SiteSage, Energy Management, and Small Commercial Facilities, Part 1

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Part 1: Reducing Energy Consumption for Commercial Facilities

Anna Maria Historic Green VillagePowerhouse Dynamics has been selling SiteSage (formerly eMonitor) for over many years now – both to homeowners as well as to business owners. Since the first version of our platform supported single-phase power only, most of our systems were installed in homes. However, there are a number of businesses with single phase power that recognized the value of an energy management system and installed the SiteSage platform in their facilities. One of those businesses was the Historic Green Village.

As one of our long-standing commercial customers, how has SiteSage performed?

The Commercial Customer

Anna Maria Historic Green Village (HGV) is a unique, sustainable commercial development in Anna Maria, Florida. The village is comprised of five buildings. Four of the five are renovated historic buildings and one is new construction. The campus is a mix of retail spaces, food service, office and residential units. One of the HGV developer’s goals is for the entire campus to become the first Zero Net Energy and Platinum LEED certified campus in Florida.

The Problem: Higher than Expected Energy Costs

Despite a significant investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy generation technologies, the Historic Green Village was initially not meeting its goal of net-zero energy consumption. The challenge was that energy demand in the Café was higher than anticipated.

The Answer: Clear insight into Energy Consumption

Measuring actual energy use by circuitThe HGV team decided to invest in the SiteSage platform in order to diagnose their energy issues and reduce overall energy consumption and costs. Powerhouse Dynamics’ SiteSage gave the design team invaluable insight by providing real-time circuit-level consumption data.

SiteSage revealed that the largest energy users in the HGV Café were their two air conditioners, the refrigerated display case, several other refrigerators and freezers, and the Espresso and coffee machines. In the first few days of operation, the HGV team discovered that an air conditioning compressor was unexpectedly cycling on and off due to an improperly programmed HVAC control sequence. Anna Maria General StoreTypically, this type of problem would have gone undetected for a long time. Identifying and correcting this sequence of operations alone paid for HGV’s investment in SiteSage.

With the help of SiteSage, the HGV team also determined that the refrigerated display case was causing an energy “vicious cycle” in the Café. The rejected heat from the refrigerator’s compressor was causing the Café’s air conditioning units to work overtime at night. The team added a thermally insulating “night blanket” to the refrigerated display case to reduce the off-hours excessive energy consumption. With SiteSage, the team measured a 25% reduction in power consumed by the display case once this corrective action was taken.

By drilling down in the SiteSage dashboard, the HGV team discovered excessive off-hours energy consumption in many of the smaller kitchen appliances. For example, SiteSage showed that coffee and espresso machines were frequently left on all night long, consuming electricity and generating unnecessary heat. Once this issue became visible, the staff installed a number of low-cost power strips with timers to ensure these power-hungry devices were not inadvertently left running during off-hours.

Historic Green Village Cafe at RosedaleAsset Management: Improving equipment performance

The Historic Green Village’s Cafe has a solar thermal system to reduce electric demand for making hot water. Almost as soon as it was installed, SiteSage revealed that the auxiliary electric water heater was working far more than expected. This unexpected demand for auxiliary electric water heating led the team to discover that the solar thermal plumbing had been inadvertently installed backwards. The result was that nearly all the hot water demand for the Café was being supplied by the electric hot water system instead of the solar thermal system. Once the plumbing issue was corrected, the electric hot water consumption was sharply reduced.

Commercial Facility Energy Efficiency: The Verdict

By using SiteSage to help identify and eliminate excessive energy consumption in their commercial facilities, the HGV team was able to achieve their goal of consuming less energy than their solar array was producing.

There was one problem remaining, however. HGV still had periods where their total energy demand spiked above the threshold where their local utility imposed peak demand charges on their monthly electricity bill.

In my next blog, I’ll describe how the Historic Green Village team addressed this other challenge.