Building Managers Guide to Submetering Healthcare and Educational Facilities

emon submeters at bill gates home

Today's healthcare facility uses 2.7 times the energy of an equivalent-size office building. 24/7 operation and other unique needs make healthcare facilities ideal candidates for submetering to benchmark energy performance and for measuring and verifying compliance with facility energy management initiatives.

As the data acquisition "front end" to the building management system, submeters can help educational as well as healthcare facilities identify savings opportunities that can help fund additional energy conservation measures or electrical upgrades. This white paper explores the various uses and benefits that submeters bring to the institutional facility environment.

In today's educational and healthcare institutional environment, controlling bottom-line cost is key to maintaining current programs while ensuring cost-effective delivery of affordable services. no longer assumed to be a fixed cost, energy consumption and demand can be managed to help mitigate other rising costs that may be more difficult to control. With this in mind, energy monitoring offers a relatively easily implemented, cost-effective means for conserving energy and saving money.

In school facilities, for example, energy is often the next-highest expense after salaries and benefits. To effectively manage energy resources, it is necessary to first understand how and when it is being used throughout the facility. Most educational institutions, whether K-12 or college level, provide only one utility meter that records energy consumption (kilowatt-hours or kWh) and demand (kilowatts or kW) for the entire facility. This scenario does not allow facilities to understand exactly where, when or how their energy is being used, nor does it allow facilities to identify areas of waste or opportunities for conservation and cost savings.

What are Submeters and What Do They Do?

The tool that gives managers the needed energy insight is the electric submeter. This inexpensive device easily installs behind the primary billing meter at the electrical service entrance to monitor energy use for an entire building, individual location or specific circuit or item of equipment, including lighting, HVAC, plug load and other energy intensive parameters.


Whether designed in or retrofitted, submeters are installed on the "building side" of the main utility meter to measure energy usage from the enterprise level all the way down to a single device or circuit. Sold through distribution, today's submeters are easily interfaced with water, gas and other pulse-output utility meters to provide a total facility energy snapshot.

In addition to other meter reading options, including software for basic meter reading, profiling and billing; submeters can be installed virtually anywhere needed to communicate with any desired monitoring location via the facility's existing Ethernet backbone, wireless infrastructure, modem, Internet or other data highway to factor any desired utility service into the facility's energy management system. Combining submeters with a sophisticated energy intelligence software system allows users to better understand when, where and how energy is being used within the organization. Armed with this information, facility managers can better control costs and improve operational efficiencies, along with developing measurable energy conservation initiatives. As a data acquisition "front end" to the facility's building management system (BMS), submeters are an especially useful way to:

  • Measure, verify and benchmark energy initiatives, including LEED Energy & Atmosphere (EA) and Water Efficiency (WE) credits
  • Monitor all utility services, including electricity, gas, water and steam
  • Determine specific processes that are not energy efficient
  • Assess and chart power-quality parameters
  • Evaluate, in near real time, the impact of critical load-shedding activities
  • Compare energy usage by day, week, month or year
  • Schedule energy data collections to occur automatically

Today, the deregulated utility markets offered in many states give school districts, healthcare providers and other volume consumers additional leverage in energy price negotiations by allowing them to combine or aggregate all of their facilities into a single, larger purchasing entity. Provided by submeters, the aggregated energy data positions these combined entities as a larger, more attractive customer for competing energy service providers.

meter comparison Need for More / Better Energy Data

The level of profiling needed by schools, healthcare facilities and other high-volume energy consumers is simply unobtainable using the standard utility meter found at the main electrical service entrance. That’s why more facilities than ever are using submeters as first-level data-gathering tools to literally save thousands of dollars in reduced energy costs. First introduced in the early 1980s, submeters are metering devices with monitoring capability that are installed on the facility side of the master meter to provide usage analysis, time-of-use-metering and other functions. The following table compares the most commonly available types of submeters in terms of features and capability.

Used in conjunction with automatic meter reading (AMR) software, submetering systems provide accurate and timely snapshots of a facility's energy use-from a single circuit or device all the way up to an entire building and beyond. Essential to support energy management initiatives, submeter-based AMR systems can combine all of the facility's utility service data-including electric, gas, water and steam-into a single location to show through a variety of communication options, how, when and where the facility is using energy.

Bringing Meters Into the Building Management System

With institutional facilities focusing more on energy and cost savings, monitoring of utility energy data and integrating it with the facility’s energy management system is moving towards being a requirement rather than an option. As complicated as integrating independent building systems often seems, the good news is that the communications infrastructure itself provides an avenue by which different, even competing, manufacturers of building products and systems can interoperate under the auspices of the building management system (BMS).

To facilitate cross-communications within the BMS environment, communications options allow interval data recorders and pulse-output water, gas, steam and other meters to directly interface with BACnet MS/TP, LonWorks, Modbus RTU, Modbus TCP and BACnet IP-based systems. In this way, load profiling and shedding, electrical demand peak shaving, cost allocation, demand response and other useful functions are easily implemented across multiple platforms. At the end of the day, integrating meter data with building management systems may be either simple (Figure 3) or complex in scope, but achieving an effective, workable solution is neither overly complicated nor prohibitively expensive.

How Submeters Facilitate Sustainability

As front-end energy data acquisition devices, submeters can contribute directly to certification of schools, universities and medical providers under major energy initiative guidelines. At the enterprise level, these devices can be used to assist in the development and verification of energy conservation initiatives, such as the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Green Building Rating System that gives facility operators the tools they need to optimize school facility performance in a wide variety of parameters including energy management. In the academic facility environment, for example, submeters are ideal for gathering energy data for:

university submetering

Electric submeters are especially useful in educational facility settings for department allocation, equipment maintenance, event cost allocation, tracking consumption and demand in student housing, and other uses.

Event allocation—energy use of stadium and parking lighting, sounds systems, vendors and more can be submetered to allocate costs accurately back to event sponsors

Leased spaces—bookstores, food kiosks and other retail spaces use energy at different rates. Submeters are ideal for monitoring and generating accurate and fair energy statements based on individual use

Department allocation—metering individual departments to include energy use is an effective way to in-crease energy awareness, lower usage and relieve departmental budgetary pressures

Student housing—metering individual spaces increases energy responsibility through accountability

Equipment maintenance—key items of equipment can be metered to profile energy usage, providing a diagnostic function that allows facility personnel to identify costly failures before they happen and to reduce system downtime

Student/faculty education—strategically located in kiosks or common areas, “green” submeters and meter dashboards are effective ways to visually quantify how behavior impacts energy conservation and cost savings issues, thus increasing environmental awareness

Submeters Partner with Green Schools to Help Control Energy CostsM

For one university's energy management team, a key advantage of the E-Mon D-Mon Class 3000 submeter was its scrolling display that allows facility personnel to instantly verify that each building is operating within normal parameters. The submeters' profiling capability provides the energy data displayed by the building management system's energy monitoring software.

Rising energy costs, tightening budgets and other factors are accelerating acceptance and growth of high-performance “green buildings” throughout business and industry. In the education sector, for example, green schools typically cost around 3% more to build than conventional schools—but use up to 33% less energy and offer up to 300% return on the cost of greening over the facility’s operational life span.

One recent study showed electrical usage at 63% of the total square-foot cost of all energy used by the surveyed facilities during the school year. As a measurement and verification tool, electric submeters are expanding their role in monitoring and controlling energy costs on campus. Many schools and universities already use submeters for departmental budget allocation and to identify energy inefficiencies. Other uses, too numerous to mention, include lowering demand charges by identifying which loads may be shedded to non-peak hours when energy is cheaper.

Submeter manufacturers have responded to the green challenge by developing next-generation hardware and software tools that specifically address the needs of the sustainability market with advanced functionality, including estimated CO2 emissions in pounds, dollars per hour based on current load, and many other parameters easily understood by laymen. Today’s submeters not only improve the school’s bottom line, but facilitate compliance with major energy initiatives and, as importantly, encourage every level of the enterprise to become a stakeholder in the facility greening process.

The LEED v3 for Schools specification provides fertile ground—primarily in the Energy & Atmosphere (EA) credit area—for the deployment of energy intelligence software, electric submeters and water, steam, gas and other meters that can interact with the facility’s building automation system to provide a precise, real-time energy snapshot of the using facility. The key EA certification areas facilitated by submetering are shown in the following table.

LEED for Schools 2009 Submetering Points Chart
Section Title & Credit Credit Description Points Credit Intent
Energy & Atmosphere (EA) Prerequisite 1 Fundamental Commissioning of building system 0 Verify project's energy related systems are installed and calibrated according to project documentation.
EA Prerequisite 2 Minimum Energy Performance 0 Establish building's minimum energy efficiency level.
EA Credit 1 Optimize Energy Performance Up to 19 Achieve higher energy efficiency levels to reduce economic impact of higher energy use on environment.
EA Credit 2 Onsite Renewable Energy Up to 7 Recognize increased levels of self-supplied onsite energy production reducing impacts of fossil fuel use.
EA Credit 3 Enhanced Commissioning Up to 2 Begin commissioning process early in design phase, execute additional activities after performance verification is complete.
EA Credit 5 Measurement & Verification (M & V) Up to 2 Provide for on-going accountability of building energy consumption over time.
EA Credit 6 Green Power Up to 2 Encourage development and use of grid-provided renewable energy sources on a net zero pollution basis.
Regional Priority Credit 1 Regional Priority Up to 4 Provide an incentive for achieving credits that address geographically specific environmental priorities.

Case Study: Florida K-12 School Submeters to Shed HVAC Load

A Boca Raton school serving more than 1,250 K-12 students embarked on an aggressive energy savings and management initiative. In order to measure and verify compliance with stringent sustainability objectives, some 50,000 square feet of space in more than 20 buildings around campus were retrofitted with 47 Class 2000 E-Mon D-Mon submeters to monitor consumption and demand on various 100, 200, 400 and 1600A circuits.

All meters included the demand (kW)-tracking option and were installed in multiple meter unit (MMU) housings, each with an interval data recorder (IDR) for collecting raw meter data every 15 minutes. In operation, the data is digitized and communicated via the building’s Ethernet infrastructure into E-Mon Energy energy intelligence software for analysis and reporting. Since the completion of start-up, the school’s energy manager has been extremely pleased with the operation. The system is monitoring kWh / kW for the purpose of shedding additional HVAC system load. Monitoring and verifying power consumption for LEED certification is another key function of the system.

bethke metering

Main electrical room with arrow indicating one of two E-Mon D-Mon Class 2000 submeters used to send pulse output data every 15 minutes to the BMS for storage and analysis by the energy manager. The submetered data points include electrical consumption and demand, natural gas and domestic hot water. The kitchen, mechanical room and lighting panels are also monitored by E-Mon D-Mon Class 2000 submeters.

Submeters Facilitate LEED Certification for Health Care Facilities

According to industry estimates, overall facility operating costs are 10% higher than just five years ago, with combined utility costs up some 20% over the last two years alone. Interestingly, electrical usage during the latter period fell almost 13%, most likely in response to continuing rate hikes and other factors driving in-creased awareness and implementation of enterprise-level energy management systems (EEMS), equipment efficiency upgrades, utility energy initiatives and other cost-saving measures.

This trend especially impacts healthcare facilities which, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, use 2.7 times more energy than typical office buildings. Against this, overlay the DoE’s own analysis of energy use in the healthcare sector, in which $5.3 billion is spent every year, second only to the food service industry in terms of energy consumption.

Because of the energy requirements associated with supporting 24/7 operations and other unique needs, hospitals and other patient-care facilities clearly face a growing challenge in managing and controlling their energy use and demand without negatively impacting the quality and cost of their services. As a tool for measuring and verifying the facility’s energy footprint, submetering hardware and automatic meter reading (AMR) software systems offer an easily installed, readily available Rx for that old energy adage that says “you can’t manage what you don’t measure.”

Healthcare and LEED Partner for Greener Facilities

With healthcare facility construction projected by some industry pundits to surpass $35 billion by 2010, only two percent of healthcare facilities are currently pursuing LEED certification, a number that is beginning to grow, thanks to a collaboration—now in its seventh year—between the USGBC and the Green Guide for Healthcare (GGHC). A joint project of the Center for Maximum Potential Building Systems and Health Care Without Harm, GGHC is not affiliated with the USGBC but is working closely with the latter to develop a “voluntary, self-certifying metric toolkit of best practices that designers, owners and operators can use to guide and evaluate their progress towards high-performance healing environments.”

LEED for Healthcare 2009 Submetering Points Chart
Section Title & Credit Credit Description Points Credit Intent
Water Efficiency Credit 2 Water Use Reduction (M&V) Up to 2 Provide for ongoing accountability of building water consumption over time.
Energy & Atmosphere (EA) Prerequisite Fundamental Commissioning of Building Systems 0 Verify Project's energy related systems are installed and calibrated according to project documentation.
EA Prerequisite 2 Minimum Energy Performance 0 Establish building's minimum energy efficiency level.
EA Credit 1 Optimize Energy Performance Up to 24 Achieve higher energy efficiency levels to reduce economic impact of higher energy use on environment.
EA Credit 2 On Site Renewable Energy Up to 8 Recognize increased levels of self supplied onsite energy production reducing impacts of fossil fuel use.
EA Credit 3 Enhanced Commissioning Up to 2 Begin commissioning process early in design phase, execute additional activities after performance verification is complete.
EA Credit 5 Measurement & Verification (M&V) 2 Provide for ongoing accountability of building energy consumption over time. Min 1 year post-occupancy.
EA Credit 6 Green Power 1 Encourage development and use of grid provided renewable energy sources on a net zero pollution basis.
Regional Priority Credit 1 Regional Priority Up to 4 Provide an incentive for achieving credits that address geographically specific environmental priorities.

GGHC bases much of its rating framework on LEED, with permission, but also includes modifications geared specifically to the healthcare facility environment. Similarly, the new LEED for Healthcare guideline draws heavily on the GGHC as a foundational document in its development, which is being seen by many as a crucial milestone for bringing more healthcare facilities into the sustainability fold. The various areas in the LEED for Healthcare specification in which submeters play a vital role are shown in the table above.

Case Study: Texas Clinic Submeters for Fair, Accurate Tenant Billing

A Dallas-based healthcare network provides a 112-bed acute-care hospital, seven outpatient centers and four physician clinics. With a medical staff of over 400 physicians, the provider’s commitment to supply only the highest-quality healthcare to the communities it serves is evidenced by its recent five-star patient satisfaction rating for the previous year. It’s an accolade that provider is justifiably proud of, and it demonstrates a top-down attitude of true customer-oriented service that includes making sure the many other businesses that lease space at this location are equally satisfied with how their own operations are functioning in the facility.

For that reason, the property owner, in conjunction with the management company, decided to install electric submeters in each of the complex’s three-story office facilities in order to more fairly track and allocate electrical utility costs being paid by each tenant. The common industry practice of assessing utility costs based on a ratio of x dollars per square foot of floor space unfairly favors high-volume energy consumers at the expense of lower-consumption tenants who pay the same basic rate, thus helping to subsidize costs that the latter have no ability to influence or control.

No problems were encountered during the installation of the three 25-meter Multiple Meter Units (MMU) used to monitor various 400A, 800A and 3200A circuits with Class 2000 E-Mon D-Mon meters bundled with the optional demand (kW) tracking feature.

In operation since December 2008, several readings from the sleep study lab and imaging center, to name two examples, have already enabled substantial utility costs to be recovered. Satisfied with system operation, the owner plans to add E-Mon D-Mon meters to all upcoming projects, including at least 24 meters at a new medical facility in a neighboring town. Interval data recorders inside the MMUs convert the raw meter data to a digital data stream that is communicated via Ethernet to a central monitoring location. There, E-Mon Energy software analyzes the data and outputs monthly billing statements for all tenants, who are now sure they are paying only their fair share of the utility costs—a level of confidence lacking with traditional cost-per-square-foot formulas that favor high energy users at the expense of lower-consumption tenants.

Meter Dashboards Increase Energy Awareness

Submetered facilities have entered a new era in terms of the sophistication of the data that may be viewed by virtually everyone in the organization. Internet-enabled energy monitoring and data presentment dashboards are gaining traction in the institutional facility environment for displaying kWh, kW, peak demand, power factor and other energy measurements in real time, and historically, while also displaying the facility’s “carbon footprint.” This allows facility occupants to monitor their building’s carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrous oxide (NOx) emissions—while at the same time observing estimated energy conservation measures needed to compensate for the displayed levels.

The following screens illustrate the sheer depth of energy information provided by a single submeter, in this case an E-Mon D-Mon Class 3000 device. For the 800 Amp main distribution panel shown below, the first meter dashboard displays the various metered parameters; the second dashboard shows the rest of the graph at the bottom of screen one, and the third dashboard displays the carbon footprint of the metered 800A panel over time, even extrapolating the data to an estimation of equivalent automobile miles driven and the amount of reforestation needed to offset the panel’s CO2 contribution!

energy dashboardenergy graphenergy carbon footprint


Rising overhead costs, coupled with tighter operating budgets, are driving education and healthcare institutions to scrutinize their energy usage patterns, especially electricity which can account for up to 80 percent of the total energy costs of a facility. For this reason, many institutions choose to submeter their electrical first, followed by gas, water, steam, BTUs or other utility services as budgets permit. Once savings are realized, they typically remain in the facility budget to reinvest into additional energy savings programs and electrical upgrades. Growing numbers of institutional facilities are discovering that, with the proper energy monitoring and management tools, operating costs can be effectively reduced—all without slashing programs, increasing fees or cutting corners on the quality of service.

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