Why you aren’t using temperature data enough.

So here’s the thing: temperature data is the most accurate, cost effective and easily available metric of comfort for your staff and assets. It also has a crucial relationship with productivity, energy consumption and efficiency. So why aren’t you monitoring it more?

You might be relying on your BMS to tell you if your colleagues are sweating or shivering. Or monitoring comfort complaints as a metric of how things are going. As a second line of defence most facilities professionals have a thermometer in their tool box, ready to settle disputes at the point of conflict. But for most people, that’s it.

Allow us to convince you that this is a wasted opportunity. Allow us to convince you that there is a lot more to temperature than dealing with ‘too hot/too cold’ complaints.

Why you aren’t monitoring temperature enough

We don’t blame you. Temperature data as it’s presented today generally has some significant drawbacks:
1) it’s monitored in the wrong place,
2) it’s monitored using equipment that is inaccurate, expensive and requires maintenance,
3) it’s not interpreted helpfully (or at all),
4) there isn’t enough of it to answer the really interesting questions

These drawbacks mean you can never be completely sure if complaints are due to a system problem or colleagues’ personal comfort level. And that HVAC systems can drift a long way from their optimum set up, wasting energy.

Why these problems are worth fixing

Monitored properly temperature has some unique attributes

1) it’s the most important measure of your actual comfort, directly related to productivity
2) heating and cooling is one of the most expensive elements for most organisations. 20% off your HVAC requirement is likely to give you a much higher return than 20% off your lighting budget
3) it’s affordable. Measuring temperature is a well understood problem and the technology is cheap. Why spend £800 or £1000 on purchasing and integrating a new submeter for a single floor when for half the price you can not only get data on a single point but on every desk cluster or fan coil unit, allowing you to pinpoint exactly where and when the problems are occuring.

 

Why should monitoring heat help you save energy?

Heating and cooling is one of the largest energy uses in most commercial buildings

It’s all about efficiency – maximising your heating and cooling for minimum input. In an ideal world you would measure both input (meter data) and output (temperature achieved for that meter data) and we advocate this for a true understanding of your estate’s heating efficiency. But if you can only do one we think you should do output and here’s why:

– in every case you will have meter data anyway, from which you can make some gross deductions about consumption trends.
– meter data can tell you nothing about the experience of your colleagues. The most effective way to save energy in heating would be to turn all heating systems off, but that is not the goal of the game. The goal is to deliver just enough heat/cooling to make a comfortable work environment at the time it is needed
– meter data can tell you nothing about the location of wasted energy. It lacks context – where the heat energy is being used, whether that space is occupied, if there is an extra load on the building’s fabric. Adding location and time to heat data allows you to begin to see the context and gives you important clues about what to do next

Smart meters are great – we should know, the team at Purrmetrix has been responsible for many successful smart metering products. But here’s what they can’t tell you: they can’t tell you where your inefficiencies are occurring and what else might be happening in the building that is relevant. PurrMetrix can.

If we’ve done enough in this post to convince you to take another look at temperature data, then sign up below for our occasional series on using temperature data for fame, fortune and better facilities management.

Can temperature data save your building?

A short course on using data to improve the performance of your building. And the people in it.

 

Fixing Social Housing with Technology – how hard can it be?

10 million people. That’s how many of us live in social housing in the UK: nearly 20% of our housing stock is owned by social landlords.  With nearly 4 million homes to operate, they face a formidable maintenance task and, in the main, they’re trying to do it with out of date tools – housing management systems straight out of the 1990s, multiple incompatible processes and a mass of silo’d data.

We know how to use technology – but does our landlord?

So in a world where us civilians are coming to terms with Smart Homes, even if we don’t have a clear business case, why aren’t social landlords engaging with technology? It has the potential to massively increase the efficiency of their business or even completely restructure the way housing is delivered. Imagine a housing provider who provides a platform for tenants to self manage their own properties – or a housing provider who rolls provision of all utilities and social care into the rent.

More practically, using the right analytics, imagine a housing provider who can identify and diagnose problems with a building’s fabric or systems remotely and ensure the right team, with the right tools, are deployed to provide the right solutions. Or using the same data to single out the homes that are eligible for funding for improvements.

This is a future that HACT – the Housing Association Charitable Trust – wants to create. Faced with substantial challenges over the next five years – cuts in benefits budget, the escalating price of housing – HACT knows the social housing sector needs to embrace innovation to survive so they have been digging into the barriers and challenges that are slowing progress. Their new manifesto (Is Housing Really Ready to Go Digital), identifies three barriers to change and what can be done about them:

Little visible leadership and accountability for technology at board level. Consequently tech is generally treated as a cost item, rather than an opportunity for fundamental change. Worse, where technology projects are commissioned, there is little embedded expertise in what can be delivered or how to measure accountability.

As a result, an over-reliance on consultant-led change. Without clear leadership on the potential of technology, consulting projects tend to focus on rationalising existing systems.

Low understanding of the potential value of data. Although housing has a huge amount of data it is too poorly structured and tools for effective analysis are generally lacking.

HACT’s manifesto has practical suggestions for how to deal with these problems – starting with a programme to match UK digital leaders with housing provider boards, and supporting their involvement in the business transformations that can result.

For those of us living and breathing tech every day, it’s easy to underestimate the challenges involved in promoting tech initiatives in sectors like housing. Bridging the ‘Digital Governance Gap’ in housing is not only challenging, it could be transformative for millions of people. If you want to know more about how to get involved, check out HACT’s Digital page.

The business case for building analytics – some case studies

Buildings offer a wealth of data about their performance. Getting information from building data isn’t easy – Pike Research estimate that 80% of FMs only use 20% of the data available in their BMS.

A lack of time and training is certainly one barrier. Another may be that it is difficult to build the business case for the work needed to collect and make sense of all this data. To help with this, we’re assembling a list of good examples of building data analysis for a range of goals. These examples come from vendors of a variety of solutions all over the industry.

Next time you want to have a conversation with your FD about investing in data tools, hopefully this will give you some benchmarks.

Carbon Credentials: optimising BMS controls for VUS Hotels. Forecast to save £20,000 pa in first phase.

A study from University of California of four enterprises and university campuses focussing on attained savings  

IES: a project for Glasgow City Council using BMS and metering data that highlighted annual savings of £85,000. A more detailed write up is also available here.

Demand Logic: Potential savings of £390,000 for Kings College

Concept Energy Data: Real time data reduces energy by 7% in four schools

Optimised Buildings: A <6 month ROI from energy savings identified in a Financial Services HQ.

Got a pet project that should be mentioned here? Get in touch! As long as it involves using building data (and ideally has some quantifiable results) we’ll add it to the list.

 

 

 

Baking with your own data – Import views

If you’re analysing the performance of your building and its HVAC systems you probably already have data from other sources – meter data, building management system data, occupancy data, for example.

We at PurrTowers have been working for a while on ways to allow you to use other data alongside your kitten data. So we’d like to introduce our Data Import view.

Import

The Import view is available if you have an unlimited account (ie any tier above the free account). It allows bulk import of historical data, and attaches the data to a special external-data kitten. This kitten can be dragged and added to other views exactly as if it were one of our own sensor kittens and you can put this data alongside that collected by kittens.

How do I get my data in?

First create an import view as any other by clicking on the Import view in the Create Views selection:

Select

This will create a new Import view:

Import view

Data formats

Data is added to the import by dragging a data file to this view. The data file is going to get analysed before it gets imported to your account, so it helps to get it into the right format. Each line needs to include a time and date, and a value, with a comma between the two:

Datafile

This can be created using Microsoft Excel by saving a spreadsheet with two columns, one for the date time and one for the value, as a .CSV, comma separated value file. In order to get the date and time format right you’ll need to use a custom cell format which can be found in the cell format dialog box:

dd/mm/yyyy hh:mm

(For some Excel users you may find that this format doesn’t exist, but this link explains how to create the custom format you need)

Excel

OK, so you’ve got your data file sorted out, now drop it onto the Import view. This should put it to work, first uploading the file, and then checking the contents:

Analysing ….Found

Organising your Import Views

If everything went well then that Import view should tell you what it thinks of your data, and offer an import button that you need to press in order to get the data in. Once there just use the new Import kitten just as you would any other (yes, you can rename it just as you can rename the Import view).

We strongly recommend that you keep all your Import views in a dedicated project. This makes it easier to find each Import view when you want to add more data.

You can delete the Import view, it won’t delete the kitten or the data that you’ve already imported, you just won’t be able to add any more data to the kitten.

The small print – some important details

OK, as you might expect there’s a little small print:

You need one Import view for each thing that you want to import data for. Example: if you have three thermostats in a room you will need three Import views.

The Import view should happily eat several 100,000 points in one swallow. We have limited the import to 2MByte files at a time.

You can reuse an Import view as many times as you like, adding data from different times to the Import kitten to build up a complete history.

Sorry, but no, we haven’t worked out how to let you delete the data you’ve just imported. Please be careful to be sure that you are adding the data you actually want.

Yes, you can add data that might overlap the data that you’ve already imported. Our far-to-clever for its own good database will just average the data during those overlapping periods.

The Import view needs you to give it data points in time order. If you try to import data that is all backwards, or where some points are in backwards order then it will do its best but it will reject those points.

If the Import view cannot understand your data file it will warn you and let you try submitting different data:

Reject

Pricing

And finally – how much will it cost? We will charge the same amount for an import view as for any other kitten, so depending on the number of end points you are measuring prices will start at £10 per end point, per annum.

This is a new view that will be in beta for the next month so we welcome feedback and bug reports. Enjoy!

Four ways better data will improve your heating season

Are you getting the calls? Now its October, we’ve been noticing our heat maps warm up as our customer’s heating systems come on. For a facilities helpdesk, the summer’s steady diet of ‘too hot’ calls start to change – data from IFMA shows complaints of too hot and too cold run at the same rate in the autumn, so if your occupiers can’t make up their minds they’re not alone!

Getting your HVAC strategy right at this time of year can seem like an impossible task, but there are some ways to solve the conundrum and to set yourself up for winter.

Get a handle on temperature complaints

Your occupiers are confused. They have been accustomed to higher summer temperatures and while autumn weather fluctuates, their ability to adapt can’t keep up. So they are likely to feel different levels of comfort even where the temperature is acceptable. To add to the problems building systems may also struggle with temperature swings so some of their complaints will relate to genuine but temporary problems. What is needed is data of the real temperature for occupiers so that help desks can work out the right solution without calling out engineers every time. In this situation, data saves time and money, as well as the energy involved in constantly adjusting heating systems.

Setting up the right heating strategy

When to turn the heating on is a bone of contention in many work places. Some facilities managers run systems for short hours during the shoulder seasons to avoid see windows open and fans being used at the end of a warm autumn afternoon. Others simply aim for a lower temperature. The right answer will vary from building to building, depends on how much control you have, and how your building behaves. Temperature data help you spot the patterns of heat loss and decide which option will work best for your situation.

Call out the heating engineer

Underused over the summer, even well maintained heating systems can be temperamental when started up. A complete failure is easy to spot, but regional problems – broken TRVs in hot water systems, for example – can go unreported until you get into the cold months, leaving facilities managers with a series of small jobs which would be better dealt with in a batch. A comprehensive survey over the first weeks of the heating season to quantify all the problems will save time and complaints in the long run.

Finally, don’t forget the summer

Have you been fighting for budget to do something about HVAC problems all summer, only to have the exec team decide that since cooling is not now needed the decision can be deferred for a few more months? How do you keep making the case, when the ‘too hot’ complaints have died away? Collecting hard data on the extent of the problem defines the problem and creates the business case for intervention.

And in case all this data sounds intimidating or a potential time suck, take a look at our tools for collecting and working with it to tame your temperature problems. Or get in touch with your heating challenge.

Heatmap of the month – cross sections, not cross colleagues

This months heat map is a bit of rarity – an example of what happens when you get HVAC right.

To get this impressive cross section of a London office our customers hung kittens on strings at several points along the ceiling. Each string had a number of kittens, spaced a meter apart, to give a vertical grid of temperature sensors.

The office is a converted Victorian industrial building, with a first floor and mezzanine. It houses about 80 employees for a professional services company, and keeps them at the right temperature with a comfort cooling system that delivers cold air through ducts at floor level.

So what are we looking at here? This is three days from July where the external temperature varied from 9°c to 25°c. Even though this office has a huge volume of open space and floor to ceiling in excess of 8 meters, the temperature on the first floor and mezzanine is well controlled. The mezzanine is a degree or two warmer, but rarely gets outside the comfort band.

Just to be controversial we’ve included a Saturday – and a hot one! – when the comfort cooling isn’t operating, to show the huge heat gain that comes through the ceiling and particularly the skylight along the roof ridge. This poses a big challenge for the cooling system at the higher level.

Looking at the view across the desks on the mezzanine for the same period confirms how well the cooling does at keeping employees warm – providing they don’t get too tall.

Is your cooling doing its job? Or do you have a concerns about where your heating ends up? Let us know about your most perplexing HVAC challenge and we’ll help you diagnose what is going on.

Interning at Purr – Doing ‘all of the things’.

<We’ve had some great people come and do internships at Purrmetrix. Say hello to Fiona, our latest colleague, who’s agreed to answer a few some questions about her work experience here.>

Tell us about yourself?Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 13.28.42

I’m Fiona, a sixth form student in Cambridge currently in the midst of applying to study engineering at university, and, for the last two weeks, a work experience intern at Purrmetrix.

What is all that fiddling with PCBs you’ve been doing?

All of the things!

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 11.38.07Over the last two weeks, I’ve got forty-eight gateways ready to go – this involves a small amount of soldering on each one, cleaning the components on the PCB, fitting the antenna, and installing the whole setup into the case. Once this part is complete, I’ve had help to find each individual gateway on the system so that I can get the correct passphrase for it printed out and stuck onto the case, along with the serial number. Finally, each gateway gets plugged in (only using one socket, since these ones have power over ethernet) so that I can check it’s transmitting to the system and install the latest version of our software onto it. Then the gateway is ready to go!

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 11.40.00But a gateway by itself isn’t much use…. So I’ve also been involved in building ninety-six kittens. My job covered the first few steps in the process of turning a sheet of circuit boards into a fully-functioning kittens: extracting them from the sheet, plugging them in via the programming widget, and installing the software that enables them to transmit their temperature data to the gateways. Once this update was done, I soldered a radio antenna onto each kitten to improve its range of transmission – and then passed them on to Winston for some more advanced testing and the final stage of assembly.

 

Was it all engineering?

Screen Shot 2016-09-06 at 11.52.27No! Throughout my time here, I’ve also been involved in other aspects of the company. This means going to meetings, and getting stuck into other types of task. I spent some time doing market research for Hermione – starting with some fairly abstract googling, and ending up with a (colour coded!) spreadsheet of the relevant information.

As well as that I’ve been creating a demonstration account. This needed a major Kitten Hunt around the office to find all of the kittens left in random places during test runs (this went fine until I found some on the ceiling, which were slightly out of my reach). I then took my pile of found kittens and used the system to identify them. Those that were involved in testing were returned to the person in charge of the relevant project, and I “adopted” the rest. I then put the “adopted” kittens into a new project and spent some time creating views for them that will later be used for demonstrations.

This was a great opportunity for me to really get to grips with the data outputs for the kittens, and the full range of analysis that the software can do.

What’s it like?

It’s a really friendly company – everyone here seems to be happy to explain things to me and to teach me how to do whatever I need to know for my latest task. Being set a variety of jobs is great, as it means I get to learn loads of new stuff and see how lots of different aspects of the company work. There’s also a set of company mugs with the kitten face logo on, which I found slightly too exciting…. All in all, I’ve had a great time learning lots of new stuff, building things, and finding out about Purrmetrix during my time here!

<Awww, thanks Fiona. You’ve got great kitten herding skills! Also insane ideas of what makes a good biscuit

kittenbiscuits

Interested in an intern role in Purrmetrix? Get in touch with us – we are always interested in hearing from people who want careers in engineering or marketing. Baking skills not mandatory.>

 

Heatmap of the month – improving energy efficiency

There are many new products that help energy managers save energy from HVAC – one of the big challenges is understanding how to use them to reduce energy without compromising comfort.

Heat maps this month comes from an estate in the North of England with a very active programme of energy reduction. They show what happens in the office over three weeks as they trial a novel system in their condenser units, which offers exciting energy savings.

Here’s the first week – a record of seven days before the system was engaged.


In the second week the set up was tested for maximum theoretical savings. It’s immediately obvious that the building is struggling to shed excess heat after a warm weekend and although the performance is better towards the middle of the week, a warm day on Friday shows that the set up needs to be backed off to maintain comfort.

Has it worked? There is obviously still a problem in week 3 which was traced to a faulty HVAC sensor, not the new system. By the end of the week the sensor is replaced, comfort is restored for all occupiers and the energy manager can collect the savings from the new system knowing the output is what it should be.

Have you got an energy efficiency initiative that needs benchmarking? Get in touch and we can help you put some hard numbers around the performance of your systems.