We recently presented a webinar with Lucid Design Group on the relationship between real-time metering and utility bill dataand the savings opportunities they deliver. The webinar produced some good questions from the audience, and we're sharing the answers in today's blog.

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How does real-time data help my team save money?

Real-time data helps you find savings by giving you answers to questions about how your building is performing. For example, unless you had a way of measuring your energy on a time-of-use basis, you wouldn't know what was happening in the building during a specific time period. If there are things like leaks or poor performance in an HVAC system, you would be able to spot that right away using real-time meter data, and you would be able to take quick action to fix the problem before it becomes an epidemic issue. Real-time data gives you deeper insights into the exact time that you were using energy, and this helps you to optimize scheduling and for peak demand management.

How much does it cost to get metering installed for my buildings?

What we see is a range of costs depending on the kind of technology and the way it's intended to be used, which will affect pricing. For example, will the meter be part of the building automation system or will it stand alone? Does it communicate directly to the Internet, or does it require some type of intermediary? But generally, the cost will be $1,500-$3,000 per meter.

What are the most important touch points or real-time data streams to have in a building to optimize system monitoring and energy use?

You want to make sure you have meters that correspond to the way that you're actually utilizing the space. You don’t want to instrument every single square foot separately because that's just too much, but you also don’t want to assume you're getting a lot of value out of whole building meters, when your building may have a variety of different uses internally. For example, if you have a warehouse on one floor and a printing company on the second floor, you'll want to submeter those floors independently to maximize the value of your real-time and monthly tracking.

You can allocate energy consumption by square foot even if you don’t have those spaces independently metered, but square footage is really not going to be the best metric at that point when you already know that the energy consumption of those buildings is not necessarily just a function of size, but is really a function of how that space is utilized. So a good rule is to install a meter whenever there is a different use for the space.

What if I don’t have a building automation system?

In terms of how a building is being heated or cooled in the absence of a building automation system, you're using thermostat controls. In residences, over 70 percent of programmable thermostats on the market today are not actually programmed in the buildings. We mention this because while you may be able to program your thermostat to have an efficient schedule, it might also be very difficult and challenging, which is why most of them have not been fully programmed and utilized.

So it is a challenge, and there isn't a straightforward solution aside from if you have a thermostat that can have a schedule programmed, then you should program a thermostat as best you are able. A building automation system is certainly used for more than just scheduling heating and cooling, but it is a core function of those types of systems, and with bigger buildings with a lot of occupants, generally speaking, it can justify itself in savings. 

How do Lucid and EnergyCAP relate to each other?

Picture a staircase, and it's the staircase of energy management. Step one is to get your utility bills under good management, so you're handling your monthly utility bill data well through automating bill collection, auditing data, analyzing the data, and processing it for payment. 

Step two is to track near real-time data, where you're trying to make sense of bill data and monthly meter reads, to get a more granular understanding of your energy use. Step three is to work with real-time data to understand what is happening right now in your building. And step four is using building control systems from one location so you can deal with issues remotely. As you walk up these steps, the solutions become more complex and more expensive, but they also become more automated and connected.

The foundational step is to handle your utility bill data well. You have a lot of meters and you want to make sense of them. This is what EnergyCAP does well. After you have a handle on your utility bill data and want to get into real-time data, that's what Lucid does well. Both Lucid and EnergyCAP have APIs, so they can share data with each other.

Want to learn more about real-time data and utility bill data?

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About The Author
Chris is Vice President of Human Resources for EnergyCAP, Inc., which helps organizations get value from their utility bills through energy management software. He's an Associate Certified Coach by the International Coach Federation, a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach, and a Certified Professional Life Coach. He also started www.Munyay.com to help people love their life and love their work.
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