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IMA Energy & Environment Blog

Building Automation Systems: 7 Common Mistakes

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Building automation systems (BAS) can provide significant energy cost savings and many additional benefits as well. However, these systems are very complex. If they’re not installed and operated properly, they won’t perform as expected.

To optimize system performance, it’s important to consult the experts. One such expert is Phil Zito, a veteran of the BAS industry and owner of Building Automation Monthly.Com. Here he outlines seven key mistakes commonly made by BAS integrators:

  1. Setting the same schedule in every device. It’s very common for building operators to use the same schedule (or two) for the entire building. You can maximize savings and comfort by using unique schedules for individual building spaces.
  2. Using “to be integrated by others” in your purchase specification language. When everyone is responsible for something, no one is responsible. It must be intuitively obvious to the most casual observer as to who’s responsible for system integration. Identify someone today to avoid finger pointing later.
  3. Not resetting your temperature control set points based on demand. In a variable air volume (VAV) system, the upstream discharge air temperature should vary with system demand. If most VAVs aren’t calling for cooling, some will operate in heating mode in the middle of summer.
  4. Neglecting to perform regular database backups. It’s easy to become complacent with database backups. If you don’t backup, you’ll pay for it later. Also, don’t put your BAS database on your company’s server. It saves some money upfront but invites disaster when a new IT administrator accidentally blows up your BAS database.
  5. Not tuning your proportional-integral (PI) control loops. As your HVAC system ages, dampers stick, coils get dirty and things just don’t react as fast as they used to. However, electronic control loops never slow down. This situation leads to hunting for the set point, resulting in short cycling, which increases equipment wear and wastes energy.
  6. Setting every alarm to the same priority. When all alarms are equal, there’s no easy way to address the most critical events. You just got 14 filter alarms, five exhaust fan status alarms, three zone temperature alarms and one chiller down alarm. By this point, the chiller alarm is on the next page of the alarm screen and as they say “out of sight out of mind.” Prioritize your alarms.
  7. Never using trends. Real-time data is the buzzword of the day. It’s useful, but data trends are a great way to troubleshoot your system and look for hidden faults (potential system issues) that you won’t find with live data.

Once your system is implemented and operating properly, periodic adjustments are necessary to optimize performance. For more information, see this report from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Phil Zito is owner of Building Automation Monthly magazine and also the author of Building Automation Systems A to Z.

Incentives from Ameren Illinois can help you optimize your systems

Not sure if your energy management system is working properly? Through Ameren Illinois’ Retro Commissioning Program, a pre-approved Retro Commissioning Service Provider (RSP) will evaluate your business’ existing energy management systems to identify low- and no-cost energy efficiency measures that will optimize your systems. Better yet, incentives from Ameren Illinois can pay up to 80% of the survey cost!


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