How this university saved $200,000 by fixing one facilities issue

HVAC system failures are common, costly to solve—and difficult to detect on campus, Alan Joch writes for EdTech magazine.

Heating and cooling issues can cost thousands of dollars in wasted energy, so institutions are turning to the Internet of Things (IoT) to become more energy efficient, he writes.

At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), energy engineers installed a network of 60,000 sensors equipped with an algorithm to detect HVAC breakdowns. The sensory data funnels into an online dashboard that alerts engineers about HVAC performance issues, Joch writes.

Since implementing the data-driven energy management system, UNL saved about $200,000 in one year, estimates Lalit Agarwal, the university's director of utility and energy management.

Pairing IoT with energy management systems "often results in direct cost savings," says Steve Hoffenberg, a director of IoT and embedded technology at VDC Research.

Also see: 3 reasons why you need to turn up the thermostat in the summer

But successfully implementing an IoT energy management system requires close coordination between departments, says Chuck Benson, the assistant director of IT and facilities services at the University of Washington. As IT and operations staff often approach problems differently, these teams need regular meetings, starting early in the process, to work effectively together, suggests Benson.

UNL's energy sensors also support the campus' ongoing recommissioning efforts, Joch writes. The sensors have helped UNL improve the energy efficiency of more than a dozen buildings and reduce the school's overall energy consumption by 17%, says Agarwal. So far, Agarwal's team has only addressed a few of the 130 buildings on campus, so they expect even greater energy savings in the future, he adds (Joch, EdTech, 2/20).

Also see: How to create a culture of commissioning


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