How Optimizing Fan Power Helped a Pac-12 School Save $100K Annually on Energy

How Optimizing Fan Power Helped a Pac-12 School Save $100K Annually on Energy
Lindsay Jones

It may be a myth that fan power helps basketball teams win games, but for one Pac-12 school optimizing its air fan power is helping it win on its energy bill.

During our visit to the school’s basketball pavilion, Carbon Lighthouse programmed the air fans, which circulate indoor air, to run at full capacity during game time but cut back to half during practice — when fewer people are in the arena. But Angela Kwok, director of engineering at Carbon Lighthouse, still wasn’t satisfied with the play-by-play she was getting from the building’s management system, which controls and monitors the building’s mechanical and electrical equipment. While the building was hustling, she knew it could play smarter.

Angela and her team met with the university for a facilities management pep talk. Her team of engineers listened to what the facility staff had to say about scheduling the building’s equipment, and they updated the management software. Still, the site wasn’t performing as well as Angela wanted it to. CLUES®, Carbon Lighthouse’s proprietary software, predicted that the building should have been saving just over $100,000 a year, but was falling short by about $75,000, or around 74 percent.

In the world of energy efficiency, savings often are overly optimistic. According to a 2017 study, real-world savings were around 76 percent below predicted levels.

At Carbon Lighthouse, we adhere to a higher standard — holding ourselves accountable for our savings projections.

Our approach, which we call ‘Efficiency Production,’ is a long-term commitment. That means we don’t just drop in, offer advice and move along. We know that energy savings only persist when someone takes ownership for them. If energy savings aren’t measuring up, we cut a check to our clients.

No matter how smart your projections, there’s always going to be efficiency drift over time.

One in five energy savings measures fails by the three-year mark, according to a 2010 ACEEE study of commercial buildings in California. Top reasons were changes in building management for customer comfort and failure to maintain equipment.

Armed with this knowledge, Angela and her team returned to the university’s arena mechanical rooms. Building management software only goes so far when it comes to predicting human behavior. Sure enough, Angela soon found that some fans were in manual mode. People were setting the fans to manual mode the morning of game days and failing to turn them back to the scheduled mode afterward.

“We understand they’re very busy putting out fires,” Angela says of the building managers she works with. Occupant complaints take priority over software alerts. “We’re acting as a filter and really only bringing the things that matter to their attention.”

Energy efficiency is never a ‘one-and-done’ thing. Just as successful basketball players must go to practice every day to identify and correct what’s not working, Carbon Lighthouse goes to work for building managers so that their building remains in top energy efficient shape.

 

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