In 1883, Warren Johnson, a school teacher from Milwaukee and soon to be founder of Johnson Controls, invented the thermostat. It was a simple device that responded to falling temperature by activating a light in the boiler room, indicating when janitors should shovel more coal into the furnace. Thus building controls and automation were born.
In the next decade or so, the non-residential control industry evolved rapidly to create a fully automatic control system operating steam/hot water, and eventually ventilation and air conditioning. With most controls and interestingly, the control logic (algorithms) operated by compressed air (air logic!).
Up until the 1970’s almost all controls (thermostats and valves) and even central control stations for large commercial buildings continued to be pneumatic. Not surprisingly, in 1980’s the conversion to electric began with digital computers taking over the control, while most equipment in the space remained pneumatic.
By the late 1980’s the central computer began to give way to distributed digital computers (essentially process controllers) located on individual devices and communicating back to the central system. By 1995, the central controller began to communicate with the internet. Today, the central control automation hardware has given way to cloud-based software operated from any web linked computer.
This trend continues with inexpensive local (non-central) controllers with internet connectivity reporting large amounts of data to central software in the cloud. Not surprisingly, the data produced from such systems often contains valuable information about “off-normal” conditions, waste and comfort problems, leading to reduced waste and more efficient operation of complex building systems.
How can property owners respond to this opportunity? HB&C suggests establishing an energy reserve account that can be used to fund projects as they are identified. If this isn’t possible, or the scale of improvements outstrips the amount earmarked for such projects, third party financing can allow the property owner to undertake a much larger efficiency project than they could otherwise afford. With automation and other fast-payback measures, leases, PACE and other financial instruments can be structured to provide more cash flow in saved energy costs than the regular financing payments.
HB&C, and our sister company HBC Energy Capital (website pending), specializes in finding you the right kinds of capital to fund these kinds of opportunities, and structuring the deal to maximize your cash flows. Contact us today to discuss your project!
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