Web-based control of utilities can boost sustainability

Web-based control of utilities can boost sustainability

For a restaurant seeking energy efficiency, an integrated, Web-based control system can make minding the store easier and less costly, said Neil Sainsbury-Carter, business development director for Ecos, a Portland, Ore.-based firm that consults with companies about environmentally sustainable business practices.

Among the functions that a control system can monitor effectively are lighting, kitchen refrigeration, ventilation and landscape irrigation.

Sainsbury-Carter has more than 14 years of experience on both the generation and demand side of the energy business. He has completed more than 150 commercial and industrial energy audits and developed solutions that include efficient lighting, solar thermal and fuel-cell CHP, or combined heat and power, technology.

How can control systems be used to manage HVAC?

The first step is to get a programmable thermostat and lock it down or have a code to access it. The idea is to have a Web-based control system for the set points and monitoring compressor activity. It’s not really a huge additional cost, but you do have to have the ability to add preventive maintenance capabilities based on compressor run times.

There is proven value in setting backspace temperatures based on closure periods. It’s also good to have the ability to control and monitor economizers that bring in free cooling from the outside, based on outside air temperature and humidity, although they don’t work in every climate.

What other control technologies are worthwhile?

If you are going to invest in a control system for HVAC and lighting, I always recommend that you take the next step and monitor your walk-in refrigerator and freezer temperatures and compressor activity. You might find that the evaporator coil has frozen over, which will cause continuous compressor activity. All of the malfunctions that cause extra energy use can be identified through a predictive-alarm capability in most control and monitoring systems.

Most operators also have some sort of landscape irrigation system. There are smart ways of managing that too, through controls that have some level of intelligence around precipitation, season and time of day. There is technology that not only measures soil moisture but also gets data feeds from weather forecasts, so if rain is expected, it doesn’t irrigate.