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Paul Ogle

Simplifying Technical Energy Concepts for the Public

By | Activelogix Blog

Capturing Your Audience

“Out of sight, out of mind” is a phrase that can be applied to energy use, especially for people who aren’t in the industry or (seemingly) don’t have any stake in their use of that energy. This can be said about students at a school or university, visitors to an office or retail complex, or the average person walking down the street.

All of us use energy every day for transportation to and from school or work. We live or work in buildings with lighting, heating and often cooling. We consume a lot of energy. The United States consumes about one fourth of the world’s energy resources. When energy is produced from non-renewable fuels, pollutants are released into the air contaminating the air we breathe and ultimately the water too. The more energy we use, the more energy we must produce.

Because energy is used all around us, it is our collective responsibility to understand its effect and use it wisely. So how can this be done effectively? This month we’ll focus on how Periscope can educate the individuals who work and play in your facility. Periscope can assist students and the public on learning the effects of gas, electricity, and water consumption as well as methods of conservation that can be applied to change the way we think about energy use in our daily lives. With a little education and effort, we can reduce and optimize our local, national, or even global demand for energy.

Make it Relatable:

Numbers can be confusing without a frame of reference. For students, visitors, or employees it helps to show your data in ways that make it easier to understand. For example, with respect to water consumption how many toilet flushes have been saved? Or how many trees have been planted from a carbon offset perspective? The Key Performance Indicator (KPI) Viewlet simplifies data that might not stand out and equates the data into something that all people can appreciate and understand the impact of.

Keep it Simple:

Offering a dashboard that isn’t overly packed with multiple graphs will go a long way in holding the attention of regular people. It’s a good idea to aim for 3-4 viewlets that are easy to understand relatively quickly and provide clear and easy to read titles, or a single view that provides a broad overview of what you’re trying to present. These dashboards should be in elevated places such as the top corner of an entrance way, or a cafeteria and they need to be clear, hence don’t cram too much data so it can be easily seen from afar.

Additionally, visitors and administrators generally don’t have much (or any) physical interaction with the computer displaying the data, so the layout needs to get its point across hands-free. Viewlets that are best suited for a lobby kiosk format would be bar charts, gauges, pie charts, KPIs, green tips, or the Map or Tree Map View.

You should always create additional dashboards for the power users of your organization, such as energy or property managers who require interaction and an advanced layout.

Incentivize for Goal Achievement:

While people are often asked to do their part to conserve energy or resources, you’re much more likely to get an engaged crowd if you can contribute rewards or prizes. Not only will this boost the numbers of people participating in an objective you’re after, it will also add a competitive fun factor that most people could get behind. An example of an incentivization is a university competition between multiple dormitories. Who can save X amount of electricity or water over Y amount of time? The first-place dorm gets discounted tickets to the first game of football season or a Saturday lunch served by the other dorm. Finding a motivation for the participants and using it to your advantage will always be more enticing for participants who aren’t being paid otherwise.

With Periscope’s ability to compare normalized data across floors of a building or buildings across a campus, one dashboard can be configured for the competition and then automatically duplicated across the other areas with the respective data of those locations. Be sure to provide HTML5 graphics for each location so everyone can keep tabs of their progress.

Make it Matter:

When John F. Kennedy said “Ask Not What Your Country Can Do for You, Ask What You Can Do for Your Country” during his inaugural address, it was to inspire confidence in the American public that they could make a difference in their lives without solely relying on the government to make things right. A similar mindset applies with an energy kiosk utilizing Green Tips. Asking students, constituents, or coworkers to do their part and conserve can impact the local community. When users get engaged and share their energy and sustainability success, other viewers can relate and be empowered to make a difference in their own homes and communities by performing changes in daily life. Be sure to include users in identifying other conservation efforts including such tips as turning off and unplugging devices or lights not in use and encouraging recycling. Advanced tips such as the benefits of installing rainwater collection or solar panels are also available and can be used to motivate and involve users for future improvement projects.

So what’s in store for the future of energy and how we interpret it? What can we expect in the next 5 – 10 years? Be sure to catch our blog next month for our fifth and final part of this series on the Future of Energy Analysis and Education. Stay tuned!

Unique Visualization for Different Users

By | Activelogix Blog

Customized to Your Needs

Last month we talked about specific ways to discover and resolve energy losses that are occurring in your buildings. As we learned, energy consumption can be analyzed many different ways and to different outcomes. Once Periscope is deployed in a university, facility, or office environment, it can be easily configured to suit the varied users that will be utilizing its results. Whether you’re a teacher in a classroom of a small school stressing the importance of conservation to your students, or the President of a large corporation analyzing the overall reduction in your building(s) energy usage, Periscope excels in presenting gathered data in a way that best fits the requirements of the intended consumer.

Periscope allows for an unlimited number of users on a single license, making it more valuable than most applications as anyone in the organization with an approved login can see how their facility is performing. This month we’ll discuss several typical user types in varied industries and examine how Periscope can be an invaluable energy analysis tool within any organization.

Property Owners:

Business or property owners want an overall understanding of how their buildings are providing comfort and consuming energy for employees or tenants. Property owners might not need to know specific details such as particular equipment fan speeds or what time on Wednesday building lighting systems are supposed to turn on, but they need to be assured that agreed upon environmental and energy metrics are being met. Property owners will most likely be after the ‘bigger picture’: How much energy overall was used this month vs last month? How do different floors in their building or different buildings on their campus compare with each other in consumption? What are the normalized utility costs of their facility based on square footage or weather patterns? The standard Tree Map or Scatter Plot Views present these normalized concepts/points clearly.

Big picture observations make it easier for property owners to understand what energy managers and sustainability directors are achieving or battling and whether funding is needed or generating a return on investment. Periscope offers coherent and up-to-the-second measurements across a portfolio of buildings or at a single facility, informing staff and occupants that buildings are performing to expectations, or need improvements.

Energy Managers:

For energy managers, Periscope will let you dig deep into the data that your automation stations are gathering in your facilities and it lets you share that data for a variety of initiatives and with other tools. Organizational goals might include:

    1. Performing audits to evaluate energy use, costs, efficiency initiatives.
    2. Applying for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accreditation by contributing towards greater performance in the Energy and Atmosphere category, which has the highest point total in a project checklist by sharing data via our ENERGY STAR driver.
    3. Quickly locating and resolving higher than expected energy anomalies in an HVAC or lighting system with the Heat Map View including:
      –  Was the AC system running over the weekend?
      –  Were lights left on in the conference room?
      –  Is a scheduling application energizing the whole building when one person is working late?

These periods of energy use quickly become apparent in an otherwise repetitive pattern of colors over the course of a week or month. Utilize the Baseline Comparison Vewlet to compare how your building’s energy consumption compares to a prior time range. Whatever view or viewlet you choose to use, Periscope gives you granular control over how to organize and display important metrics to optimize efficiency, and reduced costs.

Property Managers:

As a property manager, one of your main goals is confirming the comfort of your tenants. What are the thermostats setpoints? Are the lights coming on at the scheduled time? Are there any upcoming events that would require halls or boardrooms to be comfortable and ready to accept people for a meeting or conference? You may confirm building automation settings and schedules through Periscope’s user interface to make sure the lights are coming on, and the temperature is set for the big day. Look back on how tenants have utilized resources over days, months, and years or track real-time metrics, so you can stay in the know and anticipate future needs or discuss excessive after-hours usage.

With Periscope, you can be assured that the HVAC system is performing as designed and providing tenants with clean, comfortable, and reliable air conditioning. If parameters indicate that it might need servicing, you have the power to plan maintenance requirements for minimal tenant disruption and downtime. Finding problems before they need to be corrected can also save the property investor money.

Sustainability Directors:

As a sustainability director, it’s important to analyze and predict your institution’s current resource usage and future environmental impact. Periscope is a powerful yet approachable tool that enables time-based comparisons between campuses, buildings, and departments. Set up a kiosk in a cafeteria or lobby with the Green Tips Viewlet enabled: You have the power to show the general public the importance and success of your initiatives and show why conservation is important in society.

Suggest a ‘Power Down Day’ to raise awareness or kick off a friendly competition between freestanding dormitories on campus, floors in the office, or offices across the country to see who can use the least amount of water/electricity over a given time period for prizes or bragging rights. Conservation efforts don’t have to be boring! For those responsible for providing an ongoing evaluation of an organization’s profits, personnel, and ecological outlook, Periscope excels in fostering improved awareness.

Whatever your role is in your industry, if monitoring, saving or improving energy or natural resource consumption is a part of your job description, Periscope is the easy and intuitive product to use for success!

Want to learn about how Periscope can be used to communicate/teach visitors or students the merits of saving energy? Watch for us next month for Part 4 of our discussion on Methods to Simplify Technical Energy Concepts for the Public.

Saving Energy with Periscope

By | Activelogix Blog

Finding the Leaks

Last month we talked about the 5 steps that could be done in your organization to initiate a strategic energy plan. This involved establishing a baseline, setting goals, measuring results, and monitoring progress moving forward. This month we’ll focus on specific ways to discover and resolve energy losses that are occurring in your buildings. We’ll also cover how Periscope contributes to quickly pinpointing these losses.

While you could hire a firm to perform a detailed energy audit, it’s not necessarily the first thing you should do. Save some time and energy up front and identify obvious issues that could be causing problems by using Periscope to highlight these opportunities for improvement.

Occupied vs Unoccupied:

When it comes to identifying energy loss in a facility, Periscope configured correctly will yield clues. What is the relationship between when people are working in a building vs when the building should be empty? A good rule of thumb is that off-hours energy use should be less than 20% of the occupied usage. Utilizing Periscope’s Heat Map, you should see a repeating pattern of lower usage after hours each night and weekends, and higher usage during the day. After a time, you’ll have a good sense of what percentage of a decrease you can expect between occupied states moving forward, and quickly identify if something has changed. If a spike in energy consumption is detected during an inactive period (nights/weekends) you can drill down into the data to the smallest sampling point and determine how much KW is cycling and for how long it’s on or off. If your Heat Maps are structured based on building or floor, you should have a better notion for where the energy leak might be originating.

Optimizing HVAC:

Using Periscope you could monitor outdoor air economizer operation. Is your mixed air temperature optimized and controller properly to provide cooler air for free cooling of your building? You can trend and track your economizer function with Periscope to see how much fresh air is being brought into the building and ensure that it is optimized for your building requirements. If you’re using a fixed outdoor air drybulb setting for economizer operation, you should consider including outdoor air humidity in your control logic. Utilizing an outdoor enthalpy that is less than your return air enthalpy will ensure that you are maximizing the free cooling when required to meet space requirements.

Is your facility equipped with make-up air heat exchangers? If your facility is exhausting inside air without replacing it with fresh air of a similar temperature via a heat exchanger, this could be adding a significant load on your HVAC system. Look for inconsistent temperature spreads with the Line Chart viewlet. This scenario occurs even if you aren’t having to use 100% outside air ventilation to meet your building use. With a 10 or 20% minimum outside air requirement in most buildings just to meet CO2 ventilation requirements, you are still dumping a lot of heated air in the winter needlessly. Consider installing a heat reclaim system to recover that heat and still provide the proper amount of fresh air ventilation to your building.

line chart fan RPM

Ongoing Health Check:

Periscope can monitor motor or fan RPM with VFDs over time and compare those numbers to what should be considered normal. For optimal energy savings and equipment life, having fan motors run as slow as possible while still providing the necessary airflow for the application is ideal. Tracking your fan motor speeds historically will show how they are holding up over time. If you see a decline in RPMs under optimal speeds, this could be an indication of growing friction from dirty gear oil, increasing heat and shortening the life of the motor. Another negative effect from the suboptimal motor function can be an undesirable increase in room temperatures. Changing to clean synthetic oil can reduce motor wear and unwanted heat that would be added to the room.

Gone are the days of scratching your head over what’s causing an energy drain at your facility. Periscope can be a frontline tool in monitoring energy usage and the health of your equipment. Not only will this extend the life of their function, it will also reduce operating costs. Let’s work together to optimize your building(s) performance!

Next month for Part 3 of our discussion, we’ll provide examples of how Periscope can be custom tailored to provide valuable insight for different individuals within varied industries, businesses, and educational facilities.

baseline comparison viewlet

Five Steps to a Strategic Energy Plan

By | Activelogix Blog

Orchestrate Your Plan of Action

One of the best things a company can do for itself and its local and/or global presence is to become smarter about the way it uses, tracks and communicates its energy consumption. Making these changes not only reduces environmental impact by limiting energy waste, but it also strengthens the company with real measurable cost savings as well as the potential for an enhanced public opinion of the organization. But what is the best way to orchestrate an efficient plan of action for your organization? In the first part of our series, we’ll discuss a simple but effective 5-step plan that organizations can implement and show how companies like yours can use Periscope software to help visualize progress and measure goals.

baseline comparison viewlet

Step 1: Establish a Baseline:

Upon deciding that you want your organization to become more energy efficient, begin with taking stock of how your facility currently uses energy. Walk around to understand where energy is used and wasted. What sort of lights are installed in and around your building? Does your facility use incandescent, fluorescent, or LED bulbs? Do computers tend to stay on all the time even when no one is in their office? Are thermostats secure and configured around occupancy and usage patterns? These are just a few basic questions that could be answered quickly to get a general idea of where energy savings might be available. Many utility providers will provide weather-normalized energy usage reports for a more detailed picture of your consumption. Entering your building’s consumption in ENERGY STAR’s portfolio manager will rank your building’s site and source energy usage intensities against other similar peers.

Instead of just reviewing monthly data, a more specific next step could include a site-specific program like Periscope Dashboard. Periscope lets you read energy consumption data automatically gathered from digital controls, and metering hardware in your building. Over time you can get a detailed time specific graph of when and how much energy (electric, heat, oil, gas, fuel of all types) your site is consuming. Using “viewlets” like the Baseline Comparison will tell you quickly where you were (baseline) vs. where you are now by comparing two periods of a given trend. “Is my building consuming more energy compared to yesterday or this same time last year?”.


Step 2: Set Achievable Goals:

After a baseline has been established, you’re ready to set goals. You don’t want to set goals that are unreasonably challenging from the start. Picking obtainable goals and meeting them will not only prove to yourself, but also your employees or coworkers that sustainable measures can be achieved. It also gives you a sense of accomplishment and creates a new goal to strive to surpass. Start going through your initial list of items you found that could be improved upon. Lights on in empty rooms? Make it known that they don’t need to be on and add occupancy sensors. Electronics that are not being used but still plugged in will have ‘phantom drain’ and use electricity. Unplug devices that are not needed, or schedule switches off. If your heating or air conditioning systems run all the time, search and fix potential air, water or steam leaks. Establish a recycling program if one isn’t available. Simple things around the office can be done that cost little to nothing and make a big difference. With Periscope, you can broadcast your sustainability initiatives to everyone working or visiting the building using a series of customized Green Tips running on a kiosk TV in a heavily trafficked area. This can help educate and motivate everyone to make a difference.

solar power

Step 3: Explore Efficiency Upgrades:

Once you’ve implemented all no-cost/low-cost optimizations, prioritize ideas considering actual savings, education, and cost. If you’ve set aside a budget to make energy-saving improvements, determine what the most beneficial would be to your company. ENERGY STAR lighting and appliances? Smart thermostats? Solar panels? Sustainability improvements can vary in upfront cost from free to expensive, but many will have a return on investment.

ranking chart viewlet

Step 4: Measure and Report Improvements and Reductions:

Each month ask your utility company for detailed monthly usage and cost. Use Periscope to compare year over year and summarize whether goals have been met. If they have, great, keep going! Let managers and staff know that they’ve done well! Incentivizing success with monthly or annual prizes to top energy reducers is a great way to have repeated success. The Periscope Ranking Chart Viewlet is a great way to compare different floors or different facility types across campus or office sites to make these competitions fun and engaging!

If goals or objectives have fallen short, use this knowledge to understand the need for additional improvements or where to target tenant engagement moving forward. Perhaps you were overly aggressive and should re-evaluate your initial goals. Were they too optimistic for the timeframe you established? Small steps are better than no steps.

Step 5: Stay Diligent:

Once you’ve automated a way to review usage and savings, it’s easier to keep up with and share the results of your sustainability initiatives. Come up with a schedule that works for your team to evaluate progress and make adjustments accordingly. Tracking energy use doesn’t have to be difficult and Periscope makes it easy to review it in a timely manner and streamlines the communication amongst your team. Tracking the energy usage on your campus or building on a consistent basis can also help identify other issues such as equipment failures, or comfort standards that have been overridden.  Anomalies will be readily apparent in the proper visualization. By having an established building dashboard, you’ll be able to identify and correct the issue before significant monetary and energy usage setbacks have occurred. For more helpful information on how to use less energy and become a good steward of the planet by reducing consumption, take a look at the International Standards Organization ISO 50001 Energy Management guide or give Activelogix staff a call.

Next month for Part 2 of our discussion, we’ll take a deeper dive into how Periscope can find energy leaks at your site, and how to best optimize your system. See you then!

nProtex: Optimizing Niagara® Network Security

By | Company News

An immediate step in protecting against dangerous BAS breaches is to have a reliable cybersecurity tool in place. Niagara® hardening guidelines established by Tridium are extensive, but it wouldn’t be difficult for a cybersecurity threat to slip through, especially given the variety of users that may have administrative access. Get peace of mind that all possible threat vectors are closed with nProtex!

Activelogix at WEEC, Oct 17-19 2018

By | Company News, Industry News

The World Energy Engineering Congress is the one truly comprehensive event where you can fully assess the “big picture” and see exactly how the economic and market forces, new technologies, regulatory developments and industry trends all merge to shape your critical decisions, as well as define what specific steps are needed to achieve optimum energy efficiency and performance within your organization.

Activelogix will be in attendance at this event. Visit us at booth #223

Distech Controls Innovations on Shortlist for Product of the Year Awards

By | Industry News, Press Release

Two Innovations from Distech Controls Shortlisted by Consulting-Specifying Engineer’s Product of the Year Awards.

[Brossard, Canada, June 5, 2018] Distech Controls, an innovation leader in energy management solutions, today announced that its ECLYPSE nLight® Solution and HORYZON-C display are shortlisted in the “BAS, Controls, Energy Management” category for Consulting-Specifying Engineer 2018 Product of the Year (POY) awards. The POY awards educate engineers on the most notable product innovations within the HVAC, fire, electrical and plumbing systems engineering markets.

nProtex Released!

By | Product Announcement

nProtex is a comprehensive security reporting tool for two-tiered Niagara AX® and N4 Networks. It offers scheduled and on-demand reporting of security policy adherence. All generated Reports are saved for future comparison. Reports, past and present, are visualized in a clear and responsive web interface.

Periscope 4.0 Released!

By | Product Announcement

Periscope 4.0 has been released! Among the many updates in this latest release includes the integration with SkySpark v3.0. Now that Periscope has the ability to run directly on SkySpark, data can be imported and analyzed with this popular rule-based analytics platform! Other features include the new Liquid Gauge, and Timeline viewlets, and many other improvements!

Activelogix Technology Forum Success!

By | Company News, Industry News

We wrapped up Activelogix Technology Forum 2017 on Monday afternoon, and by all accounts, it was a success! We wanted to thank everyone that helped make it possible, and all those that attended! We hope everyone gained useful information and got some good networking in. The IoT is here today, and it was apparent from our great speaker presentations. We’re looking forward to seeing you all again at the next Technology Forum!