It’s the start of another school year, and educational facilities (just like every other business) are on the lookout for ways to reduce their energy use. Energy reduction helps schools provide real-life learning opportunities for students around sustainability and environmental care, as well as lowering costs which can then be redirected to teaching areas.
Energy use is the second highest expense1 for most schools, after wages. Installing a Building Management System (BMS) can help to reduce this figure by making existing technology more efficient through better control and behaviours, ensuring power is not being used when it is not necessary.
Comfortable, conducive environments
Students in classrooms which are at a comfortable temperature, have adequate fresh air and low humidity, are better able to concentrate than those sitting in poor climatic conditions2. As a result, having the correct air conditioning technology makes a big difference to the way students perform.
Schools typically use simple thermostats in their classrooms, libraries, and common areas. Often, these are set according to schedules, allowing heating or air conditioning to be turned down during off-hours and activated during the school day. The problem with this approach is that air quality is ignored, and that lighting and HVAC continue to run in unoccupied classrooms, resulting in wasted energy, at significant cost.
How a BMS (and automation technology) can help
A Building Management System can be used to bring together a climate solution with air conditioning, carbon dioxide sensors, humidity sensors and automatic windows. The BMS can then either automatically, or through alerts, turn on heating or cooling, and open windows to achieve optimal climate conditions. Lighting can also be controlled via the BMS.
Additional control units and sensors can be integrated into the overarching solution, creating even greater efficiencies. Some of these technologies include:
Integrated Room Controller
Like thermostats, integrated room controllers can easily be programmed to maintain room temperature according to a schedule. They can be configured and adjusted (with limits) at the classroom level, but they also have an entire range of new intelligent capabilities that can directly reduce a school’s energy costs—often by as much as 30%.
Occupancy sensors can also be part of the solution, with HVAC responding to the number of people present, and lighting only turned on when someone is detected in the room or area. The sensors use infrared, ultrasonic, or microwave technology to detect motion in a room, and then adjust the heating or air conditioning accordingly. The sensors override the standard settings of the room controller, based on actual room usage.
Lighting control gives facility managers the ability to turn lights on and off with a schedule, or to control lights with an occupancy sensor so that they are turned on and off based on room use. Eliminating the lighting of unoccupied rooms can reduce a school’s overall lighting costs by as much as 20%.
Carbon dioxide sensors can be run back to the room controller, or BMS, to provide a trigger to control ventilation fans. The controller can accurately control the amount of fresh, outside air that needs to be brought into the building to ensure that CO2 levels are within ideal limits. Tempering outside fresh air is more energy efficient and improves indoor air quality than tempering recycled air. It also reduces energy costs and fan wear by running the fans only when needed.
More benefits of a BMS
Intelligent BMSs enable school executives to manage energy in a holistic fashion, to plan and budget more accurately, and to save more money over the long term. Additional capabilities of connectivity to a BMS include:
· Alarm notifications if classroom conditions are outside a particular threshold
· Remote access and control to the system
· Pre-cooling or pre-heating to ensure indoor environments are optimal before occupants arrive
· Alerts for when doors or windows have been left open
· Building analytics to understand and manage long-term energy use
· Central management of multiple buildings
· Real-time, continuous monitoring of systems.
Whatever solution is implemented today, schools will need a growth path for future enhancements in order to leverage their investment and achieve maximum ROI over the years. At a minimum, room controllers should be able to be migrated to new buildings and also have the capability to be networked. A BMS application for management and analytics should be upgradeable and easy to maintain.
Many local, state, and federal governments offer Greener Schools incentive programs and funding packages that support the installation of renewable and energy-efficient technologies such as Building Management Systems.
Schneider Electric offers a comprehensive range of energy efficient products and solutions, including lighting control, room controllers, Building Management Systems and more. For more information, or to find a solution to suit your needs visit www.se.com/au.