Printing Company Tracks Building Energy, Manages Peak Demand

Managing energy consumption is a major issue confronting many industrial companies.

May 1st, 2009
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By Jennifer Washburn

Managing energy consumption is a major issue confronting many industrial companies. While some companies have been slow to change in the past, many are faced with rising energy demand costs and realize that the status quo is no longer the standard way of doing business.

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Concerned about monitoring its own facility’s energy usage, MCD, Inc., a Wisconsin-based specialty print finishing company, teamed up with Informing Ecological Design, LLC, a Madison-based consulting firm, to monitor the printing plant’s electricity use and help manage their peak energy demand.

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Kevin Little, Ph.D., founder of Informing Ecological Design, managed the project. “Because our client is a commercial specialty print finisher, they have specific equipment that draws high levels of power. MCD’s utility charges are on both a time of day and demand rate and they are very mindful of the rising costs associated with energy demand charges. They are also looking comprehensively at the environmental impact of their business,” explains Little.

Firms like Ecological Design use their expertise to help their clients track and understand energy use in buildings, while providing informational tools that help save money, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and make better energy decisions.

Specifically, MCD needed real-time access to their energy data to better understand how to manage their electric energy usage. Utility companies charge commercial buildings a fee for the power that they use (peak power draw), as well as for the electric energy that they actually consume. In addition, the time of day makes a difference in the rates charged.

To monitor MCD’s energy usage, Little chose a web-based HOBO U30/Wi-Fi Remote Monitoring System manufactured by Massachusetts-based Onset Computer Corporation. The monitoring system consists of a Wi-Fi-based data logging unit and a pulse input adapter that monitors the plant’s electric energy consumption. The HOBO U30 uses MCD’s existing wireless network and is connected to the local utility’s pulse-equipped meter.

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The U30 system’s rugged enclosure makes it ideal for harsh industrial environments and the system’s plug-and-play architecture ensured fast and easy setup. In no time, MCD managers were able to view real-time data via HOBOlink, a web-enabled software platform designed for the U30 system.

The web-based system was chosen, in particular, due to its low cost and convenience.

“We recommended the Onset solution based of cost and features, and this in turn allowed MCD to leverage existing purchase of pulse signals from their utility,” explains Little.

Before choosing the HOBO U30 system, MCD employed a custom PC-based monitoring system that allowed MCD to view 30 days worth of data during a utility billing period. However, the previous system did not allow for remote access to the data so the company could not view their energy draw in real-time and effectively monitor consumption.

With the U30 system, MCD managers can access the data from Onset’s HOBOlink website and receive alarms when limits are tripped. “With HOBOlink, my client can view the data anytime, anywhere they have access to the Internet,” explains Little. “The ability to view data remotely allows us to see how much energy the facility is consuming. When a company is being charged a demand rate, understanding their energy profile in real-time is critical in reducing usage and saving money.”

The HOBO U30 collects data at two minute intervals around-the-clock. The data is accessible via the web at the following address:

According to Little, the HOBO U30 solution has been a cost-effective solution. “The pay back on this system is only a couple of years or less. It’s harder to sell a system to my clients with a 10 year payback,” explains Little.

About the Author:
Jennifer Washburn is a communications specialist with Onset Computer Corporation.

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