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

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.

Small commercial buildings under 50,000 square feet (95% of all commercial buildings by number) do not typically have budgets or business economics that allow investing in enhancements, such as the comfort, cost and energy improvements that retro-commissioning provides. They also do not have ‘in-house’ staff with expertise in building systems, who can perform retro-commissioning or identify improvement opportunities. These buildings have been notoriously difficult to reach for efficiency upgrades; therefore tremendous untapped savings opportunities exist. Although, the RCx Sensor Suitcase is targeted for small buildings it can also be applied in larger facilities, provided that they are served by packaged rooftop units.

The RCx Sensor Suitcase address this market need by developing a “turn-key” hardware-software solution that can be used by non-experts to automatically generate low/no-cost recommendations to improve building operating costs, comfort and energy performance. The objective of the suitcase is to enable retro-commissioning in small buildings and to realize approximately ten percent whole-building energy savings by reducing implementation costs so that servicing this sector is cost-effective with an acceptable return on investment (ROI).

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 sensor (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.
  • A software application with graphical user interface, which outputs building-specific improvement recommendations to the user, along with cost impacts.