EMaaS puts energy management into the hands of data scientists
This article originally appeared in Hotel Business Magazine.
By Adam Perkowsky
With a number of options to choose from, it’s an easy decision for hotel operators to turn to an energy-management system (EMS) to take control of HVAC, lighting, refrigeration, etc., in an effort to keep energy consumption down. But, with all of the other aspects of the business with which to concern themselves, plus the lack of a large facilities staff, property managers tend to put energy management low on the list of priorities, sometimes ignoring the easiest of tweaks in order to save money.
EnTouch Controls, is one of the growing number of companies that offer cloud-based energy-management solutions, but the six-year-old firm has taken things one step further: It offers Energy Management as a Service (EMaaS), where a team of data scientists monitor EnTouch’s cloud-based EMS 24/7, 365 days a year, for trouble issues and also ways to lower energy consumption.
“We developed a platform that would allow operators to wirelessly automate their facilities at a very low cost, but what we heard from our customers is that very few of them actively used the system,” said Greg Fasullo, founder and CEO of EnTouch. “When we started talking to them, it was pretty clear the reason was they just don’t have the time.
“We kept hearing from our customers that, if we could provide it as a service and integrate the hardware piece, the analytic and data piece and the managed services, it was a much easier way for them to deploy energy management. So, we started EMaaS about two years ago.”
The data scientists work within a command center, monitoring a number of screens that display and collect data every 60 seconds from EnTouch’s EMS software. If there are any issues found by the software (HVAC units that are not cooling properly, energy consumption where there shouldn’t be, etc.), the master screen will display alerts in a color-coded scheme of red, yellow and green, similar to a traffic light. Alerts can be handled in a few ways, depending on the type of issue and the customer.
“The technicians, within 15 minutes, will jump on an alert, take ownership of it, and the whole workflow of what they do and the decisions that are to be made are built into our tool,” Fasullo said. For some customers, a technician is immediately dispatched. For others, performance issues are entered into a ticketing system; it could be their own or a third party’s. “Say a facility gets too hot or too cold, we’ll receive a ticket from them and we’ll remotely log in and make sure everything is OK,” said Fasullo. “If there is an issue, we will dispatch [a technician] and, if not, we will make a change to a setting or call the facility.”
Most of EnTouch’s clients are retailers and restaurant chains, like J.C. Penney and Pizza Hut, but it will soon get involved in the hotel industry. “We are in trials right now with a hotel brand in the state of California and in the Northeast on implementing energy management,” said Fasullo.
Using an EMS alone will lower energy costs, but Fasullo has found that, in many instances, the savings are short-lived; EMaaS can change that trend and even improve on the cost-cutting measures.
“If you put in [an automated EMS] system, you typically can save 10-20% on your kilowatt hour charges very quickly. Most of the customers that do it themselves, though, put a system in but are not paying attention to it. They lose half of the savings within the first year. So, if you reduce 10-15%, you go looking at your bill 12 months later, and it’s almost what you were paying before. We actually find that the customers that we engage with go the other way. They will start off saving 10-15% and, over the course of the next year, we’ll find other opportunities for them to save.”
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