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In recent decades, the standard approach for large and multi-site companies to manage heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) energy use has been achieved through investments made in building automation systems (BAS). A modern BAS provides the capabilities to schedule, monitor, and control HVAC equipment to conserve energy while maintaining comfort. Some of the most desired HVAC benefits of a BAS include centralized setpoint control, the ability to enforce corporate policies around setpoints and schedules, individual zone controls, and access to energy efficiency and demand optimization opportunities.

Although a potentially highly effective approach, in practice, the benefits of a BAS are seldom fully achieved.1 The reasons include the fact that these complex systems require a substantial time commitment from staff who must possess the expertise needed to effectively manage the burden involved in programming and operating these systems. Depending on the type of building, its size, and the number of integrated subsystems, implementing a BAS can be an expensive undertaking. Many companies – especially those with smaller facilities – cannot justify the significant capital investment of a BAS. And often, a BAS encompasses more functionality than building operators require.

Newer IoT-based solutions greatly reduce both the large upfront costs and levels of complexity associated with owning and operating traditional building automation systems. Today, central control automation hardware has given way to cloud-based software solutions that allow massive amounts of valuable data to be quickly analyzed, leading to reduced waste and more efficient operation of HVAC equipment. Enterprise companies can create a “Virtual BAS” for a fraction of the cost using Encycle’s SwarmStat™, which “supercharges” connected smart thermostats powered by the company’s Swarm Logic® technology.

SwarmStat enhances the capabilities of smart thermostats, establishing a new future where customers can create a Virtual BAS with a far more compelling financial business case than a traditional BAS or smart thermostat.

Already an attractive option for many commercial and industrial customers, smart thermostats usually cost significantly less than a BAS. They are easy to install, operate, and maintain. On their own, smart thermostats can deliver 5%-10% reductions in HVAC electric spend and consumption through effective setpoint and scheduling control.

As an innovator in HVAC energy management, Encycle’s SwarmStat cloud-based solution has significantly elevated smart thermostats’ capabilities and energy-saving potential, thereby closing the gap or enhancing their performance compared to building automation systems. Thus, Encycle’s easily distributed, low-cost analytics enable customers to realize even more HVAC benefits than a traditional BAS through the company’s SwarmStat offering. SwarmStat brings the power of Encycle’s IoT-based Swarm Logic® technology to connected buildings through compatible smart thermostats, making it easy to achieve new levels of energy efficiency. Independent studies have demonstrated that SwarmStat delivers nearly twice the savings of traditional connected thermostats, validating that a Virtual BAS provides a compelling and cost-effective case for the small and medium-sized (SMB) market segment. Swarm Stat is an ideal solution for enterprise companies and utility energy efficiency programs for sites with smaller footprints.

How Swarm Logic works

Swarm Logic software uses connected smart thermostats to collect HVAC asset and building operational data, sending it to the cloud where the multi-patented technology employs artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to determine optimal HVAC control decisions. As thermal loads in the building vary in response to factors such as changing outdoor temperatures and occupancy levels, Swarm Logic continuously adapts to optimize energy efficiency and maintain prescribed occupant comfort.

Encycle’s unique approach delivers 10%-30% reductions in HVAC-related kW, kWh, and CO2, operating 24/7/365 and requiring no human interaction. These dramatic savings are on top of what customers are already achieving through their existing rudimentary or smart hardware investments.

Swarm Logic users learn almost immediately that this economical, simple-to-enable energy management solution delivers expected results, including a rapid return on investment (ROI). Swarm Portal™, Encycle’s web-based reporting and analytics platform, provides intuitive insights into Swarm Logic performance, energy savings, and the health and operations of your HVAC assets.

A Virtual BAS gives customers the best of both worlds.

Compared to a traditional BAS, a more economical way to manage energy and realize significant savings is by creating a Virtual BAS. Many customers want more savings and operational insights than a smart thermostat can provide but are unable to justify a traditional BAS due to its cost and/or “care and feeding” required by staff.

SwarmStat gives customers the best of both worlds – the power of a BAS with the ease of use and greater cost-effectiveness of smart thermostats! This is an optimal solution for customers who want to better manage their HVAC systems but do not need integration with other systems such as lighting, security, fire suppression, and refrigeration.

Integrating Swarm Logic and Swarm Portal with smart thermostats delivers many of the same capabilities of a BAS – essentially creating a Virtual BAS for a fraction of the cost and complexity. With Encycle, customers gain a new suite of control benefits than out-of-the-box smart thermostats provide:

  • Dramatic reduction in energy costs while maintaining comfort within customer-designated parameters
  • Remote management of setpoints and group scheduling
  • Easy-to-understand energy and HVAC unit operational reporting and analytics that shift maintenance activities from reactive to proactive
  • Reach for sustainability goals by reducing GHG emissions
  • 24/7/365 multiple user access with role-based security and permissions
  • Hands-free, autonomous operation frees facility operations teams to focus on other priorities
  • Fast and economical to install
  • Support for demand response programs to unlock additional revenue (Open ADR 2.0 and CPower Link)
  • Encycle SwarmStat works with several popular smart thermostats on the market

The benefits of Encycle’s Swarm Logic energy optimization technology are realized through patented software integration on smart thermostats; all that’s required are compatible thermostats subscribed with SwarmStat and a reliable Wi-Fi and internet connection.

Evaluating the right energy optimization solution for your organization.

Any time you are converting or upgrading to a smarter building, you need to have a clear notion of what the ROI will be; that is, will the solution generate enough value in a reasonable timeframe while being adjusted for risk.

Building automation systems, smart thermostats, and Swarm Logic technology can all be utilized in just about any retail, commercial, or industrial building, including big box stores, grocery stores, restaurants, schools, offices, and distribution centers. But customers should especially examine whether a traditional BAS can truly maximize energy efficiency when considering the high initial cost and complexity to achieve enhanced functionality. When used alone, smart thermostats deliver some proven degree of energy savings but can fall short on demand management, bulk scheduling, and setpoint programming for multiple sites while offering essentially no analytics or reporting capabilities. SwarmStat changes that by addressing every one of these drawbacks.

By comparing the features and functions of Encycle’s SwarmStat offering against BAS and smart thermostats, it becomes clear why commercial and industrial enterprises across North America rely on Swarm Logic technology to significantly lower electric costs, maximize efficiency, and reduce environmental impact.

Comparison of features: Encycle SwarmStat vs. traditional controls

Encycle SwarmStat vs. traditional controls

Taking an even closer look at the unique advantages of a Virtual BAS.

Beyond the more obvious benefits that Encycle helps customers achieve by creating a Virtual BAS, Swarm Logic offers other additional unique advantages over a traditional BAS.

Highly adaptable – Unlike traditional BAS software that tends to be a “one-size-fits-all” design, Encycle’s cloud-based Swarm Logic technology is a highly adaptable platform that can be updated “over the air” periodically and, if required, customized to meet specific building requirements and goals.

Robust, cloud-based control – During a control system malfunction, with a traditional BAS, HVAC equipment may begin operating in its fail-safe mode. The building manager must then run the equipment in manual mode until the controller comes back online. Once this occurs, the building manager needs to restore the automatic mode operating parameters to their initial settings. With Swarm Logic’s remote cloud-based control of sites or enterprise-wide smart thermostats, loss of communication with some or even all of the thermostats does not require any action by the building manager during or after the event to restore normal operation. Thus, building occupants may never even be aware that a loss of connectivity occurred.

Fine-tuned optimization – Building managers are often faced with less-than-optimum BAS parameter optimization, or even programming errors, by the installation/integration contractor(s). As a result, they often elect to let the HVAC system run in manual mode. It is unrealistic to expect a building manager or even an installer/integrator to optimally tune and maintain a system due to time pressures and lack of expertise. In particular, the core algorithm behind the HVAC controls, Proportional, Integral, Derivative (PID) algorithms, are poorly understood and seldom fully optimized. Consequently, the tuning of control systems is often performed by trial-and-error manipulation of the PID algorithm parameters. With Swarm Logic, native HVAC system PID controls are optimized automatically for each piece of equipment (e.g., rooftop unit, compressor, etc.) without any need for operator intervention.

Secure data – Swarm Logic’s cloud-based offsite data storage ensures against data loss.

Open protocols for greater access – BAS-related technologies are continually evolving, so the ability to make updates with products from multiple vendors is essential. While open systems such as BACnet, LonWorks, Tridium/Niagara are becoming more commonplace in IoT and HVAC applications, many older BAS systems are built on proprietary communication protocols. For these legacy BAS systems, upgrades can be very expensive or even impossible to implement. Swarm Logic is based on open protocols that allow for seamless upgrades of equipment without relying on the intervention and expertise of the building manager.

Individual zone control – With a Virtual BAS, there are configuration options for connected buildings to tailor control of critical temperature-sensitive zones, such as server rooms, pharmacy areas, reception desks, or point-of-sale areas. Swarm Logic not only allows each zone to be assigned different setpoints, but also different priority levels that automatically coordinate activation of HVAC equipment based on the individual zone priority. Thus, if a critical temperature threshold is exceeded, Swarm Logic will reprioritize HVAC activity to ensure the desired temperature in critical zones is maintained.

User-friendly interface – Swarm Logic provides a user-friendly interface that encompasses all the convenient features found in current high-end BAS systems. This includes remote access from a mobile device, enabling 24/7/365 data visibility and management of the various equipment control parameters from virtually anywhere.

Embraces continuous commissioning practices – A growing number of companies are adopting continuous commissioning practices to improve building efficiency and comfort. The challenge is that most of these efforts typically require significant time commitments and expertise. Applying real-time analytics to the energy-related data collected every five minutes, Swarm Logic overcomes these barriers and autonomously maximizes energy savings across an entire portfolio of buildings.

Summing it all up.

Encycle’s integrated autonomous approach to HVAC energy management is highly intuitive and responsive, continually optimizing the operations of a building’s HVAC equipment as new data are received that reflect fluctuations in each thermostat’s individual cooling requirements. Indoor comfort is rarely compromised, while critical building zone requirements are always met. Encycle’s proprietary HVAC algorithms and advanced methodologies mean customers who subscribe to Swarm Logic always have next-generation control capabilities that stack up well against higher-priced investments.

Commercial buildings’ HVAC systems generally attribute to 35%-50% of a commercial building’s total electric energy consumption. Since Encycle’s SwarmStat can reduce the HVAC energy usage by 10%-30%, an enterprise can anticipate significant energy savings with an ROI in months.

For more information on how Encycle can help you create a Virtual BAS, contact us at +1 855-875-4031.

1Fernandez, N., et al. U.S. Department of Energy, May 2017, Impacts of Commercial Building Controls on Energy Savings and Peak Load Reduction.

Contributing author: Keith Hudson, Director, Product Management, Encycle Corporation

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