Traditional HVAC equipment is initially less expensive because of the wide availability of the equipment, but over time, the end user will spend significantly more in energy costs. Increasingly, businesses are looking at solar and other green alternative energy systems to replace outdated and inefficient HVAC equipment and building automation management equipment. A primary requirement in today’s economy is containing the cost of the initial implementation.
Modern alternative energy systems are more complex and require a significant initial investment to purchase and install. Additional training and/or staff may be required to migrate to and maintain the new systems, adding another budgetary challenge. However, there are clear benefits to making this investment. Long-term savings are significant, and newer systems can run businesses more efficiently, with less downtime.
Improving Efficiency Using IP
Companies can reduce the upfront costs of new control systems by choosing a design that utilizes the existing IP network infrastructure for communication of modern control and monitoring systems. Significant savings are realized by utilizing existing infrastructure.
Choosing automation systems that support IP-enabled communications will minimize wiring and cabling, enabling a cleaner installation and a more intelligent operation. IP-based systems provide the ability to remotely control and monitor the equipment from anywhere in the world using a standard web browser. Fig. 1 shows a building automation system and remote monitoring over the Internet.
Facilities can take further advantage of network capabilities by monitoring systems over the Internet, minimizing onsite staff requirements.
Modern IP-enabled controllers provide serial interfaces and a flexible set of inputs and outputs that enable existing legacy equipment to be “network-enabled”. Collectively, they bring enormous value to the overall system as a bridge between the IP and analog worlds.
These intelligent devices enable communication between new systems and legacy equipment, enhancing the return value for companies that plan to upgrade to alternate energy systems, such as solar or geothermal, while keeping some of the existing equipment operational.
Using IP-enabled systems and devices enables an IT manager or systems integrator to use much of what is already in place, taking advantage of the common IP network to add connectivity to existing legacy systems, and seamlessly merge them with new energy management systems. This makes the transition to a modern, energy-efficient system an imminent cost-saving reality rather than a distant future possibility.
Management of intelligent devices in the network can be comprehensively monitored and controlled via the web at significantly lower cost than a few years ago. Interfaces can be customized to the customer’s specifications to ensure transparency of application look and feel. Software prices are significantly lower, enabling customers to monitor multiple devices, and to manage an entire building or multiple locations through the web-enabled interface. Popular management implementations are temperature monitoring, alarming, and trending within a single building or a campus.
Data can be collected from various sources to closely monitor critical processes, define alarm limits and communication modes for alarm notifications. Alarms can be received remotely by e-mail, mobile phone, or locally by connecting relay modules to trigger strobes or to broadcast an audible alarm in the area.
DataNab’s Building Monitor provides users with all of the standard features necessary in a front-end software solution, including:
- Visualization and monitoring of real-time data
- Ability to change modes and set points manually or by schedule
- Powerful alarming functionality
- Creation of data logs and graphical trends for reporting and analysis
The open standards Building Monitor enables easier entry into management of multiple facilities, devices, and sensors from a standard web browser, either remotely or on location.
Deploying Wireless and Wired Sensors
Sensors provide access to real-time information anywhere in the production cycle, enabling a critical capability to monitor processes, react quickly to potential problems and support high levels of quality control. Both wired and wireless sensors can be networked within a system. A wireless gateway (Fig. 2) manages data from wireless temperature and relative humidity sensors.
Wired sensors connect into I/O control devices on IP or serial networks. An IP-enabled I/O device can pass data to the automation or monitoring software over the IP network. Serial enabled I/O devices (RS-232 or RS-485) will utilize an Ethernet network to a gateway device to bridge the serial and IP network. Wireless sensors are either WiFi-enabled or use RF technology. WiFi sensors pass information directly over the IP network.
Integrating sensors with many mobile GPS fleet management systems addresses new market demands such as temperature monitoring during transport by businesses requiring low-cost embedded control or monitoring solutions. Temperature-related applications will find low cost, added functionality in 1-wire sensor options that are now available. Likewise, industries implementing HVAC and refrigeration, solar, geothermal and other alternative energy systems that use multiple temperature sensors to monitor temperature will realize cost benefits from using 1-wire sensors.
The new sensors include an ultra-low-cost inline-potted design, a miniature stainless steel probe design that can be strapped to pipes, and a unique flush-mount room temperature design that can be concealed within walls. Fig. 3 shows a 1-wire gateway for temperature and humidity monitoring & logging.
The 1-wire sensors reduce costs by enabling the use of lower cost controllers and simplifying how the sensors can be deployed over a network infrastructure. The company’s intelligent temperature and humidity sensors feature built-in, uniquely addressable chips to support communication over a single cable, minimizing costs associated with labor and materials.
Built-in addressability of the 1-Wire chips allow the sensors to communicate to a central controller over a single-cable network in a daisy-chained fashion. This provides a more efficient alternative to legacy solutions that require a dedicated “home-run” cable to the controller from each sensor, eliminating the need for multiple wires and multiple A/D input connections.
Transitioning from legacy systems to more modern IP-based, alternative energy systems can seem to be a daunting task. Ultimately, the cost savings and benefits derived from the transition are:
- Lower energy costs by using more efficient HVAC and lighting systems.
- Lower personnel and maintenance costs. IP-enabled systems can be managed and controlled remotely, eliminating the need for 24/7 maintenance staff.
- Less downtime when problems or failures occur as detection is noted immediately through email or text alarms.
- Higher levels of manageability utilizing the IP and mobile networks for sensor integration.
Monitoring the devices and facility from a web-based, low-cost management application makes network operation more proactive, less complex, and more cost-effective for end users and systems integrators.