Retro-Commissioning Sensor Suitcase

RCx Sensor Suitcase was Iisted by E Source Tech Team 2014 Top 20 Technologies and Trends.

Expert in a suitcase’ cuts power bills 10% in small commercial buildings

GreenPath Energy Solutions, a leading supplier of energy efficient building solutions to business, industry, and government for more than a decade has been awarded a license to offer both a product and services based on the RCx Sensor Suitcase technology. Jointly developed by two Department of Energy labs, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the Sensor Suitcase is a portable case that contains easy-to-use sensors and other equipment that make it possible for anyone to identify energy-saving opportunities in small commercial buildings. The automated and reusable system combines hardware and software in one package so its users can identify cost-effective measures that save small commercial buildings about 10 percent on their energy bills.

The current approach to existing building RCx involves a multi-step formal process led by a commissioning agent, in which an initial walk-through is performed, diagnostic monitoring and functional tests are conducted (often with temporary sensors or data loggers), field findings are documented and prioritized, and selected changes are implemented.  In spite of the benefits, less than 1% of existing buildings are retro-commissioned for energy. The current implementation rates, energy-saving opportunities, and cost-effectiveness challenges all indicate that a solution to enable scaled small building RCx would bring enormous value.  Thus, we have developed a turnkey hardware-software solution (the RCx Sensor Suitcase).  By (a) automating and simplifying the RCx process for the less complex systems used in small buildings and (b) enabling savings opportunities to be identified and prioritized by non-experts as well as professionals. The RCx sensor suitcase would enable the performance of the very large number of small commercial buildings to perform retro-commissioning and identify energy improvement opportunities.

The technology will allow the industry to achieve small-building retro-commissioning at scale in the following ways:

  1. By enabling those without engineering expertise to identify energy-saving operational and comfort opportunities and associated cost impacts;
  2. By offering commissioning providers and auditors the means to streamline existing processes and reduce costs, making it possible to expand their market to smaller buildings;
  3. By enabling nearly-fully automated identification of building performance improvement opportunities via innovations in sensor packaging and installation guidance.

The RCx Sensor Suitcase technology consists of:

  • An easy-install battery-powered sensors (air temperature, light, and rooftop unit operating status) with on-board data storage.
  • A suitcase to provide a means of transport, storage, charging capability and data transfer to a computer for analysis of the data.
  • A Handheld device (tablet) to configure the sensors, provide installation guidance, and document installation details such as locations.
  • Diagnostic algorithms to automatically generate recommendations to improve building operations, utility costs, and energy performance. The algorithms target high-impact problems in lighting and HVAC system operations.