Jim Sinopoli, one of the leaders in the energy management business recently posted an article about things to think about when choosing an energy management system.

The article provides a good starting point for things to think about, and I would add a few more points to consider when looking for an energy management or energy analytics system for your new or existing building:

  • What are the expected lifecycle costs?  Will the software license need to be renewed in the future?  Are there ongoing maintenance costs and mandatory service contracts?  Can you manage and maintain it yourself?  If the vendor updates the software will they keep supporting your version?  Unfortunately, some companies in the controls, automation and energy management business operate on a “captive client model” where after the bill(s) for design and installations, the bills keep coming for years for “service”, “monitoring”, “improvements / upgrades” on so on.  This might work for your organization and it might not.  The life cycle costs are arguably more important than the upfront costs.
  • Is the system open or proprietary?  This can apply to hardware, software and your data – is it all open or closed and will you be able to migrate or integrate other technologies or systems in the future as needs arise?  Is the system easily expandable?  You may want to only have certainty points or equipment monitored today, with option for expanding the system later.  If it’s a proprietary system, who can work with it?  Are there many technicians and companies you can choose from in the future?  Will you be able to get your data out of the system?  If it’s an open system, how widely adopted are the standards and protocol?  Is there an active community of participants and a track record of robust performance?
  • Do you just need a dashboard type system for reporting or a more comprehensive energy management framework or even possibly a control system?  Is just having new reporting software enough or will you also need the help of specialized energy management consultants or a team? Does the product help you implement a management system that can be utilized for results over time?  Do you need alerts / alarms?  Do you want the system to help you shed loads and consumption and control some of the equipment?  At what layer does the software work with your data, and are external data feeds (market data, weather, benchmarks) also needed?
  • Does the system integrate with other data standards relevant to your building? Energy Star Portfolio ManagerGreen ButtonHaystack?  Other data standards in use at your site like BACnet?  Open, interchangeable data functionality is increasingly crucial.  Many jurisdictions require energy benchmarking, or offer your utility data in electronic form – so can the system you like reduce data entry work and errors?  Can it talk to the other systems in use?
  • Does the software give you high quality analytical tools to use, and can these be customized for your needs?  Can you use the analytics to compare your site internally and externally to benchmarks? Dashboards showing your energy consumption look good, but frankly are not giving enough information and insight into the energy use patterns that are available to you.  An analytics library that can be customized for your situation and runs with a combination of human and machine inputs and processes is going to get you and your organization closer to the energy cost savings goals ahead.

The EMS market is growing and there’s so many options available – think about your needs and decision making process carefully top ensure a positive legacy at your facility.

If you’d like some more help choosing an energy management stem wisely, get in touch!