It pays to invest 

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Chris Pearson, managing director at Vickers, explains why it makes sense for commercial and industrial businesses to invest in an energy management system.

As the UK aims to meet its carbon reduction targets for 2020 and 2050, there’s growing pressure on commercial and industrial premises to use energy sparingly and as efficiently as possible. The built environment has long been identified by the government as a major contributor to Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions – responsible for about 46% of UK emissions, with non-domestic buildings accounting for around 19%. With increasing legislative measures being levied on commercial and industrial premises to reduce energy consumption, the investment in an energy management system can yield significant savings in both energy and money. Let’s take a further look.

It’s estimated that 20% of a business’ energy costs is due to wasted energy. This can be caused by inefficient equipment or simply due to heat loss in older buildings. This alone is reason to plug the wastage and recover losses by investing in improved equipment. 

Today, there are a whole raft of legislative measures now in place to ensure existing commercial and industrial premises conserve energy. The Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES) currently tackles older commercial buildings. This requires landlords to provide an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) upon the proposed letting of a property. Should the EPC rating fall lower than band E, the landlord will be prevented from leasing the property. With an estimated 20% of UK commercial property unable to meet this criteria, and with the possibility of MEES rising in the future, the work that’s required to bring these buildings up to scratch will be colossal. 

Industrial buildings aren’t exempt from the legislative heat either. The Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) is just one example. This is a mandatory energy assessment scheme for larger UK organisations that requires an ESOS assessment to be carried out every four years. This includes audits of the energy used by the building, as well as industrial processes and transport, to identify cost-effective energy saving measures.

Making an investment

This is where a simple investment in an Energy Management System (EMS) comes in. Designed to deliver accurate heating control with maximum efficiency, an EMS can make savings of up to 60% on energy bills – a sure fire way for both commercial and industrial premises to gain control of their heating and reduce energy bills and CO2 emissions at the same time. A typical EMS works by monitoring, controlling and regulating the performance of a building’s heating system, ensuring that it’s always fully optimised and only using energy as and when required, which ultimately increases efficiency.

Of course, every business is different. For example, some manufacturing, storage, and retail sites often require different temperatures throughout various zones within the building. Chilled food may be stored in one area and curing products in another, whilst the office space will require a much more comfortable environment. Advanced systems can monitor and regulate temperatures throughout a building without the need for manual intervention, multiple systems, clock settings or extra equipment. Advanced self-learning programmes also enable the system to calculate the necessary burn time for individual heaters to achieve their target temperature and can even detect how long each will take to cool down and switch off accordingly. The inclusion of an external sensor provides further efficiencies by varying the internal target temperatures in response to prevailing weather conditions. 

The best Energy Management Systems are those that are compatible with all makes of heating systems and that work alongside varying types of heaters including; warm air, radiant, air handlers, boilers and thermoliers. 

Some of the more sophisticated systems have the capability to control lighting too, with some of these being compatible with DALI protocol (Digital Addressable Lighting Interface). This widely available digital technology allows scheduling, dimming, and scene setting the lighting within commercial and industrial buildings. Lighting management generates additional energy savings of 30-50%, according to the Carbon Trust.

Flexible scheduling 

Significant savings come from the flexibility of scheduling lighting by allowing multiple lighting zones to be created and controlled, independently of wiring, and times can be pre-set to switch on/off or dimmed outside of working hours or in specific areas. Dimming the lighting can also contribute to further energy reductions. Not only will lighting fixtures last longer, lower refurbishment and maintenance costs can be realised. 

Lights which are not DALI compatible can still be controlled by EMS. Lighting zones will then be limited by the wiring – however significant energy savings are still possible to achieve. Sensors can switch off the lights when not needed, or adjust the brightness depending on the natural light level entering the room. This is ideal for areas that aren’t used regularly. 

Using an EMS is usually fool-proof too, and can be monitored from any location courtesy of cloud-based, secure technology. In addition to viewing performance and energy usage, changes can be made from any internet enabled device; thereby providing the ultimate in control. It’s also possible to produce automated monthly reports to show the benefits gained from installing the EMS.

As the drive to improve energy efficiency through more stringent regulations continues, we will see smart technologies such as building automation and control systems take on even greater importance. There’s no time like the present to invest in an EMS or to upgrade to a more sophisticated version. With a typical payback period of just two to three years, it’s an investment that will yield substantial returns for years to come.