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There's No Time Like Real Time

Carol J. Ott in Green Ideas on April 23, 2019

New York City

Real Time
April 23, 2019

1 Big Thing: Real Time Energy Management. 

Say what? Also known as RTEM, it’s at the beginning stages of becoming something every co-op and condo will want. It’s a cutting-edge technology that collects live performance data about your building’s energy systems and equipment levels in real time. This data is continuously pushed to the cloud, where it is used to help reduce energy consumption and provide alerts about potential equipment anomalies. 

And the point? To make sure your building is running right. Going beyond a typical fixed schedule of maintenance and on-the-fly fixes, RTEM can identify problems before a fix is required. It can also combine predictive forecasting and artificial intelligence so that a building’s systems can react to dynamic events, such as weather. 

Most parents check the weather before sending their kid to school – might be a cold day and your young one needs to bundle up. RTEM allows you to think of your building like your school child. If, for example, the temperature is going to drop during the night, algorithms in the cloud-based system communicate with building systems to anticipate the drop and adjust building temperature before the event. 

The building’s systems, put into a proactive mode through RTEM, respond before the temperature drop. Residents wake up warm and less energy is used than if you had to play catch-up on a cold morning. 

Finding your ROI. As with any energy upgrade, the cost of RTEM has to be justified. The goal, says Thomas Morrisson, director of energy management at EnPower Group, is to monitor systems that will have the biggest impact on the bottom line of a building – usually heating and cooling. “That’s where you have the ability to make the most changes and drive the most energy savings,” he says. 

How it’s playing. 308 West 103rd Street has hopped on the RTEM bandwagon. This 73-unit co-op has just about finished converting its boiler from oil to gas, and in the process it had to upgrade its 40-year old boiler-control system. Halstead Management’s Barry Chafetz, the co-op’s property manager, ran the numbers: the central control system was going to cost about $34,000. When he added RTEM capabilities to the central control system, the cost rose to $50,344. But incentives of $15,000 from NYSERDA brought the cost back down to $35,241.

“It’s costing us virtually pennies,” to have this capability, Chafetz says. “One of the problems in this building is that we only have a staff of two. So if the super goes away in the evening, there’s no one physically there. We can bring in service people, but no one has access to the control system.” With RTEM, he says, “even if nobody is physically on the premises, we know what’s going on.” 

About those incentives. The program – and the incentives – are vendor-based, rather than performance-based  This means that you will hire an approved vendor who specs out the needed RTEM hardware and software. NYSERDA’s basic plan for multifamily properties offers a cost share of up to 30 percent of the total project cost, plus an ongoing cost share for RTEM service contracts for up to five years. NYSERDA requires that you have at, the minimum, a one-year service contract. This covers monitoring, advising and general tweaking of your building systems from your vendor. NYSERDA has vetted and approved 75 vendors (you can find a list here), but only about 45 of them are active. If a vendor doesn’t submit at least two projects per year, it is de-activated from the list. To learn more about the program, click here.

One final thought. Data is great, but only if you put it to use. RTEM data allows you to be proactive and strategic, and it saves money. You can’t get more real than that.

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