If you’re the facilities manager of a commercial building, how likely is it that you would be able to answer any or all of these questions:
How much energy does your building consume daily?
How much water does it consume daily?
Does your building’s indoor air quality meet ASHRAE standards?
Are your building’s spaces being used optimally?
The number of building managers who can answer these questions is increasing thanks to growing demand for smart building technology. Internet of Things (IoT) sensors are the backbone of smart building solutions, making it possible to gather and analyze unprecedented amounts of information about a facility. As a result, managers who employ IoT sensor products and platforms have a data advantage over those who don’t—the insights they uncover allow them to save more money on operating costs, use resources like water and energy more responsibly, and create healthier environments for their tenants.
If you’re not already taking advantage of the IoT, now is a good time to start. Keep reading to find out more about the types of IoT sensors available for commercial buildings and how you can use the data they produce to optimize performance.
Want to improve your building’s performance but don’t know where to start? Talk to us about implementing an IoT solution that will help you reach your goals.
1. Energy IoT Sensors
Energy efficiency is a priority these days. Because of the direct connection between energy and fossil fuels (and by extension, greenhouse gas emissions), companies are increasingly taking steps to become more environmentally responsible and reduce their energy use, usually as part of a larger sustainability program. It’s also a matter of cost: For most commercial buildings, energy is the single largest operating expense, and—even worse—studies reveal that around 30% of the energy they do use is wasted. Clearly, there’s massive room for improvement in the area of energy consumption.
Businesses are increasingly looking to facilities personnel to provide direction on how to reduce their consumption of energy, whether it’s in pursuit of sustainability, cost savings, or both. So, it makes sense that one of the top IoT sensors we provide is an energy sensor.
Energy sensors are capable of measuring two factors:
- Consumption—IoT sensors can monitor the energy use of individual machinery within your building, as well as every component of building operations (HVAC, lighting, ventilation, etc.). This type of energy monitoring helps to answer these questions:
- What is the total daily electrical consumption of my building?
- When and how does my building use energy?
- What proportion of energy is being consumed by each of my individual systems and machinery?
- Power quality—Power quality relates to how efficiently your systems are consuming the power being supplied to them. IoT sensors can measure the kilowatts and kilovolt-amperes your systems use to help you answer the question:
- How much of my incoming power is used efficiently?
Using current, state-of-the-art IoT sensors and controls to detect, diagnose, and correct operational problems saves an estimated 29% of commercial building energy consumption.
How can you use energy sensor data?
Use Internet of Things sensor device data to help reduce energy consumption:
1) Reduce your demand charges. A significant portion of your utility bill is demand charges—the additional fees utilities charge for providing a constant supply of electricity. These fees are calculated by multiplying your building’s maximum hourly power requirement over a billing cycle by a specific rate. Using energy monitoring, you can make targeted changes in your facility’s HVAC operating schedule, for instance, to avoid “peak hours” and reduce your demand charges.
2) Optimize your building’s energy use. Energy monitoring can help ensure your building is eliminating wasteful energy practices and consuming energy as efficiently as possible. If a compressor or pump is running longer than is needed, energy monitoring would identify it. Further investigation might also reveal why it’s happening—perhaps something related to that function isn’t working properly.
2. Air Quality IoT Sensors
Air quality hasn’t always been a major concern for buildings, but this is changing. The fact that indoor air is sometimes even more polluted than outdoor air is becoming common knowledge and has led to many recent studies on the link between indoor air quality, employee health, and even company productivity.
Another, more immediate concern is the pandemic. The severity of the current threat around COVID-19 has catapulted occupant health and safety to the top of the priority list as some buildings begin to reopen and resume normal activities. The CDC, EPA, and ASHRAE have all released guidelines regarding various aspects of reopening. Additionally, a wealth of data exists about what constitutes a healthy work environment, from building temperature and humidity levels to particulate matter and waterborne pathogens.
Unfortunately, for most facilities managers, meeting healthy building requirements poses a problem: You can’t manage what you can’t “see.” Due to IoT sensors, however, this doesn’t have to be the case.
IoT sensors are capable of measuring various parameters for indoor air quality:
- Carbon dioxide (CO2)
- Particulate matter (PM)—a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets suspended in the air, such as dust, pollen, smoke, and soot
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)—organic chemicals emitted as gases from products or processes, like cleaning agents and dehumidifiers
How can you use air quality sensor data?
Use air quality sensor data to:
1) Reopen your building safely. The data derived from these IoT sensor devices can help you answer the question: Does my building’s indoor air quality meet ASHRAE standards?
2) Maintain optimal working or living conditions for occupants. Continuous air monitoring allows you to definitively diagnose your building’s air quality in near real-time, so you’ll always have an answer to the question: Is my building’s air quality safe for occupants?
3) Improve the efficiency (& cost effectiveness) of your ventilation system. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is often used as a surrogate for building occupancy level—the more occupants present in a room or building, the more CO2 is released into the air. To prevent CO2 levels from rising too high (and having a negative impact on occupants), outside air must be deliberately drawn into the building through a ventilation system. Often, however, this effort unnecessarily overworks the ventilation system, wasting energy. By monitoring CO2 levels and providing ventilation on an as-needed basis—called demand control ventilation—you can maintain healthy air quality and reduce your energy use.
3. Water IoT Sensors
In light of increasing concerns around water scarcity, the cost of water, and now, water quality as a result of prolonged facility shutdowns, commercial building owners are being forced to pay closer attention to water management.
Once considered sufficient for managing water consumption, water bills and meter readings have been eclipsed by IoT sensor devices and advanced data analytics. Whether you’re striving to use water more optimally, maintain a continuously healthy water supply, achieve LEED or WELL certification, or anything else to gain insight into your water usage, today’s water management techniques are grounded in data—the kind of data that can only be collected through IoT sensors.
Water sensors are capable of collecting information related to:
- Water consumption—Sensors reveal where and when water is being used in your facility.
- Water leakage—Water flow sensors measure the flow of water through a pipe and its rate of change. Pulse meters are helpful in understanding the rate of normal flow, and, therefore, present a way to detect when the normal rate changes. Changes in flow rate may be an indicator of pipe leakages or other operational malfunctions, allowing you to address problems before too much water is wasted.
How can you use water sensor data?
Use water sensor data to:
1) Reduce your building’s water use. A crucial first step to using water more responsibly is understanding your building’s overall water needs and consumption patterns. From there, you can make targeted improvements to address inefficiencies and optimize your use, then stay on track with continuous monitoring.
2) Detect and fix wasteful leaks. Rather than relying on regular inspections of pipes to identify failures, you can use this type of IoT sensor to identify a leak immediately. IoT sensors also help pinpoint the source of water waste. (Read how one facility is saving more than $100,000 annually thanks to IoT water monitoring.)
Ready to get started with IoT sensors at your facility?
Whether your building is young or old, IoT sensors can help you derive valuable insights about its performance. IotaComm provides the expertise to get you up and running with all the top sensors used in IoT monitoring. Our ubiquitous connectivity solutions, easy-to-install wireless sensor technology, and cloud-based software tools have helped building owners and managers just like you to streamline operations, cut costs, and increase sustainability.
Our team will work with you to identify goals, discuss opportunities in which real-time data can be valuable, and devise a custom IoT monitoring system that’s both cost-effective and easy to use. We’ll be with you every step of the way, offering guidance on ways to optimize your data and your building operations. Reach out to us today and let’s get started!