Integrating BAS, electrical systems

Integrating electrical systems with BAS can promote operational efficiencies, optimize maintenance staff effectiveness, and leverage fault diagnostics.


Figure 1: BAS user interface screens such as the dashboard shown in the illustration can provide user-friendly electrical system data visualization. Courtesy: DGLux by DGLogikOwners of high-performance buildings expect engineers, manufacturers, and building system installers to work together to increase the performance of the building’s systems. However, superior performance typically is associated with increased complexity and cost. 

Modern microprocessor-based equipment is replacing electromechanical devices. Industrial networks connect equipment and systems. Sensors provide feedback to measure results and enable enhanced control and functionality. Enhancing, connecting, and integrating industrial systems with a building’s control platform allows engineers to exceed the high-performance building owners’ expectations. 

BAS has become a ubiquitous feature of the modern commercial building, providing a window into the complex operation of building mechanical systems and therefore allowing operators to do their jobs more effectively. Modern BAS systems are also well equipped—out of the box or with very little extra cost—to speak the standards-based network protocols, such as Modbus, found in many electrical systems. The addition of network wiring or wireless communications can enable easy integration. By consolidating electrical and mechanical system monitoring into a single unified BAS platform, the full potential of electrical equipment and systems can be harnessed, unlocking new opportunities for high-performance strategies. 

New opportunities

In addition to managing the building mechanical systems, the modern BAS can leverage many of its features, such as trending, alarming, and web-based graphics, to monitor the electrical systems as well (see Figure 1). Integration can also employ a building operator’s existing experience and training to enable more efficient building management. 

Integrating a building’s electrical systems into its BAS can unlock new opportunities for high performance. BAS integration opportunities include expanding operational efficiencies, coordinating historical data, optimizing maintenance staff effectiveness, and leveraging fault diagnostics. 

Expanding operational efficiencies: Having data from each system on a single platform allows building operators to draw conclusions to further implement energy efficient strategies that can’t easily be achieved with stand-alone systems. By simultaneously tracking and analyzing both mechanical and electrical systems through benchmarking (i.e., comparing initially installed amperage to current amperage), operational staff can take corrective action if and when equipment efficiency drops. Determining the best way to reduce peak demand energy charges becomes easier when these systems can be viewed from one platform. Reducing building loads in reaction to demand response requests becomes simpler when actions can be executed from a single location. Understanding these tasks in real time allows building operators to set and meet efficiency goals while reducing energy costs. 

Many modern BAS implementations include a real-time interface to a CMMS or similar facility management software that manages equipment maintenance and triggers work tickets based on operating parameters such as equipment run time or equipment faults. Leveraging the software for electrical systems via a BAS interface can enhance operator attention to electrical equipment maintenance.

Coordinating historical data: To manage and improve any process, a data baseline is imperative. One cannot know of a potential issue if the real-time data cannot be compared to how equipment had been operating prior to the problem. The opportunity to review historical data from power meters and be able to pull charts and graphs from multiple systems over time will enhance an operator’s ability to investigate and solve problems. 

Optimizing maintenance staff effectiveness: Moving electrical system control and monitoring to the BAS will instantaneously generate new ways to analyze building data, including the opportunity to meet and set more effective operation and maintenance goals. When the MEP systems are tied together, the chief engineer can spend more time doing preventive maintenance than reactive problem solving, which typically reduces maintenance costs. BAS integration for monitoring electrical systems also allows staff to be alerted immediately of potential power issues, such as providing a warning of a forthcoming overload on the power distribution system that could take out a critical life safety system or cause significant losses due to extended downtime. 

Additionally, staff effectiveness will naturally improve when one piece of software does it all, as operators are likely to remember how to manage the system as part of their daily routine and will remain trained on it over time. Furthermore, when operators are familiar with the BAS, they are more likely to learn and use higher-level functions and analyses. 

Leveraging fault diagnostics: By interfacing electrical systems into a BAS, fault diagnostics become possible. The more data that is acquired, stored, and analyzed, the easier it is to write meaningful fault algorithms. These algorithms teach the BAS to indicate when a piece of equipment is about to break or if it is not running at optimal condition by comparing values of different parameters based on historical data. For example, if one system is using more electricity than it did yesterday to operate under identical conditions, the BAS can alert the operator to investigate a possible equipment issue or point to problematic settings.

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