Checklist for putting clunky old metering solutions behind you

Stock image ex Canva to illustrate Wattwatchers blog post on building code compliance with metering

In a series of articles, also available on request as an eBook, Wattwatchers explores the challenges and opportunities building owners, managers and installers face with electricity metering and monitoring for building code compliance.

ARTICLE 4: Built Environment Compliance Series

‘Wireless metering systems for data transmission and power supply are easy to install, reducing labour and overall cost. There are also safety and flexibility benefits as equipment can often be clipped to existing cables and junctions without needing to modify the electrical system.’energy.gov.au 

The previous three instalments in this series (Articles 1, 2 and 3) have shown how electricity metering technologies have come a long way in recent years, taking advantage of contemporary wireless communications to make metering/monitoring more nimble and flexible. 

This final instalment (Article 4) fills out the checklist for planning and implementing new-technology solutions for building code compliance.

Flexibility is a critical factor, so look for web technologies that work on any browser, that can be accessed from anywhere, and which cater for a range of user-types. 

Technical users may want a lot of detail. Operations are interested in what needs to be addressed. Tenants in a building may want something simple (i.e. an app on their smartphone) to know how they are tracking, but some will also have an appetite for more sophisticated data.

There’s a variety of needs to be covered off for energy data to make it as useful as possible, including:

  • True web-based technologies
  • Mobile options
  • Presentation of key KPIs clearly and comprehensively
  • Capacity to customise views

Our wrap-up summary of ‘do’s and don’ts’ includes:

  1. Avoid communications cabling and conduits by using 4G cellular communications, with no ‘hub’.

Cellular helps to avoid communications cabling, conduits and commissioning, which can add up to a significant time and cost investment in electricity metering projects. 

In some electricity metering projects, this is the single largest component.

For retrofits, having a metering system independent of the Building Management System (BMS) not only provides more flexibility, but also simplifies scoping and installation.

This is because you don’t need to understand the detail of legacy systems, like getting into the type of BMS/EMS, its specific capabilities and detail of points licences, and the often arduous task of extracting the data you want from it.

Wherever multiple devices need to be connected together, installers have to spend time on configuring them. Avoiding communication ‘hubs’ saves time on installation and configuration.

This means that installation can be cost effective, even with very small numbers of metering points, because you’re not investing $1,000+ to have some kind of ‘hub’ supplied and installed as well as the actual metering devices. 

If you want data locally-stored in the event of a comms interruption, you may end up with a logging device as well. 

Solar monitoring and capturing tenant load are good examples of where you only need a small number of meters to be cost effective.

Best-in-class solutions will combine multiple functions into a cost-effective cellular-communicating package, making it simple to scope, install, configure and commission. 

Remember, cellular (4G) communications independent of the tenant’s WiFi enables greater reliability because it’s not impacted by network security setting changes, or password alterations.

  1. Go for great data accessibility and quality

Electricity metering should be Class 1 (+/- 1%) accurate, which is the same accuracy as a utility billing meter.

Reliability is a key factor too. Communications interruptions are ‘real-world issues’, with carrier outages not uncommon.

Best-in-class solutions will have good internal logging capacity (e.g. three weeks plus), with the ability to ‘catch-up’ after communications outages, thus helping to ensure that data is accurate and complete.

  1. Save time with simple app-based configuration. 

Compared to pressing buttons on traditional meters and scrolling through menus with limited lines, step-by-step configuration on a well-designed mobile app is fast and simple, reducing the likelihood of installation errors.

In addition, all of the naming for the device and channels that the installer enters should automatically flow through into applications.

This simplifies onboarding by eliminating the need for re-entering data, or entering information from hard-copy commissioning sheets.

Data quality checks also should be able to be performed onsite and remotely, enabling new ways of working.

Device and circuit names, CT settings and individual phase readings all should be viewable remotely, enabling data to be validated and easily rechecked. This helps to ensure that current transformers are correctly placed, the right CT settings have been made, and that loads are clearly named.

  1. Save on time and materials by mounting inside electrical boards

There are good reasons why the most suitable devices are designed to mount inside electrical boards on a standard DIN-rail mounting system, fitting right alongside the circuit-breakers. 

Using a standard mounting saves installation time and cost, and, in retrofit situations, often allows the device to be fitted into existing space without the need for additional enclosures.

  1. Small is a big advantage – so choose ultra-compact by design

Best-in-class compact devices will only take up about 35mm of DIN-rail space (i.e. two DIN units wide), and will be able to meter multiple circuits, including both single- and 3-phase..

Compared with large-sized traditional electricity meters, Energy IoT devices have a much higher density in metering coverage terms, enabling the use of smaller electrical boards, and reducing cost.

This is particularly advantageous if you’re aiming for higher levels of Green Star or NABERS compliance, which requires more metering. 

Even if it’s only for NCC building code compliance, being small has a big advantage to lower costs and save valuable space.

In retrofit scenarios, being compact gives the best chance of fitting within available board space, and helping to simplify installation.

James Clements is Director Net Zero Property with Wattwatchers.