For building owners and panel builders, problems loom as new regulations call for reductions in energy usage. Fortunately, solutions exist. Not only can these save energy, they can also monitor electrical assets, warning of little problems before they become big ones.
Before getting to those solutions, though, first let’s look at the current situation. On one hand there are a host of new regulations covering energy management systems. The list includes France’s RT2012, ISO 50001, and LEED in the United States. They all call for increased energy efficiency, with some substantial cuts to energy consumption. That requires data, the more the better.
On the other hand, the reality is that there’s usually little or no extra room inside panels. What’s more, putting in wiring is expensive, since it requires running cabling. Extra wiring also eats up still more of the precious room inside a panel. A final challenge is that making the most of the data requires getting it into a Building Management System, a BMS. This cannot be too complex a task or it likely won’t be done.
Given all that, what should a power monitoring solution look like?
Well, first, it would need to ideally take up little or no additional space inside a panel. That is a high priority.
What isn’t as clear it that it should go in to new panels and old ones as well. The vast majority of the building stock in North America, Europe and the rest of the developed world is not new. Instead, the buildings are often decades old, and no one wants to rip out existing panels in order to put in power monitoring solutions.
What else should the ideal solution offer?
Second, it should be able to monitor not only energy consumption but other parameters. For instance, it would be nice if it measured the three phases of a voltage supply. Why? Suppose that the load on various power phases shows an imbalance. Maybe two of the three phases are right about 50% but the third phase is much higher, maybe 85%. Knowing that means you can spot a small problem in an electrical asset early on.
A monitoring solution should track energy, currents, power and voltages. That will make it possible to not only measure energy consumption but also to monitor the health of equipment, as shown by the example above.
Third, the best solution will provide a variety of ways to alarm. It should pre-alarm, for instance, when a refrigerator or compressor is near a voltage or energy consumption danger level. And if there’s a power loss or overload-on-trip, it should send out an alarm via email.
Making the most of the collected data means that a solution should easily integrate into a BMS. With that, power monitoring can be part of an overall Internet of Things strategy.
Fourth, an optimum solution also should be wireless. That is necessary for two related reasons: cost and convenience. With wireless, there’s no need to pull cable, which is complex, expensive and time-consuming when monitoring systems are added in an existing panel. Going wireless also avoids the problems that can arise when connections are made incorrectly, which can take some time to troubleshoot.
For an example of such a solution, consider PowerTag from Schneider Electric. It’s a wireless power monitoring device that plugs into the popular Acti 9 and Multi 9 circuit breakers.
What this means is that the extra space taken up inside the panel is … well, it’s virtually nothing. There’s no need to find and give up precious DIN rail real estate to get power monitoring. And that is true for new and old installations
Also, these power monitoring devices natively integrate into wired or wireless Acti 9 Smartlink systems, making it that much easier to tie into a BMS.
For more information on how to boost the bottom line and satisfy energy saving regulations, please visit our PowerTag web page.
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