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Automating Demand Response with Events2HVAC

Feb 7

Written by:
2/7/2018 2:38 PM  RssIcon

Jim Urbanski, Energy Manager at Wicomico County Public Schools in Maryland, is a true pioneer of energy management. In addition to implementing Events2HVAC to automate HVAC schedules for 1,059 rooms in his 24 schools, he has developed a solution to use Events2HVAC to automate demand response events.

Urbanski uses EMS for room scheduling, and Reliable Controls to send commands out to his various newer and older HVAC systems.

To automate his demand response, he first created a “room” in EMS called “DR” (for demand response). Then he created a zone in Events2HVAC called “Red Day/Demand Response.” In Events2HVAC, he linked the zone to the room, and created 645 actions for the zone that are commanded all at once when the DR room is scheduled in EMS.

“I set up all of these actions in the reverse way that you would if you were setting up an event schedule.”
(Jim Urbanski)

“I set up all of these actions in the reverse way that you would if you were setting up an event schedule,” Urbanski explained. “I use BACnet. So, for an event schedule, you would write the equipment to be on at the start, so you would write a 1 to it. I write a 0 to it to turn it off at the start.”

Most of his 645 actions affect occupancy points, so they are returned to unoccupied settings for the demand response event. But some points are analog setpoints (temperatures), so the actions he created raises those setpoints in the summer, and lowers them in the winter. One of the actions also triggers a variable in Reliable Controls that handles duty cycling in some of the spaces.

Before implementing this strategy for demand response, Urbanski’s team had to start manually shutting equipment down 2 ½ to 3 hours before a demand response event to meet their goal.  

“Now it takes as fast as you can type in a single schedule through EMS,” Urbanski said. You schedule an event, and it does it on its own. And then I just monitor my demand response screen to make sure my energy usage is coming down to where it is supposed to be.”

The Red Day/Demand Response zone Urbanski created in Events2HVAC has a 60-minute pre-start. When he receives a notification from his power company alerting him to a demand response event, he schedules his DR room in EMS for the actual time of the event, and Events2HVAC automatically triggers all 645 actions one hour before the event.

“In order to get to where we are contracted to,” Urbanski said, “I start the demand response event an hour before the actual demand response starts.”
(Jim Urbanski)

“In order to get to where we are contracted to,” Urbanski said, “I start the demand response event an hour before the actual demand response starts. So, all my levels are down and everything has settled out when the demand response actually starts, so I can get the optimum cutting of kilowatt hours at that point.”

A typical demand response event for his schools lasts 2 or 3 hours, Urbanski said, usually 4 pm to 6 or 7 pm. Regular classes are generally over, and after-school events are underway. He has set up a priority system for his HVAC commands to make sure that his demand response events will take precedence over any other schedules.

“The priority that I use for our demand response overrides everything,” Urbanski explained. “I’m writing to a priority 3. I don’t really have any 1 or 2. My regular scheduling is priority 10. And then when I write to it through Events2HVAC, that would be a priority 8. Then when I go into demand response, I’m writing to a priority 3, so it overrides everything to off.”

However, he does have to be a bit careful with large special events scheduled during demand response times.

“Depending on what the special event is, if we’ve got 400 people and the public’s involved, and they’re all in an auditorium, I’m not going to shut it off,” Urbanski said. “That’s why I reserve the priority 1 and 2. I can go in and override that on – send a schedule down to it at a higher priority.”

Urbanski said he is currently working on a plan to automate that part of his process too.

One of the hurdles Urbanski has overcome in setting up his system is transparency. In addition to sending commands to the occupancy points, he also sends descriptions so that technicians at all 24 schools will be able to tell when a point is being controlled by Events2HVAC or a Red Day.

When an event is scheduled in EMS, and Events2HVAC sends a command to his Reliable Controls system, it also writes a description that says “E2H” so that any technician who looks at the point will know immediately that it is being controlled by a schedule from Events2HVAC. When the event is over, and the schedule is relinquished, the description reads “No Event,” so that technicians will know that no event schedule is commanding the point.

He uses the descriptions similarly for demand response or Red Day events.

“Not only do I write to the variable itself to turn things off, I write a description to the point,” Urbanski said. “Because you’ve got different people looking at it, and all of a sudden stuff shuts down. And they are trying to troubleshoot what could be wrong with this piece of equipment. Or why isn’t the schedule working? The schedule’s on. Why is the point off? I turn it on, it goes back off.

My Reliable Controls system allows me to write to a label, and that label I write says Red Day. So, when this event happens, if someone is looking at the point itself in a point schedule or point list, they can see what is commanding this thing is Red Day. When I relinquish it, it goes back to saying No Event.”

While Urbanski admits that his system is not quite foolproof yet, he is excited about the level of automation and savings he has achieved so far. Compared to the manual method they used before Events2HVAC, demand response events are now much less stressful.

“Right now, what this has done for my Red Day or demand response is it’s cut the time to where I don’t have to think about it anymore.”
(Jim Urbanski)

“Right now, what this has done for my Red Day or demand response is it’s cut the time to where I don’t have to think about it anymore,” Urbanski said. “We were doing most of it by hand or manually. We would go in and turn off occupancy points, re-set set points, things like that. So what Events2HVAC has allowed us to do, is just go in and set one time-period. So now I don’t have to have anyone sit in front of a computer and turn things off. And even more so, I don’t have to have anybody sit in front of a computer and turn things back on. It does it automatically through Events2HVAC.”

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