March 25, 2019
FOCUS: Green Business/Energy

Highland Park Market’s intelligent buildings shave $100K in energy costs

Patrick O’Neill Chief Operating Officer, JouleSmart

Q&A talks to Patrick O'Neill, COO of JouleSmart, an Oregon-based provider of smart-building energy technology, which recently installed its system at three Highland Park Market grocery stores in Glastonbury, Manchester and Suffield.

Branded as "Integrated Intelligence Gateway" or IIG, JouleSmart's system uses sensors to remotely monitor and control HVAC, lighting systems, air quality and freezer/cooler temperatures, with the aim of lowering energy costs.

Q. As a result of using the IIG system, Highland Park Market expects to lop off $100,000 from its annual energy bill of nearly $300,000. How is it possible to save that much?

A. These stores have long operating hours. So, every kilowatt you save in lighting will save you something on the order of 5,000 kWh per year. There are a lot of lights in a grocery store. Similarly, the HVAC system operates long hours and moves millions of cubic feet of ventilation air. If you can lower the energy required to move that air, as well as reduce the amount of heating and cooling you need to do it, it adds up very quickly.

Q. JouleSmart's target customer is the small or mid-size commercial building owner. In general, at what level of energy use or building size does a smart-building system start to make sense?

A. Generally when their total monthly spend on energy utilities (natural gas, electric, propane, oil, etc.) exceeds $2,500.

Q. There was no upfront capital expense for Highland Park's three local stores to install your system. What is JouleSmart's revenue model? How does JouleSmart get paid?

A. JouleSmart takes over the payment of the utility bills for the term of our contract, usually five to seven years, with the customer. The customer pays JouleSmart an amount equal to its old utility bills, while JouleSmart uses the savings from the retrofit to pay back the capital borrowed for the project as well as a monthly service fee. Of the savings that are left over after that, 70 percent goes to the customer. After the initial contract term, the savings increase, since there are no more capital costs to pay back. The customer's share of the savings is then increased to 85 percent.

Q. How much do Highland Park managers have to interact with the IIG system? How much is done either automatically or manually on JouleSmart's end?

A. The customer can make adjustments to the system at any time via mobile devices or the web. However, JouleSmart's IIG is highly automated and it is our goal for the system to operate without frequent customer interaction. After all, they have a business to run, and any time they spend on their IIG is time they are not spending with their customers and employees.

Q. Can you give an example of a particular process that your system automates? How is JouleSmart's system unique compared to a programmable thermostat or a lighting timer?

A. One example is "Demand Controlled Ventilation" (DCV). The building code says a building must provide sufficient outside (fresh) air to dilute internal contaminants inside the building. Almost all small commercial buildings address this problem by setting their HVAC systems to take in a fixed amount of fresh air, with the amount based on the assumption that the building is always full. That means the HVAC system is heating or cooling a lot of extra air that isn't really needed.

Rather than setting a fixed amount of ventilation air, DCV adjusts ventilation based on measuring the levels of carbon dioxide inside the building, ensuring that you don't bring in more than needed, allowing you to save on heating and cooling costs.

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