Energy Monitoring Program Looks at Low-cost/No-cost Building Efficiency Strategies

Market: 
Indoor
Organization: 
NorthWrite, Inc.
Summary: 
A leading energy information management company uses reliable web-based monitoring systems to gather energy performance data to test its Monitoring-Based Commissioning (MBCx) energy information management service for small to medium-sized commercial buildings.

U30 and NorthWriteOnset and technology partner NorthWrite, Inc. have delivered an integrated, real-time energy monitoring solution for use in a monitoring-based building commissioning program funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The program, which aims to test NorthWrite's innovative energy efficiency service for buildings, involves tracking whole-building electric use in 20 commercial buildings throughout New York.

The project combines Onset's web-based HOBO® U30 energy monitoring systems with NorthWrite's Monitoring-Based Commissioning (MBCx), a turnkey energy information management service that leverages the company's award-winning Energy Expert energy analysis dashboard software. With NorthWrite MBCx, building energy performance data can quickly and easily be gathered, analyzed, and displayed. Data analysts study the collected building performance information and then suggest efficiency improvements.

Small and medium-sized buildings face energy efficiency barriers
The project focuses on small and medium-sized commercial buildings, a market segment that often fails to pursue energy efficiency. In fact, a 2010 study by the Center for an Urban Future found that less than one percent of small businesses in New York City undergo energy audits, despite the availability of generous government subsidies.

The problem is one of resources. Unlike large manufacturers, small businesses rarely can employ onsite energy managers or energy contractors to guide them through the process. Further, few cost-effective efficiency technologies exist to serve the small to medium-sized building market. In search of innovations to overcome these barriers, NYSERDA awarded the project to test NorthWrite MBCx in New York City, Syracuse, Buffalo and Rochester.

Project aids in no-cost/low-cost energy use improvements
Onset's HOBO U30 energy monitoring systems are serving as the data gatherers for the project. The 15-channel monitoring devices, which can run off solar or A/C power, have been installed in the buildings to collect information on real-time use of electricity and in some cases steam and gas.

Jim Erickson, NorthWrite's implementation manager for the project, said that the Onset monitoring hardware is especially suited for the New York pilot because it is rugged, easy to install, expandable, and can be used remotely via Wi-Fi, Ethernet, or cellular connection. "We need to get everything on site and set up quickly without a lot of wrangling or hand-holding. We can do that with the HOBO U30," Erickson said.

The monitoring systems feed the information into the NorthWrite MBCx software, where it is modeled with other important inputs, such as utility charges, weather and building characteristics. An analyst studies the result and provides the building owner or manager with recommendations on low-cost or no-cost energy upgrades that will result in annual savings of 10% to 15%. NorthWrite also connects building managers with NYSERDA-approved contractors that can make the building improvements.

"What we are providing with NorthWrite MBCx is a service," said Terrence McManus, NorthWrite's chief marketing officer. "Building managers could attempt to use these tools independently, but they do not have the time to learn what all the data means. They are already short-handed and responding to tenants needs. This turn-key service makes it easier for them to move forward with energy efficiency measures that provide a quick pay back."

The solution offers another plus: Tenants get a first-hand view of how well the building performs day-to-day by way of a 32-inch flat screen kiosk monitor that NorthWrite places in a public space. When occupants see the easy-to-read data, they are inspired to be more conservative in their energy use.

Crosby Brownlie, Inc.'s 53,000 square-foot facility in Rochester, New York, is one of the buildings participating in the pilot program. Peter Brennan, Vice President for HVAC, Refrigeration and Energy Services, said he was surprised when NorthWrite MBCx uncovered room for improvement in the already efficient building.

"I thought they would have a hard time finding anything in the building. They pointed out half a dozen or more individual items that we could still address. I was impressed with that. Their program gets down to the pennies of opportunities rather than just the low hanging fruit," Brennan said.