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Interval and Real Time Monitoring – Are They Right for Your Organization?

With the threat of climate change still ever-present and many cities and states beginning to require that buildings report on their energy use and emissions, it is more important than ever for building owners and managers to be able to have visibility into the energy use of their buildings/facilities. How can this be done? There are two different ways: interval and real time monitoring. In this article, we’re breaking down both interval and real time monitoring to help you figure out which one of them would be a good fit for your organization. We also explore what to look for in an interval/real time monitoring dashboard. Read on for all the details!

What is Interval Monitoring?

Interval data can come from a variety of sources; the energy supplier could provide the data from a smart meter, or interval meters can be installed separately by the building owners.  It is typically measured every 15 minutes (or in 30 or 60-minute intervals), providing users over 35,000 data points in a single year (compared to the 12 data points provided by only utility bill data) and generally available 24 hours after measured.  The US Department of Energy declares that the “value of interval data is the consistent recording of incremental use offering increased resolution and diagnostic capability.”  Regardless of your energy consumption level, interval data provides the resources necessary to identify anomalies in your energy usage.

What is Real Time Monitoring?

As mentioned above, interval data usually lags by some time interval. Real time monitoring data, as the name suggests, is available a second later. You will be able to look at what is going on in your building right now. 

Why Should Your Organization Use Interval/Real Time Data?

Would you want to wait an entire month to realize that your usage last month was higher than normal? That is what happens with normal utility bill data. To make matters worse, with utility bill data you do not know what exactly happened to cause the spike. Using utility bill data alone to analyze your energy consumption trends will not provide the necessary insight that could help you solve any efficiency issues in your energy and sustainability management plan.  According to the General Services Administration, interval data can lead to savings up to 45% of overall utility expenses.  Interval data monitored over just one day can provide immediate recommendations for operational shifts that could reduce costs on the current billing cycle, rather than waiting until the end of the month to trace back your business operations.  Some more benefits of interval and real time monitoring are:

  • Learning what your building’s base load is, i.e., how much energy your building is using when it is “turned off”. Utility bill data does not tell you your base load. However, when you know your base load, you can save a lot of money by reducing your it – turning off lights, computers and air conditioning when leaving for the day, etc.
  • Scoping out inefficiencies in consumption right when and where they occur. Real time monitoring data is very detailed, down to the exact meter and time of the day that the spike occurred.
  • Ensuring proper equipment run time by comparing actual energy use to operating schedules and acting quickly to correct any inefficiencies.
  • Managing peak demand better. Interval data allows you to effectively identify peak times to manage your demand and reduce monthly demand charges. To learn more about managing your peak load, read our list of strategies here.

What to Look for In Interval/Real Time Data Analytics

Before you can analyze your interval or real time data, you need easy access to that data.  Analysis can become challenging when dealing with a large portfolio of buildings serviced by multiple utility providers.  However, an energy and sustainability management software should provide you with easy interpretations of your interval/real time energy data.  EnergyWatch’s energy and sustainability management platform, WatchWire, provides a single source for all interval and real time data, offering multiple visuals for analysis and actionable insight through the Interval Data Analytics or Real-Time Monitoring modules. See below for an example meter’s interval/real time data and the types of visualization tools provided:

Interval Data Dashboard

The Interval Data Dashboard provides an overview of your meter’s interval data in the respective intervals, which can be viewed by current day, week, month, year, or a selected time period such as “Billing Period”. Also, you can easily add or remove any of the data analysis options (current billing period peak kW, prior billing period peak kW, etc.) listed below the graph for a more thorough comparison/analysis.

Heat Map Analytics

This visual analysis provides the actual demand, temperature, and heating or cooling degree days for a specific date and time in the respective intervals. This type of visualization makes it easy to spot any irregularities in equipment startup times or other operational anomalies.

 Monthly Profiles

Using the same data, the Monthly Profiles analysis allows the user to visualize how energy is used throughout each day, making it easy to spot any inconsistencies in how weekday operations compare against each other.

Daily Profiles

Lastly, the Daily Profiles section graphs the average usage per day for the past 12 months, summer, winter, or shoulder periods. This visualization is a useful tool to ensure daily profiles meet expectations (e.g. lower use on weekends and holidays vs. business days).

While each visualization uses the same interval data, they each act as a different tool in your energy management plan.  From the broad picture to the most granular data, each visualization helps to identify any type of energy inefficiency and take advantage of opportunities to save.  However, to fully leverage your interval data, it should be analyzed alongside your actual utility bills and costs, not just estimated averages.  Knowing exactly when and how your power is being used in your building is essential to limiting demand, decreasing consumption, and ultimately saving you money.

Got Questions?

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