Submeters: Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

July 13, 2017 Neil Egan

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, lighting and HVAC systems are the largest users of electricity in commercial buildings. And, therefore, they’re a company’s biggest energy expenses.

For a single-tenant or wholly owned facility, it’s fairly easy to control lighting usage and the resultant energy expense. But for multi-tenant commercial facilities, the task becomes more difficult – and all too often, energy-conscious landlords and tenants aren’t reaping the full benefits of their sustainability efforts.

That’s because a typical commercial office building lacks location-specific information about energy consumption. In fact, in many instances, the building tenants do not know which system – lighting, HVAC or plug loads – is using the most energy and where to focus their energy-reduction strategies.

Consequently, tenants making concerted efforts to save energy are often paying more than their fair share of utility costs, and those tenants lagging behind may be paying too little. Therein lies the flaw in apportioning energy expense based solely on each tenant’s leased square footage.

As our VP of Commercial Office, Jed Dorsheimer, explains in this recently published white paper, there is a solution: submeters. Often built into the building-management system, submeters acquire and transmit data on the actual use of lighting, HVAC systems (chillers/air handlers) and plug loads.

The data captured by the submeters can then be aggregated and rolled up into a visualization program so that owners, operators, managers and tenants can spot trends and implement procedures that help modify behaviors in order to meet the organization’s energy- and cost-reduction goals.

New submeters to the rescue

In days gone by, facility managers in busy commercial properties avoided using submeters because installation was complex, labor costs were high and power shutoffs were lengthy. Today, technology advancements have led to the development of alternative submeter systems – many incorporating wireless and online functionality – that eliminate previous installation barriers.

As is the case with converting traditional lighting to LED lighting, upfront costs for submeters continue to drop and are paid back in energy savings over increasingly shorter time frames. Simple to install and featuring easy-to-use graphical interfaces for desktop management, new submeters can help users pinpoint potential areas of energy waste while monitoring energy-consumption goals.

The Acuity Brands submeter solution, SiteView™ Energy, is the first in a suite of applications hosted on our nLight ECLYPSE™ controller, the industry’s first smart-building-ready controller that combines both lighting and HVAC controls onto one platform. SiteView Energy includes a real-time informational dashboard and up to five energy meters to monitor and aggregate data from lighting or any other electric load.

Given the focus on environmental sustainability in today’s business world, including daylight harvesting and other code requirements, companies must zealously monitor and control energy consumption. Today’s newest submeter technologies provide a way to monitor activities, engage occupants, and promote energy and sustainability initiatives.

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