The Claiborne Elementary school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana recently won a nationwide energy saving competition by cutting the schools energy use almost in half – a 45.9% reduction!! How they achieved energy efficiency, and won the prize competing against 3000 other buildings across the country, provides a great lesson. The biggest savings resulted when they simply fine-tuned the automated controls for their HVAC and lighting systems. They made sure lights were turned off in unoccupied areas and that the heating and cooling systems were optimized to run only when necessary.
Automated control of energy consuming devices is a new concept for most people. In the past the first person that arrived at a business simply turned on all the machines, lights and the heat or air conditioning. If the staff was trained well, the last person leaving in the evening reversed the process. If they weren’t trained well, the devices and lights were left on all night – a huge waste of energy and money.
They made sure lights were turned off in unoccupied areas and that the heating and cooling systems were optimized to run only when necessary!
I recently met with Craig Klem from Kanepi Innovations who introduced me to their highly innovative automated energy control products. Kanepi uses a “node” system that wirelessly connects all the lights, circuits, machines and electrical devices in a building to a central panel where they can then be controlled by a proprietary computer program. The program can be fine- tuned by a facility control staff person to optimize the use of all energy technology. The result is a dramatic reduction of energy use as illustrated by the Claiborne Elementary school.
What was especially interesting to hear Craig mention was that even when a facility installs the most energy efficient technology, automated controls can still add an additional layer of savings that averaged 54%. Extremely energy efficient equipment, that is left on all day when it only needs to be on 20% of the time, is still a huge waste of energy. Automated optimization cuts waste!
To put their process into perspective Klem offers this question as an example “why is that light on and why is it on so bright?” When you apply that type of question to every powered device and then automate the resulting answer, you gain significant control over energy use and expense!
In a real world example Klem mentioned a company that formerly turned the lights on in the morning and off when everyone went home. The building had plenty of windows that let in lots of light on sunny days. Using automated sensors that detect the amount of incoming outside light, their program could dim the lights or shut them off completely when the sun was providing sufficient illumination. A huge energy savings resulted by making that process automated and not dependent upon personnel making the changes.
“why is that light on and why is it on so bright?”
Automated systems also give companies amazing flexibility when changes in operations require alterations in the way a facility is lit or used. In the past changing lighting layouts for altered site use (changes in production runs, layoffs, breaks, and vacations) often required the expense of an electrician. With automated systems, it simply requires a few clicks of a mouse. An automated system makes it far easier and affordable to rearrange the way any space or machine is used.
By now most of us have experienced going into a dark restroom and having the light turn on automatically upon entry. That is just the beginning of the energy saving changes that will be required on all new construction. The good news is that new technology makes it easy to install automated controls into existing buildings and business operations resulting in huge energy savings without expensive retrofits!