Wireless Sensors For Buildings Really Make Sense When Thinking About Operational Efficiency Rather Than Just Monitoring Energy

Schneider Electric has recently launched a new wireless sensor – PowerTag – as part of its EcoStruxure ecosystem, to improve the platform’s ability to monitor electrical assets such as HVAC equipment and lighting. PowerTag connects to circuit breakers, enabling monitoring of real time electrical distribution flows. This improves the precision and timeliness of real-time data monitoring of current, power, the power factor, energy usage, and voltage loss detection.  This allows much more focused monitoring of critical loads. For example, data can be used (via a BMS, energy management platform, or IoT platform) to create customized e-mail alarms for maintenance staff remotely monitoring the premises.

When buyers evaluate such wireless sensors technologies it is critical not to overlook the operational benefits: technologies like this enable greater operational efficiency in the form of maximising uptime, optimizing maintenance regimes, monitoring operations, as much as direct energy efficiency. For example, facility managers can use them to monitor the vibration of variable speed drives in HVAC systems to identify how quickly the equipment is wearing out, and schedule maintenance accordingly. Notably, our 2016 Global Energy Leaders Survey, which surveyed 250 respondents across the globe, found that improving operations to boost productivity was a bigger driver of investment in energy management than energy consumption reductions. 

These sensors will provide the most value for facility managers who want detailed real-time data that most combinations of meter and monitoring systems cannot offer, and those who must retrofit their electrical assets because they do not have embedded software performing the required level of monitoring, fault detection, and diagnostics. In the long term new buildings and electric asset technology will increasingly have connectivity built in, eliminating the need for sensor installations – indeed this is one of the key elements of Schneider Electric’s R&D strategy (see Verdantix 2016 Schneider Electric Innovates To Lower Cost Of Smart Buildings). Sensors should therefore be seen as a transitional solution between non-communicative building environments and the industry vision of comprehensive equipment connectivity through the Internet of Things.