Feb 21 2018

University of Washington Leverages IoT for Energy Efficiency

Extensive monitoring has helped the college see a return on investment for the technology.

The University of Washington is leveraging IoT for better energy efficiency, in part through its Compliance IoT Risk Mitigation Task Force, co-chaired by Chuck Benson, assistant director for IT, facilities services.

We were spending about a million dollars a month on electricity, but we didn’t have the detailed information we needed to closely manage consumption,” says Norm Menter, energy resource conservation manager, facilities services.

Back in 2009, the university installed meters at the sites where many of its buildings connect to the electrical distribution system. That early effort created the foundation for an IoT initiative, begun last year, that is connecting academic buildings to the university’s digital HVAC control system.

“We are bringing data from about 150 monitoring points into the advanced metering system to pilot energy and operational performance analytics in buildings,” says Menter.

In addition to the building sensors, technology underpinnings include virtual routing and forwarding on the network, which lets officials send large volumes of monitoring data over dedicated segments. Staff rely on a variety of resources to analyze all the raw information, from reports generated by an outside contractor using Tableau software to internal analyses done with Microsoft Excel.

The university has invested about $136,000 in the advanced metering system and other upgrades, but $50,000 in energy improvement rebates from local utilities brought the net capital investment down to about $85,000. “After utility rebates, we’re seeing $5 in future energy savings for every dollar we invested, which is a very good of rate of return,” Menter says.

He highlights one building where better control of energy consumption is saving about $33,000 annually: “The digital control ­system and other components have a useful life of about 15 years, so over that span, we expect to save about $500,000.”

For more on how IoT is driving efficiency, check out our magazine feature, "Colleges Use IoT to Save Money on HVAC and Other Facilities."