April 18, 2017

Big Data Yields Big Savings in HVAC

What if you could help your customers save 17% on their energy bill? According to Vladi Shunturov, president of Lucid, a software company specializing in Big Data, your customers’ building data can provide the opportunity to do just that. Today’s customer is concerned about energy savings, and you can give them all they need: vents that protect their building envelope, high-performance equipment, and better decisions thanks to Big Data.

The term Big Data refers to datasets that are so large and complex that they can’t be analyzed by a human being. Big Data isn’t just millions of instances of the same 5 indicators but often consists of hundreds, or even thousands, of data points. For example, Daikin sells a rooftop chiller that offers building managers access to 150 data points.

A chiller is only one component of a building control system. When you factor in other managed systems such as ventilation, heating, lighting and security, the data points that could be gathered gets into the thousands. This is data that can be collected in real time and stored, resulting in millions of data segments each year, which is definitely more than any human can make sense of.

Data gathered from building control systems can be used by building managers to monitor energy expenses, data on occupancy, equipment performance, lighting history and any other feature that the control system interacts with. In order to achieve energy savings, your customers need to leverage all this data into better decision making. That’s where software comes in.

Big Data requires specialized software, often referred to as analytics software or analytic tools, to organize and present it in a way that we humans can work with. Building controls systems are capable of collecting a whole lot of data, and many manufacturers now provide software that presents the data visually on the building operator’s PC, tablet or smartphone.

Is Big Data affordable?

The data analytics tools that come with new building controls are great, but not all of your customers will be able to install a new building control system for financial and logistic reasons. Fortunately, your customers can still harness the power of big data without a complete overhaul of equipment.

An example of a successful Big Data retrofit is the Washington Athletic Club in Seattle. Built in 1930, the skyscraper is a mix of hotel rooms, banquet halls and sports facilities including a full-size pool. Some of the HVAC equipment was decades old, but upgrading all of it at once was not a feasible option. Instead, building engineer Mike Young focused on gathering as much data as he could while replacing some of the older equipment.

The insights that came out of this $1 million project saved the Washington Athletic Club $630,000 in energy bills in the first three years. Another company that has leveraged Big Data for energy savings is Microsoft. Using big data to manage their 125 building headquarters in Redmond, Washington, the company saved $1.2 million energy costs in a single year.

Building automation has been around since the 1970s, so even older equipment has the capacity to provide data. The challenge with collecting Big Data from building control systems is dealing with the various protocols and languages. But this is bound to change as more building managers become aware of the benefits of Big Data.

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