Building Automation System Basics: How to Improve Your Building’s Efficiency

Buildings with various kinds of energy systems like lighting, boilers, or HVAC can spend up to 57 percent of their operating budget on HVAC and lighting alone, oftentimes crippling the business or government entity that uses the space.

On top of high energy bills, occupants of the space can experience discomfort due to uneven temperatures, sub-optimal temperatures or poor indoor air quality because equipment is not properly maintained, scheduled or controlled.

In most cases, the organizations don’t have insight into what equipment is operating inefficiently, costing their business the most, or the culprit of producing an uncomfortable environment for occupants. Without this information, no actions can be implemented to solve the issues. That’s where building automation system controls come in.

Building Automation System Basics – Definition

A building automation system is a network of microprocessor based wired or wireless controllers connected to diverse systems in a building to better manage the equipment and optimize a company’s energy spend . BAS controls provide access to information on equipment performance and utility metering, and gives users the ability to easily schedule equipment and control it at a more granular level.

“It allows users to go to one place, usually a web-based interface or even their mobile devices to analyze their energy systems data, see trends, keep history logs, schedule hours of operation for each unit and troubleshoot any issues,” said Geoff Stim, Director of Controls at a nationwide energy systems optimization firm. “It’s the whole picture in one place.”

Building Automation System Basics – Equipment

Building automation system controls can be added to: boilers, chillers, pumps, air handling units, rooftop units, heat pumps, VAV boxes, radiators, fan coil units, exhaust fans, and more. Other items like water leak and gas detection  sensors can be incorporated into a system to notify off-premise facility personnel of the failures and leak.

Building Automation System Basics – Remote User Interface

The current building automation system controls technology far exceeds what we have seen in the past, said Stim, a certified controls expert with more than 27 years of experience in building controls. In the “old days,” he said,  systems were proprietary and controls companies would license single use software at one computer making it restrictive to who and where it could be used. This software also came with a hefty monetary fee that was incurred on an annual basis.

The new browser based systems that can be used on computers, iPads or smartphones, gives users the ability to view their data and adjust it to best function for their company from anywhere in the world. Because it is cloud-based, any designated employee can access the system and easily monitor and adjust systems as needed.

Building Automation System Basics – Benefits

With a clear view and ease of control into the building’s systems, users benefit from improved occupant comfort, efficient operation of building systems, and reduction in energy consumption and operating costs. The new control systems also save a significant amount of time making employees responsible for maintaining the equipment more efficient.

For example, let’s say a building had 50 HVAC rooftop units. Each unit had a programmable thermostat that takes five minutes to set. Without controls, an employee would have to walk to each rooftop unit thermostat and program each one to operate at a certain time. That would take well over half a day. And if the schedule changed the next day, a holiday or special event for example, that entire process would have to be re-done. In cases like this, schedules are not adjusted and are simply left as is, resulting in use of the equipment when it’s not required and wasted energy dollars

With web based building automation system controls, all of those thermostats would be tied to one system and you can schedule various ones — or all of them — with just a few clicks of a mouse, Stim explained.

In some settings, such as an office environment, building automation controls can also communicate between different types of equipment. A lighting system with motion detectors would know that people were using a space and it could send a signal to the HVAC system to turn up the heat in the winter or enable the cooling to run in the summer, improving occupant comfort, increasing productivity and improving health.

Building automation system controls should be incorporated into every office building, industrial plant or commercial space to make energy systems easier to use and provide access to data from any device around the globe. Scheduling when the equipment will operate will also be a cinch and further boost the bottom line while saving money and improving productivity and health of all users.  

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