Reduce utility and equipment costs with building automation

August 11, 2017  •  Brian Gregory

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How Building Automation can help

Building automation can help save your school time, improve energy efficiency, and decrease utility costs by reducing the need to manually interact with equipment.

For example, FMX customer, Broadmoor Baptist Church has saved $5,500 a month in utilities after integrating FMX with their Building Automation System (BAS). This integration enabled them to turn their lighting and HVAC systems on and off automatically according to their event and activity schedule. Prior to FMX, a staff member had to turn the systems on and off manually.

A BAS also triggers alerts when your building conditions (i.e. humidity) are outside the desired range and when your equipment is not performing as required. This functionality can often warn you about an issue before it becomes a real problem. By integrating your BAS with a CMMS like FMX, you can receive alerts and even trigger corresponding work orders in your CMMS.

For example, FMX customer, Teays Valley School District, uses FMX to manage their alarms for their HVAC, plumbing, and other systems. Check out the screenshots from their BAS and FMX site below:

[slideshare id=78735069&doc=basscreenshots-170810142423]

Teays Valley uses an FMX custom module, "BAS Alarm Requests" to generate work requests based on their BAS alarms. These work requests include links to the alarms in their BAS management system. By clicking these links, they can view more information about the alarm and how the equipment is currently functioning.

Building Automation tips and tricks

Interested in pursuing Building Automation? Here’s some tips and tricks to get you started:

Go with an open system (BACnet preferred)

For a long time, BAS’s were closed systems, meaning the infrastructure (i.e. terminal controllers, AHU controllers, etc.) of your system can only communicate with other controllers from that same manufacturer. Recently, open systems are becoming more and more available. With an open system, your BAS infrastructure can communicate with infrastructure from other manufacturers.

The advantage of open systems is that you can add automation to other equipment/building systems over time without having to stay with the same manufacturer. You can also shop around for the best BAS infrastructure for each piece of equipment: for example, Manufacturer A might make the best BAS infrastructure for your HVAC system but Manufacturer B might be best for your Radon monitoring. When looking for an open system, we recommend looking for one that communicates using the BACnet protocol.

Commission your system once a season (winter, spring, summer, fall) for the first year

Most systems are commissioned only once, following the install. This can lead to comfort problems and inefficiency when the seasons change and the initial configuration doesn’t adapt properly. To commission your system, you’ll need to run through the normal operations of each piece of equipment that you’re monitoring or automating. For example, perform the normal HVAC operations you have during the winter like morning warmup. This process will enable you to ensure that the system is operating optimally for comfort and efficiency.

Your BAS should be retro-commissioned once every five years, to verify that everything is still working correctly. This is important because the system consists of many moving parts and sensors that can break down or go out of calibration. Sometimes these issues won’t manifest themselves as comfort problems but they can cost you dearly on your energy bill. Unless there’s a major change to your building, such as a major increase in occupancy, there is no need to go through the full commissioning process again.

How FMX can help: You can schedule commissioning as planned maintenance tasks in FMX. You can also set up automatic reminders for when your task is upcoming, due, or overdue.

Choose a system with a simple and intuitive user interface

The primary skill set of your maintenance/facilities team is to fix and maintain physical equipment, not to deal with computer systems. That’s why it is so important to have a simple and intuitive user interface. If the technical complexity of your BAS is too great, your maintenance team won’t use it.

Make the system accessible remotely from a variety of platforms (desktop, tablet, and smart phone)

You’ll likely need to access your system on the go or from home more than you think.

Limit access to trained staff only!

Untrained users can accidentally override your settings, which can cause increased energy use, damage to buildings and equipment, and potential comfort issues.

Utilize alarms and trends effectively

Set up your alarms so that you only include the ones that are urgent or critical. A good rule of thumb is that every alarm that you have should get your attention. If you set up alarms for non-critical items, you increase the chance of your critical alerts being overlooked. If you have an alarm that’s a nuisance (you dismiss it each time), you shouldn’t have that as an alarm anymore.

However, when it comes to setting up histories/logs, the best practice is to apply them more than you think you’ll need. Trend everything, because you’ll never know when you’re going to need access to that data. Keep trend logs for a month. There’s rarely a case where you’ll need to go back more than a month for the trends.

How FMX can help

FMX’s REST API allows us to integrate with Building Automation Systems and our Customer Success team can help you set up this integration. With FMX you can:

  • Allow staff and community to schedule events in FMX and automatically call on HVAC, lighting, and other equipment without granting access to the BAS.
  • Track comments, costs, and labor hours for BAS alarms
  • Schedule preventive maintenance based on actual equipment runtime

And much more.

Several FMX customers, including Teays Valley School District, work with our partner, Dynamix Energy Services. Dynamix is a full-service, vendor-neutral energy services company that focuses on implementing and installing creative, well-engineered solutions, including Building Automation Systems.



Brian Gregory FMX Blog Headshot ImageBrian is the visionary behind the design and development of FMX. He has extensive experience in energy management of turn-key energy savings projects including 7 years of Building Automation experience. After hours he enjoys trail running, reading, and going to live music shows.

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