Article
Submeters have been around for a while. Submetering allows building owners to charge tenants equitably for their part of the facility's energy bills. Submetering is quite common for electrical usage. But it can be used for gas, water, and other utilities.

Install Smart Submeters for More Intelligent Energy Control

Steve Maurer, IME
Submeters have been around for a while. Submetering allows building owners to charge tenants equitably for their part of the facility's energy bills. Submetering is quite common for electrical usage. But it can be used for gas, water, and other utilities.

Early iterations of submeters were manual meters. The building owner or manage had to go physically to each meter to get the readings. But the job wasn't done yet.

Crunching the number was also an arduous manual task. Readings and spreadsheets and math .. oh my!

Of course, a building owner or manage didn't have to do this. Before submetering came into vogue, the bill was divided up equally between all the tenants in the apartment building or office complex. The problem is that equally doesn't always mean equitably.

Even if the bill was proportionally figured by apartment or office square footage, it still fell short of being entirely fair.

If everyone paid the same amount, or even by square-foot measurements, the heavy energy users got a free ride on the backs of those with smaller energy requirements. For example, a small office with a server closet that is air-conditioned 24/7 can potentially use more energy than a larger office with no such requirement.

In an apartment complex, the road warrior salesperson who spends more time on the hunt than in the apartment doesn't use much electricity. The apartment down the hall with four teenagers spending hours of time playing video games or watching movies uses more … a lot more.

So submetering is a way of splitting the tab equitably. But manual meters can be a pain in the butt. Now building energy management is easily with the advent of smart submetering. It's not just for billing either. Replacing manual submeters with smart submeters provide more benefits than just equitable rental agreements.

In industrial and manufacturing complexes, it allows energy managers to track energy usage in near real-time. The managers can also monitor and track the effect of new processes and energy saving initiatives, which help in LEEDs certification.

Submeters are installed downstream from the utility meter. They can be used for gas and water, as well as electrical use. And as mentioned, submeters can be used for multi-unit commercial and residential properties as well as manufacturing facilities.

When planning a submetering project, either for new construction or retrofit applications, you need to keep some specific project parameters and goals in mind. Some of them are:

  • What is the size of the facility?
  • What is the facility designed to be used for?
  • What are the measurement and verification needs of the end user and building manager?

Some of the basic components in an electrical system are the electric submeters to monitor data, the energy management hub used to collect and store the date, an interface to analyze the data. Another piece of equipment used is a pulse module that collects data from a bank of submeters, placing it into a ModBus network. The Hub then pushes that Modbus data to the web for storing and tracking with online management software.

The interface is normally a computer with energy management installed for tracking and/or billing, or a web based interface that provides the same, and often more enhanced, data logging and analysis.

While some smart submeters are hardwired into the system, wireless capability makes installation and commissioning easier. This can be especially useful in retrofit applications where installation of hardwiring could cause downtime in a factory or interruption of rental properties.

Retrofitting often sucks. Wireless makes is suck less.

As building managers push for greener energy solutions—and more equitable billing with fewer disgruntled tenants—smart submetering holds the keys to the energy efficient kingdom.

Smarter submetering works for everyone, from the residential property owner, clear up to huge manufacturing facilities.
Photo courtesy of Leviton
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