When it comes to choosing the right solution to get the most of your LV electrical distribution, there are two main questions to ask: “why” do you need communication inside the switchboards and “how” easily will this solution be implemented.
WHY this electrical distribution process?
Answering the “why” part can be straightforward for building operators: it’s always about money.
First, you can save on OpEx spending by improving the energy efficiency of the building, therefore using an energy management system to spot energy waste and make sure your action plans to reduce them is actually producing benefits.
Second, you can improve the maintenance of the technical installation and improve uptime (HVAC, Lighting, Security systems) by knowing early enough that an equipment will have an issue. This could be done by installing monitoring devices that detects phase unbalance, overloads on each critical loads (fan, pump, lighting circuit, bathrooms…) or even inform you when and why a circuit breaker has tripped.
In case of critical applications, avoiding any disruption of the activities by monitoring the load level is more and more important. To do so, your first thing to do is to install the necessary sensors at load level and to connect it to an Energy Management System to get the necessary reporting information on time.
For these reasons, most of us would like to have a simple energy management system in its building.
Now, let’s talk about the HOW.
What prevents most of us from doing it is the “How”. We all know it is usually not so simple to add the right device at load level and connect them in a simple manner into a software. There is not always the necessary space left in the installation, and wiring this could become a nightmare.
But things are changing very quickly with IOT, and digitizing the electrical signal of each load becomes now affordable, and much simpler to install than in the past, even in existing installations.
So … how?
Going Wireless is less intrusive
Implementing communication inside a switchboard usually ends in a messy bunch of auxiliary wires running from energy meters and auxiliaries to terminal blocks or a small PLC. Let alone the aesthetic aspect, the worst about that is the number of cabling errors that this generates. Wireless technology helps reducing auxiliary wiring and leave the “bolts and screws” to the power distribution. Wireless communication implies a commissioning stage which ensures that the switchboard is actually communicating when leaving the manufacturer workshop.
Small is beautiful… and efficient
Standard energy meters use up a lot of the space available in already chock-a-block distribution boards. This can deter engineers to add more monitoring in new construction sites where available room decreases as the square meter price increases. This is also true when adding monitoring in existing boards where there is usually no spare room on the DIN rails. This is why energy sensors offered as “circuit-breaker auxiliaries” are the most efficient way to add high-density monitoring in every switchboard.
High accuracy is a must
These main advantages can’t be offset by a poor accuracy. We can see many solutions on the market claiming reduced size but delivering poor measurement accuracy. Load levels in a distribution board can be as small as a few amps. IEC 61557-12 standard gives you the right key to compare accurate and not so accurate energy meters. White papers exist to help you define the right accuracy at the right level.
Download this free white paper from Schneider Electric to learn more about IEC-61557-12 standard.
Ethernet communication is a worldwide standard
Modern communication architectures are based on Ethernet. You would expect that supervision systems use this media rather than the old serial port. Switchboards communicating natively on Ethernet become the trend. Thanks to this, simple PC/tablet based commissioning tools help switchboard builders to deliver switchboard with reports at the communication level as well.
It is very straightforward to understand why an Energy Monitoring System is necessary to reduce your energy and maintenance in most businesses. But the main challenge becomes on the “how” to do it, to guarantee a simple and timely project implementation with our EcoXpert Connected Partners. PowerTag and future IoT sensors will radically change the way to digitize any electrical load, and really transform the switchboards into Smart Load Centres. For the first time, the idea of monitoring uptime & energy of each critical load becomes a reality, at an affordable total cost, even in existing installations. Smart loads will make the businesses much more efficient.
Talk to me about your electrical distribution solutions; leave a comment below!