Power Monitoring with Advanced Meters Saves Money

Power Monitoring with Submeters Saves Money

Power is among the most basic business needs. When faced with energy-related challenges, businesses may suffer from damage to equipment or interruption of critical business activities. The ultimate result is a loss in productivity and decreased revenue. Power monitoring can play a key role in helping companies control and reduce energy costs. Additionally, power monitoring can help businesses predict and prevent many power-related problems by evaluating electric supply and distribution, identifying power quality trends and enhancing maintenance activities. Facilities can also monitor their power factor to correct or avoid rate tariffs imposed by their utilities for operations with a low power factor. Thus, submetering is an essential tool for implementing and conducting power monitoring programs to address such energy-related issues.

Facility and plant managers have only recently begun to use submeters for power monitoring. Historically, submeters were used to generate utility bills for commercial building tenants based on their actual energy usage. But with today's technology advancements, submeters are now being leveraged to analyze and manage industrial energy usage, in addition to tracking and allocating energy costs.

Today's submetering technology allows industrial facilities to consolidate and implement power-monitoring programs through a single system. Submetering provides manufacturers with the ability to analyze energy information and enables them to evaluate and adjust usage to affect cost savings. It also delivers data that, when analyzed, can improve a manufacturer's ability to perform predictive maintenance on equipment. Submetering technology also can equip facility managers with vital data on power quality and peaks or shifts in their power supply, which helps them address these power trends with their utility provider. Additionally, submetering continues to provide excellent data for tracking and allocating energy consumption costs across departments and manufacturing lines.

Evaluating a Submetering System

In the past, submetering required large and bulky pieces of equipment that took up valuable space within an industrial facility and a service interruption was often required to install a submetering system. For most industrial facility managers, voluntarily turning off power and shutting down operations, even for a short while, is absolutely not an option. A service interruption at a large manufacturing facility results in idle workers, wasted wages and compressed deadlines for products and services-all of which are costly propositions. Fortunately, today's submetering technology takes up far less space and does not require an interruption of service, as the latest submeters can be installed with split-core current sensors around the electric conductors being monitored.

An effective power-monitoring program needs a few essential elements, including submeter and software compatibility, as well as an easy-to-read and interactive visual display. Furthermore, submeters that are capable of monitoring and capturing energy data in predetermined time intervals or can allow real time monitoring also are highly beneficial. Other key features of strong submetering technology include the ability to schedule automated meter reads and the accessibility of histographs that enable managers to see the real-time impact of their load shedding activities.

The first step in installing a submetering system for a power-monitoring program is to define the project scope. A submeter vendor should visit the facility to "walk" the site, evaluating the facility's current total energy usage and determine the facility's business goals and objectives for a power monitoring program. Once the energy needs of the facility have been determined, the vendor will work with facility management to design and select a submetering system that is customized to address those needs, while also allowing for flexibility to meet changing energy consumption needs in the future. Once the submetering system has been selected, it is installed and the power monitoring program can be initiated.

Submetering At Work

One particular food manufacturing company in Williamsport, Pennsylvania manufactures one of its more popular snack brands out of a single building within a much larger company manufacturing complex. The brand was initially paying for energy consumption based on an overall percentage of compound-wide energy usage, and needed a better way to allocate true energy usage costs amongst the various brands and needed a better way to allocate true energy usage costs amongst the various brands and companies conducting manufacturing operations within the complex. The facility manager chose to monitor and analyze its power usage through a submetering system.

To help this manufacturer more accurately gauge its energy consumption, submeters were installed behind the billing meter. After analyzing the submetering data, the manufacturer learned that its actual energy use was less than the amount for which it was being billed. Thus, the energy intelligence provided by the submetering system resulted in the manufacturer reducing its electric bill from an approximate 11% of the overall facility electric bill to an actual 7%. For an approximate $5,000 investment in submetering equipment and software, the product line was able to save thousands of dollars per month in energy costs allocated to its profit and loss statement thus in effect, seeing its submetering investment pay for itself within 60 days.

This is just one instance where a manufacturing facility was able to monitor its power usage and generate cost savings. From reducing energy costs to enhancing predicitive equipment maintenance and identifying power quality concerns, a well-designed and effective submetering system can help manufacturers collect an array of vital power monitoring intelligence.