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Minnesota State University Moorhead Saves Energy and Labor

Jeff Goebel, Physical Plant Manager at Minnesota State University at Moorhead (MSUM), knew there had to be a better way. He wanted an easier way for his employees to control HVAC equipment across campus. He heard about a software solution called Events2HVAC at a conference and looked it up online. In May 2010, MSUM became a beta test site for the software which works as a bridge between Dean Evans EMS® and various HVAC and building control systems to automatically control equipment based on scheduled events. The results have been impressive.


Energy Savings

There are currently over 260 rooms in 17 buildings at MSUM that are integrated with Events2HVAC and Dean Evans EMS for automatic HVAC scheduling and control. Based on the average room occupancy rate of 12% in the previous year, the energy savings will be significant. For example, for a sample of 66 rooms (58,622 square feet total) that have dedicated VAV boxes, early results indicate that the university will save 45 to 55 cents per square foot annually for heating, cooling, and ventilation, with historical expenses at $1.75 per square foot annually.*


“My reduction in the last calendar year of electricity usage was 13%, and that is especially remarkable because we added 43,000 square feet to our campus.” (Jeff Goebel)


“My reduction in the last calendar year of electricity usage was 13%,” Goebel said, “and that is especially remarkable because we added 43,000 square feet to our campus.”

Goebel said he expects the savings to be even more significant as winter progresses since heating is a major expense in Minnesota. “Of course it is not just electricity,” Goebel explained, “it’s also conserving heating fuel as well because when space is not scheduled, it becomes unoccupied in the system and air flows are either reduced or cut off to the those spaces. So we are saving not just the electricity of running fans or cooling systems, but also the heating involved in ventilating extra space during winter.”


Labor Savings

But energy conservation is not the only story. Labor was the initial driver for Goebel to look for a solution, and the labor savings are significant too. MSUM is saving 10-15 man-hours per week with the new system. “It frees us up to take care of other repairs,” said Kim Owen, Information Technology Specialist, who is overseeing the project. “I find it easy to use and dependable.” Owen has introduced several other employees to Events2HVAC, and he said they are picking it up quickly.


“I find it easy to use and dependable.” (Kim Owen)


As Goebel and his employees previously experienced, it takes tremendous effort to manually schedule HVAC systems down to the room level in order to save energy. Goebel said, “I actually sat and counted the number of mouse clicks. In one case, in one system, it took 11 mouse clicks to make one change. And in another system, it took 17 mouse clicks. And those didn’t seem terribly significant if you’re the supplier of the software because you’re thinking in terms of making a single change. But we have over 13,000 events per year; that’s a lot of mouse clicking to do. So I was really looking for a solution for the redundant data entry.”


“I was really looking for a solution for the redundant data entry.” (Jeff Goebel)


Before using Events2HVAC, MSUM had to strike a balance between energy use and labor expense. Most of their equipment was scheduled with a common building-occupied schedule. If a building opened at 7 am and closed at 8 pm, all of the rooms operated in occupied mode for 13 hrs each day; though a typical classroom or auditorium might only have three hours of occupied time in that 13-hour period.

Owen said MSUM tries to educate people at the university about conserving energy to get them to help. “But the only way that we can get people to do it is to automate it,” he said. “We can tell people to turn the thermostat down or turn the lights off, but chances of it happening for a long period of time are pretty slim.”

At MSUM today, several people schedule special events using Dean Evans EMS, and the regular class schedules are batch loaded into the system by the Registrar’s office. Then, Events2HVAC automatically schedules HVAC equipment for each room that is assigned to the system. Owen said he goes through the schedule quickly every morning to give it a “sanity check,” but he will soon pass this task off to someone in operations.


Cross-Platform Flexibility

Because Events2HVAC is a cross-platform solution that works with all versions of Dean Evans EMS and multiple types of HVAC systems, MSUM can make extensive use of it across campus without purchasing new equipment.


“As long as we can utilize BACnet® to control the points, it can be across any kind of platform, so it really opens the world to me of having a variety of brands and equipment out there.” (Jeff Goebel)


“As long as we can utilize BACnet® to control the points,” said Goebel, “it can be across any kind of platform, so it really opens the world to me of having a variety of brands and equipment out there. And it kind of increases the ability of us to have competition on bidding projects because as long as they are BACnet compatible we don’t have to go to a sole brand.”


Multiple Uses

One way that MSUM is expanding its use of Events2HVAC is by using it to control door locks. Owen has set up the system to control both Honeywell and Johnson Controls door lock systems so that classrooms will unlock 10 minutes before each class, and lock 10 minutes after each class. Only a few classrooms are set up this way currently, but Owen plans to expand this control to additional rooms and buildings.

“We’re able to use that same idea and have it do doors,” Owen said, “and so it’s kind of a little unlimited as what you can tackle with it—which is very good. Usually the biggest problem with the door system here is having them open when they’re supposed to be because it used to take a full time person just to make sure that worked right.”

Owen said they are also considering expanding the system to lighting, which is another capability of the Events2HVAC software. Goebel added that now that MSUM is using Events2HVAC to automatically command equipment in campus spaces, other energy-saving equipment is becoming more attractive.

“Both in terms of any kind of control systems whether its energy management control, door access control, or even lighting control now become more attractive to me because we would not have to work hard to manage them,” Goebel explained. “They’ll be managed seamlessly by a single person scheduling the use of the space. Where I previously would have been opposed to adding those systems simply because of the requirement of operating them, now I’m actually attracted to putting in more access controls and lighting controls that are centrally managed just because I won’t have to work harder to keep it operational.”

* Notes on calculations:

  • MSUM provided a building operation time schedule for the previous year; room occupancy rates were actual values from the previous year in MSUM’s Dean Evans EMS.

  • Ventilation savings were calculated based on minimum air flow at the VAV box. Actual savings could be more if VAV boxes run above minimum levels or supplemental heating is used.

Events2HVAC Integrated Systems:

  • Johnson Controls Metasys® Extended Architecture (VAV's, AHU's)

  • Johnson Controls P2000 Card Key Security System (Door Access)

  • Honeywell EBI® (VAV's, AHU's, Star II Door Terminals)

  • Dean Evans EMS® Campus (Academic and Student Union Calendar)


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