Monitoring and Measuring Energy – Impact on Conservation

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When it’s hot in the summer, we want our air conditioners blasting to keep us cool. And when winter brings shorter days and freezing temperatures, we want the heat and lights full on. Until spring – and daylight savings time – arrives. We don’t want to waste precious resources, but we do want to be comfortable!

Seasonal energy consumption is one just measurement for tracking the timing of energy use. Another method is recognizing time-of-use (TOU) throughout the day, or over the course of a week. For example, in the commercial sector, TOU peaks between 9:00am – 5:00pm, when people are at the office, kids are in school, business is open and workers are on the clock. Weekends mean time off and powering down, allowing for significantly lower energy consumption.

On the other end of the spectrum, condominiums peak energy usage is from 5:00pm-9:00am, because tenants are home at night and out during the day – at work, in school, or on the job. And the weekends at those commercial spaces are party time! With energy usage at its highest levels.

Monitoring peaks and dips in energy consumption over time – days, weeks, years – allows better management of energy demands, and more opportunity to exercise conservation methods and lower price energy options.

But understanding what that energy is being used for can have an equal impact on energy conservation.

In 2008, the EIA reported that commercial buildings consumed more than 18,400 trillion Btu of energy. And in a typical office building: lighting, heating and cooling represent more than 65 percent of the total energy used. These areas are best targets for management attention in conservation efforts.

Where to start? Turn off the lights! Many office buildings can benefit from quick low-cost/no-cost energy-saving solutions, such as turning things off, turning things down, and keeping up with cleaning and maintenance.

A typical desktop computer, monitor and shared printer together draw 200 watts per day. Most new equipment has a low-power sleep setting which goes on automatically after a period of inactivity. But even though it’s built in, most users don’t take advantage of this feature. And they should!

And if you can’t turn it off, at least turn it down. Lowering the heat or air conditioning after-hours conserves significant amounts of energy. How about dimming the hallway lights during the daytime hours when the sun is out? That will certainly help reduce consumption as well.

Savvy property managers already know to use power strips, fluorescent bulbs, and have HVAC systems cleaned and maintained. But new energy monitoring systems and controls can make energy conservation far more effective. Smart lighting, demand-controlled ventilation and solar-panels are other advanced means of conserving energy consumption. Recognizing what uses the most energy in your commercial space can dictate where to implement system changes or upgrades.

Knowing when energy is used can help determine ways to conserve energy. But knowing how energy is used can lead to practical solutions for energy conservation. Armed with this knowledge, commercial buildings can then raise the bar overall in lowering their use of precious resources.

Article by Bari Faye Siegel, a technology writer and marketing consultant at Noveda Technologies, an innovative leader in real-time, web-based energy and water monitoring.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

  • Bilsko

    On the other end of the spectrum, condominiums peak energy usage is from 5:00pm-9:00am, because tenants are home at night and out during the day – at work, in school, or on the job. And the weekends at those commercial spaces are party time! With energy usage at its highest levels.

    Its a pretty small subset of commercial properties that see energy consumption increase during the weekend. In fact, the majority of commercial (and institutional) property energy usage is typically at its lowest during weekends. I spend a lot of time analyzing hourly interval data for a variety of building types and can say with a good deal of experience that weekend consumption is at its lowest for most commercial buildings.

    Then again, maybe you meant to say residential?