Just like the old adage that you can only manage what you can measure, CostWatch’s services are based on the premise that the best way to reduce energy and water consumption is to measure, monitor and if possible automate it.
CostWatch started off monitoring utilities, by sub-metering water and electricity usage in commercial buildings, before it evolved into a monitoring service for climate and other types of physical parameters that all affect how energy and water is consumed.
The monitoring of energy is a first step to determine how and when electricity is used and potentially how it can be saved. CostWatch also has developed automations that help improve inefficient systems through timers and sensors that measure and control temperatures and light indoors or soil moisture through the required level of irrigation outdoors.
In combination the monitoring and automated control of energy usage allows to maximise a property’s efficiency. The wireless monitoring devices connect with CostWatch’s database where the data is processed and stored.
CostWatch offers the computer, software and sensor based system as a service as well as a hardware.
“You can buy the hardware, which makes sense and is cost-effective when you are convinced that you are going to be using it going forward. But you can also rent it on a rolling three month contract, so you can test it without making a huge commitment,” says Brian Roffey.
The system for a large commercial building might cost up to $20,000, which includes all the monitoring but it will take time and effort to achieve this in savings.
“If a place needs just one thing to be automated and they don’t have a building management system in place already, then CostWatch can fill that gap very cost effectively without them having to go out and buy the whole kit.”
CostWatch is taking an active role in the process, based on the company’s experience in analysing the data and spotting energy usage trends, in order to identify all the opportunities for higher energy efficiency.
The rental cost of the service varies and is based on a fixed price per electrical meter and per climate sensor as customers pay per device installed for monitoring purposes.
“A typical commercial building in a rolling contract would be something in the region of $1,500 to $2,000 a month, which in our experience equates to around 5 per cent of the buildings monthly electrical bill,” Roffey explains. “And we put them into a position to save 15 per cent. So it makes sense financially.”
Another benefit is the sub-metering in commercial buildings for tenants. In a building with multiple tenants, one tenant may be running a server room and the air condition the entire day and night, whereas another tenant may only be on the premises from 9am to 5pm.
Because one tenant’s energy consumption is a lot higher, splitting the bill on a square footage basis will mean that the tenant who is less energy hungry is going to subsidise the other tenant.
“This is the way it is in most buildings and basically happening all over the Islands,” says Roffey.
The sub-metering, which splits energy use into common area consumption, each tenant’s consumption and AC consumption, and then calculates the exact energy use of each tenant, makes the process not only fairer, but also puts the tenants in control of their energy consumption and their overheads.
It may even provide the impetus to go green and become more energy efficient, for example by replacing fittings like lighting with more energy efficient LED.
Roffey says there is often no incentive for a tenant who is subsiding another tenant’s consumption to save energy, because if he becomes more energy efficient, everyone else benefits from his expense.
“We enable clients to achieve these energy savings by making them fully beneficial to them,” he says.
Sub-metering of water use is another service offered by CostWatch, mainly for condominiums.
Typically these properties have house meters but require the property manager to read the meters and make the calculations. Some check water meters on a regular basis to ensure that there are no leaks, which is a considerable risk, given the sizeable piping infrastructure maintained by most condominiums.
“We are saving the property manager time and also give them the peace of mind that there are no leaks in any of the condos,” Roffey says.
The monitoring works electronically, is fully automated and also runs two types of leak detection. The system stores the typical water consumption during a day. When certain thresholds are exceeded, it is considered a leak case and an email will be sent to the property manager, explains Roffey.
“We also check that the property hits zero water consumption at least once a day, because it indicates that there are no leaks.”
Condominiums with high water costs for the irrigation of gardens and landscaping areas will also benefit from soil moisture sensors, which can control irrigation effectively.
“We found that rain sensors can dry out very quickly so they are using more water than they actually need to,” notes Roffey and adds that on two Seven Mile Beach condominium complexes where CostWatch is used water costs were reduced by 30 per cent.
For smaller residential properties and single homes as well as for commercial properties, CostWatch offers energy audits. The assessment will include recommendations on how to increase energy efficiency, the costs and the projected pay-back of the measures if implemented.
The most cost-effective energy savings are achieved by changing habits, says Roffey. Sometimes the solution may be the replacement of an old AC system or the installation of new lighting, but automation generally costs a lot less and makes it more cost-effective in most cases, he adds.