Contractors Guide to Submetering - Electrical Contracting Products Magazine

Contractors often find themselves dealing with customers during times of minor crisis, such as a power disruption, unexplained energy spike or equipment failure. The resulting solutions are often hurried, short-term and expensive. While these situations may seem unavoidable at the time, they can often be detected early, saving time and money.

Today's more successful electrical contractors are seeking out opportunities to earn repeat business by suggesting cost-effective products that help customers proactively manage energy consumption. Among the top tools in their high-tech arsenals are submeters and energy intelligence software.

Submeters have proven themselves to be effective tools for diagnosing and preventing problems with key building systems. They are installed behind the traditional glass-covered utility meter to monitor key building systems and tenant usage. When combined with energy intelligence software, submeters provide insight on a building's flow and consumption of electricity. Many submeters are installed with split-core current sensors to eliminate the need to shut off power during installation.

A customer's specific needs with respect to submetering are often determined by its line of work or type of building. By understanding the customer's needs, pain points and constraints, contractors can guide them to solutions that will save them money, time and energy-related headaches in the long run.

Manufacturing & Industrial Customers

Plant operators require accurate, real-time status feedback to evaluate the performance of pumps, compressors, heaters, chillers, conveyors and other electrically powered equipment. By installing energy intelligence software, managers now have insight into deteriorating or problematic equipment when a particular load increases more than normal. Other benefits for plant managers include accurate allocation of energy for product runs, production lines of equipment or departments.

For example, a manufacturing facility shared a location with a sister division and split the energy bill based on an estimation of energy use. The facility was experiencing unusually high energy costs compared to other facilities that manufactured the same products using similar equipment. Preliminary plans were made by the corporate office to shut down the facility and move operations. Managers, in an attempt to solve the problem without having to move the business elsewhere, installed submeters and energy intelligence software to track energy usage of the two divisions and measure usage of specific equipment and processes.

After analyzing the data, managers found that the division paying for 60% of the electricity bill was using less than 41% of the complex's total energy. The data showed that a heat-treating process used once a week was causing a 175 kW spike in energy usage. The division worked with the corporate accounting department to re-allocate its percentage of the energy bill and moved its heat-treating process to a day when overall demand was not as high. The division saved $2,100 per month just by correcting a problem in its heat-treating process. As a result, the division reduced its energy allocation by $324,000 per year and closure plans were cancelled.

Electrical contractors can arm plant managers with vital data on energy usage, power quality and peaks, or shifts in power supply, that can help these customers address these power trends with their utility provider. Contractors should also let plant managers know that data can be used for tracking and allocating energy consumption costs across departments and/or manufacturing lines.

Look beyond the traditional tenant building scenarios for opportunities to be your customer's energy expert. Talk to existing and potential customers about their energy costs and what it means to their business.

Multi-Tenant: Commercial & Residential Facilities

Managers of multi-tenant facilities must keep tenants happy while showing the property owner that building efficiency, occupancy rates and profitability are all in line.

Without submetering, the building manager allocates energy costs and Common Area Management (CAM) charges, depending on the lease agreements, based on tenant use or square footage. In these situations, submeters and energy intelligence software can be installed to monitor actual electricity consumption by both tenants and common areas, track energy use and help facility managers analyze the data to identify areas for cost savings.

Beyond cost savings, the benefits of submeters and energy intelligence software include accurate allocation and increased tenant satisfaction. Building managers gain the ability to allocate and recoup costs based on actual usage versus estimation by square footage. This allows tenants to control their own energy usage and costs, and high energy users often find ways to reduce energy use. Providing solutions for tenants to control their utility costs helps keep them as satisfied, long-term tenants.

In a Phoenix-area luxury condominium community, property managers faced the time-consuming and tedious task of manually reading their submeters and creating accurate energy bills for residents. With energy intelligence software, they were able to see where and how much energy was being consumed in the various areas of the property, including the common areas. Once area of inefficiency identified with the new software resulted in managers replacing hundreds of 60-watt incandescent light bulbs throughout the building's common areas. Overall, energy usage dropped by 90 kWh per month, and costs for these common areas and amenities dropped nearly $600 total per month.

Electrical contractors can arm customers with simple explanations and benefits for tenants. Submetering provides a fair allocation of the building's electricity costs among tenants who are only responsible for the electricity they use, not their neighbors'. They also have better control-the more they conserve, the less they pay.

Institutional and Governmental Customers

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates a 20 percent savings when a building or energy manager becomes conscious of his energy usage through a monitoring device such as a submeter. The savings can be attributed to the manager allocating energy costs to tenants as well as identifying and eliminating areas of operational inefficiency.

Whether the facility is institutional, educational or government-owned, a primary concern is identifying and allocating energy costs for various tenants. In these settings, facilities can range from housing or administration buildings to mess halls and buildings with outside tenants. If submeters are already monitoring tenants' energy use, managers can utilize this existing equipment and install energy intelligence software to identify usage patterns and pinpoint possible inefficiencies in addition to creating tenants' monthly bills.

Beyond cost savings, the benefits of submeters and energy intelligence software include accurate allocation and increased tenant satisfaction.

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