The Thief in the Night

July 19, 2010

by Kevin Box

There’s a thief in the night that, quite possibly, has visited one or more of your facilities.  If the Optimum Start routines used by your building automation system are not maintained on a regular basis, chances are you’re getting pinched.

Some facilities may not be using Optimum Start at all.  The reasons vary from a lack of expertise on the program, to a bad past experience.  Here’s an example of how it can happen: Monday morning, after responding to an avalanche of hot complaints, the building operator discovers the chiller(s) started and stopped ten times from 2-5AM and subsequently locked out on an alarm.  The operator decides that the Optimum Start program is to blame.  Optimum Start is inhibited and a new schedule is downloaded that starts the entire facility two or three hours before the first occupant arrives.  On Monday, the schedule calls for an extra hour of early run time just to be on the safe side.  Problem solved – or not?  The occupant’s complaints have stopped, but the door has been left open to some serious “KW Kleptomania”.

Remember, when your building is scheduled “Occupied” it’s calling for its full outside and exhaust air quantities.  In southern climates, warm, humid air pours in, while chilled water plants struggle to stage-up to meet this extra “latent” heat load.  It can easily take 3-4 times as long to cool the chilled water loop down under this scenario.  Humidity can actually spike in the facility due to the early “safe” schedule!  It’s two hours before occupancy and the thieves are having their way with your facility… 

And, unlike some underachieving cheats who travel south to relax in the Caribbean for the winter, these energy embezzlers head north to tax boiler users by allowing sub-freezing outside air into the building long before it’s needed.  Steam traps are working overtime, that is if they’re working…  It’s not safe to let your guard down in any climate for even a minute.

Seasons change, years pass and maybe the original person who put in the early schedules has moved on.  Energy costs have soared and Energy Manager/Operator are now getting some serious “heat” from above to cut consumption.  By starting your facility 1-2 hours earlier than necessary, the crooks are probably skimming 5-10% of your energy budget right off the top, maybe more.

You need your Optimum Start routine back; one that is trimmed-up and in fighting shape, ready to thwart the thieves.  Optimum Start is a powerful tool that adapts itself to save energy without sacrificing the comfort of the building occupants. 

Contact your Automated Logic dealer for help implementing Optimum Start and other Energy Conservation Measures to lock-out the Thief in the Night.