Metering and monitoring systems are an essential part of good facility management. These systems provide valuable insight into facility and equipment performance and support better management of energy use and costs, improved system feedback and optimisation. Continued developments are reducing costs, making advanced metering an increasingly viable proposition.
Metering and monitoring can also link with control technologies for flexible and sophisticated equipment management. This greatly improves production accuracy, yield, quality and consistency.
Make the most of existing metering
Meter readings taken over a long period are often available on your bills or held by third parties such as your energy retailer or network providers. Integrating and communicating this data to managers and staff can help kick-start improvements. It also provides a baseline for energy management.
Energy metering and monitoring enables benchmarking and comparison across facilities and potentially with peers. Benchmarking can raise awareness of company energy use and encourage simple operational initiatives, such as switching off equipment when not in use. It allows comparisons between design and real world energy performance, and theoretical best practice.
In some cases, benchmarking provides the data needed to get a facility star rating, for example under the National Australian Built Environment Ratings System (NABERS) or Green Star programs.
Analysis of meter data may reveal options to adjust the energy demand time-of-use profile of a site and capitalise on more tariff options. Meter data can also validate the accuracy of energy bills and detect incorrect charging.
Commissioning and tuning
Commissioning a metering and monitoring system provides lots of new data to tune existing systems. This can offer easy opportunities for improvement such as:
- adjusting temperature or pressure settings
- improving start-up and shutdown processes
- avoiding idling or redundant equipment.
Detailed meter data can diagnose problems before they lead to high energy consumption or component failure. For example, when motor currents are lower or higher than the long-term average, this can indicate motor failure or wear and tear. Excessive energy consumption outside operational times can indicate faulty controls or switches.
Metering and monitoring can also accurately detect drift in system performance and potentially harmful power surges. Changes in energy consumption compared to load can indicate leaks in compressed air or pumping systems, or issues with components such as valves or air dampers.
Improved access to finance and government support
Having meter data available can improve access to finance by helping to build the business case for upgrades. Detailed data can help to quantify expected cost savings, payback periods and identifying the best upgrade options. This information can also assist in:
- obtaining finance and accessing government grant programs
- participating in demand-response programs
- claiming state energy savings certificates
- measuring and verifying energy savings for completed projects.
Optimise and upgrade
Before upgrading metering and monitoring equipment, prepare or update an inventory that includes:
- metering types, data display and logging systems, such as mechanical versus electronic
- metering capabilities and operational parameters
- other electrical equipment such as circuit breakers and control boards.
As metering systems can be expanded and improved over time, ensure new system components have the capacity to incorporate future upgrades.
While expert advice may be needed, understanding existing equipment can provide a good foundation before engaging with consultants or equipment suppliers.
To read more on obtaining expert advice, see the page on understanding your energy use.
See the Business Energy Advice Program page and register for a free energy consultation.
Meter types, capability and accuracy
Metering and monitoring systems can measure various system parameters other than energy. Equipment suppliers offer dozens of sensor types and designs such as electrical current transformers, temperature, pressure, and humidity sensors. These can be incorporated into a single monitoring and control system.
It is important to consider the meter resolution, accuracy level, and data logging interval that is appropriate. Sophisticated demand response and real-time fault detection strategies require high resolution metering equipment.
See the Measurement standards.
Gas metering information is essential when determining the potential for replacing gas equipment with renewable energy or electric sources. Gas flow meters should at least be installed at the system or process level, though individual device level metering is ideal. When installing flow meters, ensure they are the correct size for the application with enough length of straight pipe upstream and downstream. Gas volume data is converted into energy consumption output data with relevant conversion factors, such as the average energy content (calorific) value of the local gas network.
For more detailed insights into gas system efficiency, data can be collected for other gas system parameters including temperature, pressure, and composition. Consider what data will benefit broader productivity goals such as process control, safety, maintenance, or billing.
Communication and connectivity
Meters can communicate via proprietary protocols but increasingly adopt widely supported open communications protocols such as BACnet and Modbus. This allows the meters to be interfaced to a wide variety of devices and systems. Many systems feature several connectivity options and, if necessary, interfaces are available to convert data into different protocols. When selecting metering components, consider the best connection your circumstances.
Digital output signals from a meter can be transmitted via standard data cables, ethernet or wireless connection. Meters generally communicate data to a central hub or data logger on site, with aggregated data sent to an external data management system via mobile or ethernet.
To read more, see the NSW Government’s Electricity metering and monitoring guide
Component level sub-metering provides the data resolution needed to fully optimise system performance. Equipment data can be analysed and combined with data from other sensors and sources to better identify performance inefficiencies. Subsystem level meters can also be used to trigger maintenance alarms when equipment is operating outside safe limits.
Equipment with built-in data capabilities
Metering, monitoring and control capabilities are being increasingly devolved to intelligent equipment, appliances, and other distributed ‘smart’ devices. When replacing production equipment, purchasing models with metering and communication capabilities can support a detailed sub-metering strategy.
Electricity use data can often be generated from variable speed drives (VSDs) that are used to run motors on common equipment such as pumps, fans, compressors and conveyers. In addition to data generation and reporting capability, the capacity for on board storage can avoid data loss in the case of a system fault.
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.
A variety of wireless communication technologies are used including Wi-Fi and 3G/4G cellular networks. The most common solution for powering sensors is small batteries that are replaced or recharged periodically. Some wireless sensors use long life, non-replaceable batteries to avoid the hassle of battery replacement.
Some low power sensors don't require batteries. Power is supplied by a capacitor in the sensor unit that is charged by energy captured from the power source being monitored. This means sensors can be placed in even more places where it may otherwise be uneconomic to do so. For metering equipment in sun exposed locations, small solar panels can be used to provide power.
Real time monitoring and tuning
A comprehensive sub-metering system makes large energy cost savings possible through real-time monitoring and tuning. Improved monitoring and control complements more flexible plant equipment, such as VSDs, and supports higher production yield and product quality.
To maximise real-time monitoring, engage an expert to analyse data over a range of operating conditions and develop tuning strategies. Software using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning algorithms can also generate optimal process guidance and even self-tuning for maximum productivity at lowest energy input levels.
Analysis, strategy and reporting
A sophisticated metering and monitoring system can underpin advanced energy productivity analysis, strategy and reporting. This can include:
- formal measurement and verification of energy upgrades
- participation in environmental upgrade agreements (EUAs)
- improved data for annual reports and sustainability strategies
- adoption of energy management systems, such as ISO50001
- accurate public reporting for carbon neutral schemes and carbon reduction targets
- compliance with current and future regulations
- energy model validation and calibration.
A building management system (BMS) provides automated control of building electrical and mechanical services. It is often possible to integrate a BMS into a wider facility control strategy, given they are based on the same technologies used in metering and monitoring systems.
BMS are being integrated with facility-wide grid-responsive demand management software systems and/or specialised facility energy management systems (EMS). Fusion with broader metering and monitoring systems allows for better tuning of building services and optimisation of energy consumption, generation, export and storage.
To read more, see the Building management systems guide.
Energy management and monitoring platforms
A good software package is necessary to display, analyse and interpret the various metering data. Energy management and monitoring platforms vary in complexity, so choose an option that suits company needs and circumstances.
Where internal staff capacity for energy analysis and software management is limited, there are several external service platforms available that may make implementation easier. Options for energy management and monitoring platforms include:
- user-implemented systems where facility data is stored onsite in a database and can be viewed in close to real time
- third-party meter data collection and visualisation systems
- dedicated energy intelligence and analytics service providers offering tailored data analysis and, in some cases, active control and system optimisation.
Increasingly, energy management and monitoring platforms are moving to cloud-based subscription models. To read more see the Energy efficiency tools review (PDF 1.95 MB)
Advanced manufacturing is underpinned by comprehensive and sophisticated metering and monitoring systems and the convergence of automation and data exchange technologies.
Read more on how the Australian Government is supporting Australia’s advanced manufacturing.
- Register for a free Business Energy Advice Program consultation if you are an eligible small business.
- Read more about how to conduct an energy audit.
- Research energy efficiency training options:
- See the Energy Efficiency Council website to find an expert or equipment provider.
- Explore financing options for your projects:
Monitoring energy use of equipment – reliable conveyor belt Australian Government
Real-time data collection to improve energy efficiency: A case study of food manufacturer Institute of Food Science and Technology
Energy monitoring for dairy farms Dairy Australia
Sub-metering resources and case studies US Government
Electricity metering and monitoring guide (PDF 1.55 MB) NSW Government
i am your gas measurement and monitoring guide (PDF 0.99 MB) NSW Government
Measure and monitor energy use in your business Victorian Government
Managing, monitoring and measuring energy Victorian Government
Facilities for energy monitoring National Construction Code
Measurement and Verification Energy Efficiency Council
Real time energy monitoring Queensland Farmers’ Federation