How Is Your Energy
Meter Like the
Steve Tredinnick, PE, Infrastructure Project Engineer/Manager, Affiliated Engineers Inc.
Editor’s Note: “Inside Insights” is a column designed to address ongoing issues
of interest to building owners, managers
and operating engineers who use district
So how many of you recall your parents saying, “Don’t run with scissors
or you’re going to poke your eye
out” or “Your face will freeze like that,
then you’ll be sorry”? And of course, there
is always the clean underwear adage. Now
that I am a parent I never say such silly
things (yeah, right), but my all-time favorite
saying at the family dinner table is, “Are
you going to finish that? Waste not, want
not.” After all, I am a child of parents who
lived during the Great Depression. Of course
after saying that for the past 15 years and
finishing what was on my kids’ plates, I am
now looking for that magic diet pill to
lose a quick 20 to 25 pounds.
Now assuming that I am taking a
magic lose-weight-fast pill, or all that
Internet spam about hoodia is true, how do
I know I am succeeding in losing weight? I
need some sort of metric or measuring
device – or to be more precise, a bathroom
scale. I can use this device to track and
benchmark my progress in my never-end-ing weight management struggle. I am
not advocating this, but you could do an
experiment to see how quickly weight is
gained by eating a half gallon of ice cream
every night for a month before bed or how
slowly weight comes off when eating only
a tossed salad for every meal for many
weeks. Yuck! Of course starving yourself
may help in the short term, but it’s not
much of a long-term solution.
So it is with saving energy in buildings.
With escalating and unstable energy prices,
building managers are increasingly looking
for tools to ‘trim the fat’ and reduce energy
usage and costs. Just
as in dieting, there are
solutions or ‘magic
pills’ that work and
others that don’t; and
most times the high
costs are as hard to
swallow as the magic
To curb your facility’s appetite for energy,
you must be able to
measure its caloric
intake and manage it
wisely. So what can you do? Start benchmarking. You need that metric or measuring device. Most buildings have them, but
are you using it to its fullest extent? The
energy meter – electric or Btu – is just the
device that can be used. Benchmarking
energy use measures system efficiency and
targets buildings for energy-saving measures. The goal is to obtain a performance
benchmark for future reference. When
equipment fails to meet this benchmark,
owners may need to improve or increase
maintenance procedures (such as cleaning, lubricating, etc.) or work to optimize
operating parameters (such as set points,
lockout strategies, capacity control strategies) or both. Benchmarking can also
improve the decision-making process in
the evaluation of potential capital projects.
It is often said, “What you don't know
won't hurt you”; nothing could be further
from the truth when you operate a building
or campus, as Cheryl Gomez knows. Cheryl
is director of energy and utilities at the
University of Virginia (UVA) and IDEA’s current chair. UVA has implemented a campus
submetering program based on the old
business management adage, “You can’t
manage what you don’t measure.” Still in
its infancy, the program allows UVA to use
the metered data to benchmark energy
usage against similar buildings on campus
to identify abnormalities to be addressed,
provide a troubleshooting tool and identify
production and consumption trends.
Similarly, Ray DuBose, director of energy services at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC), has implemented a
strategic energy and water plan that monitors campus electricity, chilled-water and
steam usage for buildings. This allows them
to analyze equipment usage, maximize sys-
Six Axioms of Good Business Management
• You don’t know what you don’t know..
• You can’t do what you don’t know..
• You don’t know until you measure.
• You don’t measure what you don’t value.
• You don’t value what you don’t measure.
And similarly, the energy manager’s adage:
• If you don’t collect it, you can’t measure it.
• If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it.
tem efficiency and correct any system problems that occur. Although savings are not
yet quantified, the benchmarking assists in
troubleshooting and enables them to identify buildings that should be the highest priorities for energy upgrades.
Another energy evaluation tool was
developed by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) in its “ENERGY