dimming or increasing light according to the amount of available daylight.
  • Programmable logic controls (PLC) use sensors to operate process equipment in manufacturing environments for maximum energy efficiency.

Implementing an EMS

Although energy management devices can reduce costs, they're not right for every situation. To maximize your savings, plan carefully before installing an EMS. Examine your facility, energy use patterns and occupancy needs.

For example, lighting controls may not be useful in an open office environment with a lot of foot traffic. Individual devices are relatively inexpensive, but installing a complex system will require a significant investment of time and money; apply it where it'll be most effective.

A new system will not necessarily interface properly with existing controls and other remaining components. Use caution when buying proprietary systems; look for products with an open protocol.

Optimize performance through system maintenance

The following operating and maintenance tips will maximize performance and your energy savings:

  • Calibrate and check sensors regularly. Failed sensors and false readings can waste a considerable amount of energy.
  • Protect control devices from power quality problems with surge suppressors or uninterruptible power supplies (UPS).
  • Use battery backups for timers and other scheduling devices. Power outages can disrupt energy management settings and reduce system effectiveness.
  • For safety, post signs that indicate control devices are being used and install disconnect switches near equipment equipped with automated controls.
  • Train key employees on the overall design intent and proper operation of the system.

Although it requires time and effort to implement and maintain, an EMS will help you take charge of your organization's energy use.

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