How exactly does 'Software Metering' work to continuously monitor and diagnose issues in HVAC systems? This blog answers 10 commonly asked questions about Software Meters, the technology that underpin's Envizi's Equipment Fault Detection module. 

Q1. What is a SoftMeter?

A software-derived energy meter for an electrical motor or item of thermal plant that combines rated load data, actual operating data from the Building Management System and algorithms to calculate energy demand, consumption and other performance metrics in real-time. This is achieved without referencing any physical sub-metering or current transformers.

Q2.  Can SoftMeters replace traditional sub-metering?

SoftMeters have been specifically designed for HVAC equipment and are ideal for scenarios where traditional sub metering is prohibitively expensive or impractical to install on every item of equipment (such as RTU's, fans, pumps, chillers, cooling towers & boilers).  Whilst the accuracy levels of SoftMeters are high, they are not billing-grade, so the technology cannot replace physical sub-metering for things like tenant billing. It is common for SoftMeters to compliment existing physical sub-meters as they add a deeper level of transparency and insight.

Q3.  How accurate are SoftMeters?

SoftMeters are accurate in that they consider the real rated power of electrical motors and real-time operational data from BMS e.g. actual run status and motor speeds etc.. It is possible to calibrate software meters to achieve higher levels of accuracy using one-off snapshot readings taken from the field (optional).  Extensive field use has shown that SoftMeters provide sufficient accuracy for energy management purposes even without calibration.

Q4.  Why focus SoftMeters on HVAC equipment?

HVAC equipment is a core focus of this technology as it’s the largest energy user in a commercial building and is the most expensive building service to operate and maintain, so fixing problems with the HVAC delivers the best ROI and impact.

Q5.  How is a SoftMeter built?

A SoftMeter is a derived meter. The software combines rated load data, actual operating data from the Building Management System and applies algorithms to calculate energy demand, consumption and other performance metrics in real-time. Software meters are not physical devices.

Q6.  What’s the problem with taking a traditional sub metering approach?

Physical sub-meters are:

  • Costly - Expensive to install and maintain
  • Problematic - Often plagued with issues (not installed or commissioned properly)
  • Lack transparency – Typically represent grouped loads make it difficult to diagnose the root cause of anomalies

SoftMeters provide equipment-level energy transparency, don't require installation and are a fraction of the price to implement.

Q7.  What type of HVAC equipment can SoftMeters be used on?

Air Handling Units, Roof Top Units, Fan Coil Units, Packaged A/C Units, Fans, Pumps, Electric Chillers, Cooling Towers and Gas-fired Boilers.

Q8.  Can a SoftMeter actually fix the problems it identifies?

No, a SoftMeter is used in conjunction with analytical rules as part of Envizi's Equipment Fault Detection module to detect and diagnose issues faster so that the right people can be notified and take corrective action.

Q9.  What types of problems do users typically identify with SoftMeters?

Examples include equipment operating outside of schedule hours, working harder than expected under part-load conditions or starting and stopping too frequently (short cycling). Chillers or boilers not staging up and down in the most efficient manner. Software meters can also be used to identify peak demand contributors and therefore opportunities to minimize future peak demand events, SoftMeters help to minimize energy wastage and eliminate excessive wear-and-tear, both of which contribute heavily to the total life cycle cost of HVAC assets.

Q10.  What kinds of things can you do with SoftMeter data?

  • Overlay equipment demand profiles to assess base loads and operating loads,
  • Visualize and report monthly energy consumption by tag e.g. building or equipment type
  • Link to “check” operating schedules for automated out-of-hours email alerting
  • Tag SoftMeters for consolidated energy reporting and benchmarking
  • Measure and verify the impact of faults and performance optimization strategies at the equipment-level

    Would you like to learn more about Software Metering for continuous monitoring and diagnosis of HVAC equipment?