Electricity Rewired

Driving Real Cost Savings - Track Your Energy, says Digital Lumens

March 31st, 2016

This month we’ve sourced a fantastic article from lighting group Digital Lumens.

Check out their white paper on how tracking your energy drives real cost savings, which is not only a
great throwback to last month’s post on real-time monitoring

It's an easy and fascinating read that emphasises why it’s always worth your while to consider energy efficiency. Making genuine financial savings, reducing CO 2 emissions and setting a sustainable example are only the beginning!

Time to Get Real: Why Real-time Energy Monitoring is a Must

February 29th, 2016
Guest post by Sheena Ong

Most people sweat the small stuff without understanding the real, big energy villains at their facility. But real-time monitoring is a growing technology that gives you – users and managers – visibility of the when, how and where of your energy consumption, giving you the power to get savvy, cut wastage and improve energy efficiency.

As an energy consultant, I’ve seen so many clients rack up exorbitant electricity bills due to accidentally leaving their air conditioners running after hours.

It’s almost painful to watch those energy graphs stack up when it’s 11pm… 1am… 3am… 5am… or on holidays when the building is empty… and to think about all that electricity wasted, money burned and CO2 emitted when no one’s onsite to enjoy the comfortably chilled atmosphere. Ouch! It’s almost as heartbreaking as seeing the horror on my clients’ faces when they realise it, too!

But the good news for my clients is: they know about it. And that means that they can change. (And they do; I’ve seen clients save hundreds of dollars a month from responding to data/knowledge about their energy consumption, and improving their staff behaviours or equipment).

How do they know? It’s all thanks to a nifty but simple technology known as real-time energy monitoring, which is attracting growing interest as smart businesses realise that knowledge is power – literally.

A real-time, multi-point monitoring device is a unit that records your energy consumption in real time – sometimes as good as minute by minute – and tells you which part of your site is using energy whether that’s your lighting, your air conditioners, the cool room, the ovens…

One of my personal favourites when it comes to real-time energy monitoring: BEST’s Eniscope Hybrid, a retrofittable device with 8 monitoring channels and its own cloud-based software program Analytics

The cloud-based software Analytics, which comes with the Eniscope Hybrid and lets you access live data from nearly anywhere, anytime, in a dynamic and easy-to-use way

Most real-time monitoring devices and programs are even smart enough to send you an alert when things go wrong – which you can customise to receive on your phone or by email, and intervene straight away – or generate reports in a range of file formats.

But what are the benefits of all this knowledge? Why monitor your energy in real time?

Well, as mentioned before, you can identify wastages like those pesky after-hours air conditioners and react immediately.

Second, you can understand the big energy users at your site (equipment or areas) to target for energy efficiency projects, letting you invest wisely in your chosen improvement initiative.

You also have the data for auditing, compliance and stakeholder reporting.

Finally, you can measure the improvements from other efficiency projects you undertake, such as the “before” and “after” of a new lighting upgrade. In short, real-time monitoring empowers you to manage your energy in a smart, efficient and reliable way – because when it comes to energy, you can’t control what you don’t understand.

A neat little extra is having a public display portal. I’ve seen many clients enjoy the benefits of a big LED screen in their foyer telling their customers, staff and community how much energy they’re using – or better still, not using! It’s a great educational tool to foster sustainability awareness (not to mention earn a little sustainability kudos for the business!).

These public energy displays from Solar-Log are a great example of display screens showcasing the value of energy efficiency – fun, engaging, educational

There are countless examples of the value of real-time monitoring and what it can reveal: Appliances you never thought about may be drawing huge loads. A timer might have reset itself and started switching on the ACs at four in the morning. There might have been an electrical outage and some loads not re-connected. Phase imbalances might dog a particular area and be wearing out the electrical circuitry… It goes on.

Real-time monitoring changes all that by giving you the “eyes” to “see energy” – where, when, and how much is being used. As a result it lets you control and improve your operations, save money, and say goodbye to wastage.

There’s no excuse nowadays for blind-guessing your energy efficiency projects given the range of monitoring technologies available at our fingertips – yet most managers and owners are stuck in the dark ages.

Don’t let that be you. It’s time to Get Real about your energy use!

Storage Without Batteries: Are You Generating The Best Value From Your PV?

January 29th, 2016
Guest post by Christian Fahrig

Are you optimising the consumption of your invaluable photovoltaic energy? It all starts with being aware of the peak solar times (when maximum PV energy is generated)… and saving it up for later!

Most solar in WA is installed on residential households so whether you’re a business owner or not, you might have PV panels at home and want to listen up!

PV systems generate most electricity around the middle of the day (10am-3pm) so we refer to these as peak PV periods.

But the current situation for most households (and some businesses) is that this peak-time PV is exported for almost nothing to the energy grid, where they get very little payback, instead of it being used for their own advantage – that is, to avoid the grid electricity costs they’d otherwise pay.

So what can you do if you’re generating all this solar during the day but not using the energy until later and being able to enjoy the PV $ savings? You come back home in the afternoon, start the air con to cool down the overheated house and are unable to use the already exported invaluable energy that you generated earlier.

This may not be necessary with the following technique, which is related to energy storage and insulation of the building. Here’s the principle.

The first point is the storage. We want the inside brick wall as a storage medium. This medium is able to store heat and cold for us and sustains the desirable environment in our rooms that is created by the AC or heater powered by PV while there’s plenty available during those peak times.

The second important point is not to lose the thermal conditions inside your building to the environment, which would mean that when you switch on the AC or heater later in the day, it needs to fight the conditions already in the building (while having less PV to power this process than earlier on). This can be done by sufficient insulation (e.g. 120-160 mm Rockwool) on the roof and double insulated windows and doors.

By using the high PV energy during peak times to run the air con / heater during the day and cool down the building (summer) or heat it up (winter), stored in the inside walls, you can provide the required energy buffer. The energy will remain thanks to sufficient insulation during the rest of the day and the storing medium, and can be exchanged with your body temperature in the afternoon.

The amount of energy to keep the house in the same stage is a lot smaller. With this technique, you may be able to drop your energy consumption during the evening because you’ve put in the “effort” earlier in the day when the PV was most available to support those heating and cooling systems!

(By the way, this all assumes that you’re on the normal 7c REBS feed-in tariff… If you’re on the high value solar FIT and making heaps of money selling your excess PV to the grid, go ahead – export away!)

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