Understanding Energy Data: More Points for Metering Not Always Better

fries napkins ketchup

It’s a truism that you can never get enough of a good thing. Think of the extra stuff you grabbed during your last fast food run: Fistful of napkins? Thirteen packets of ketchup?–Check, check.

Not so surprisingly, many industrial facility managers look at taking a similar approach with metering energy use: The more points, the better. Despite—or maybe because of—the richness of available data, extracting and then maximizing its value can be difficult. Some customers have had many points installed with “wires still dangling,” meaning collected data never feeds into a system. Just as frequently, these points are tied into a system but views, dashboards, and reports don’t communicate beneficial information.

Why? Call it a case of data overload. The complexity of working with and understanding energy data—especially high-volume interval data—increases with the number of points. Yes, you can always aggregate metered data for reporting, but it is often not worth the expense to add several sub-meters, for example, when a single meter upstream can capture the same data and a predictive energy model can be used to make the most of that data.

So how many points are optimal for monitoring? Or what should even be metered? There may not be any hard and fast rules, but a minimalist approach could have value and save you some headaches.

Here are three helpful tips to consider as you build (or reconfigure) your next energy information system (EIS):

1) Meter Only What You Plan to Monitor

It makes little sense to have streams of data you don’t ever look at, or can’t make sense of when you do. Some questions you should be able to answer:

  • What data streams do you set some realistic alarms on?
  • Who will respond to those alarms?
  • What will they do when alarms occur?
  • Is the data granular enough to determine the problem, or do you have to talk to system operators to figure out what changed?

2) Meter Only What You Can Effectively Improve

Forget metering the “Steady Eddies,” the systems that always have the same run times or output. Because people drive energy usage, pay special attention to systems that can backslide from previous efficiency gains (like savings acquired from improvements to operations and maintenance [O&M]) or those with fluctuating usage schedules. Some questions you should be able to answer:

  • If energy use of a given sub-system is up, can you assess why?
  • Are you able to allocate sub-system energy to the production lines or processes driving that use?
  • Could we get by with less monitoring and an effective whole-facility or key sub-system model factoring in key energy drivers to effectively show when we are getting better or worse?

3) Meter Only What Works within Your Budget

It comes as little surprise that adding several sub-meters to an EIS can add considerable cost to the project —not only hardware, but a lot of personnel time as well. What you might not realize is that it can also intensify the pressure to drive more savings to justify the higher costs. If you’re working too hard to justify the expense to management, you may want to reconsider the scale of your monitoring system. An incremental approach can prove the effectiveness of monitoring one step at a time, and may be the only way to get funding for your monitoring project in the first place.

If you’d like to discuss the right scope for your monitoring project, give us a call. We’ll work with you to find a solution that fits within your budget while maximizing your return on the effort.

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