Reduced HVAC energy waste

In this installment of What Works, a South Carolina plant leads by example with its own service and cuts maintenance incidents by almost a third.

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Chartered in 1874, the city of Seneca occupies 7.1 square miles in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in South Carolina’s far northwest. The 2010 census recorded a population of 8,102, and the National Register of Historic Places lists a number of the city’s residential and commercial properties.

what works sustainabilitySeneca is also home to one of the Schneider Electric manufacturing facilities. This particular 280,000-sq-ft plant manufactures motor control centers (MCCs), which are used in applications ranging from equipment for production lines and oil rigs to equipment in wastewater treatment plants.

In addition to a metal fabrication shop, the plant houses production lines for manufacturing the MCCs. And, like lots of other manufacturing facilities, Schneider Electric operates multiple shifts at this location throughout the week and on weekends.

Controlling the cost to heat, cool, and light a large, open facility with high ceilings can present a variety of challenges. For instance, average temperatures in Seneca range from wintertime lows in the 30s to summertime highs in the 90s.

“Building Analytics diagnosed HVAC issues we didn’t even know we had and paid for itself in the first year based on saving energy and wear and tear on equipment,” says Joshua Coale, facilities technician at the plant.

Maintaining desired comfort levels year-round while ensuring the operating efficiency can be challenging. Schneider Electric selected this U.S. manufacturing facility to participate in the company’s global Energy Action program. This program enables Schneider Electric to lead by example and practice what it preaches to achieve three goals: cut energy waste, deploy energy efficiency solutions at its own sites, and raise employee awareness about energy efficiency solutions.

Implementing its own managed Building Analytics service offered the Seneca plant new ways to identify and address maintenance, comfort, and energy issues for its HVAC system. Schneider Electric began to send information from the Seneca plant’s building systems directly to the company’s cloud-based data storage. The analytics service then diagnosed building performance, identified equipment and system faults, and pinpointed improvements for sequence of operation and energy use at the Seneca plant.

Instead of having to rely primarily on monthly checkups to track performance, comfort levels, and energy and maintenance data, it automatically analyzed the plant’s data every five minutes. And, guided by the Schneider Electric team of building engineers and analysts, the service was able to diagnose and troubleshoot HVAC equipment issues.

For instance, some compressors were short-cycling, causing premature compressor failure and unnecessary wear and tear on contactors due to very small deadbands — intervals where no action occurred. And some units wasted energy due to set points that did not take building occupancy into consideration when determining heating and cooling needs.

The analytics service not only evaluated systems performance, comfort levels, and energy and maintenance data, but also prioritized areas for improvement and validated repairs to optimize building performance. Built on a scalable software architecture and leveraging fault detection and diagnostics, as well as other advanced diagnostics, the service ranked recommendations to achieve the most impactful remedies and energy savings for the Seneca plant.

Customized reports provided insight into avoidable costs, trend analysis, and prioritization of energy maintenance and comfort issues along with recommended actions. These reports pinpointed which systems and equipment had irregularities and then prioritized them based on energy cost, severity, and comfort impact.

With the analytics service, those responsible for building and equipment performance at the Seneca plant have both local and remote access to detailed information about the plant’s system operations. Moreover, staff can now be more proactive in optimizing the building’s systems and energy consumption.

The plant in Seneca realized an 83% decrease in avoidable energy costs related to HVAC operations, saving at least $9,000 in annual costs alone. In addition, the number of maintenance incidents went down by 29%, and comfort incidents decreased by 33%.

The service paid for itself during the first year by providing automated, sophisticated analysis combined with quarterly recommendations and meetings to review opportunities for eliminating energy waste. The service also helped prolong the life of equipment used to heat and cool the facility by reducing equipment abuse.

Today, the facilities staff at the Seneca plant uses the analytics service to quickly get to the root cause of HVAC operational issues. In addition, the staff expects to use it as a planning tool to manage its resources — both equipment and budget in the future.

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