Efficient Data Center HVAC

The Problem

Data centers consume a huge amount of energy and that number is increasing due to the increased production of data centers. A main component in the use of electricity is heat rejection. Typically, CRAC units are installed in the servers to reject heat to an chilled water loop. The problem is through redesign of data centers and different aging of equipment, the design might not be optimal for real world applications and heat rejection may not be occurring optimally.

The Solution

Vigilent utilizes artificial intelligence to optimally control the CRAC units to provide cooling to the space.  It automatically identifies hot spots in the server rooms and adjust the CRAC unit output accordingly to effectively eliminate the hot spot. Power is monitored for Measurement and Verification purposes and as a way to monitor the hot spots in the rooms.


  • Building owners
  • Building operators
  • Management companies
  • Control Companies
  • Utility Companies


Work with existing control companies and to install at their customer sites and integrate into the existing controls. Get rebates from the utilities.

Company Website



Building IQ BMS Analytics

The Problem

Buildings typically operate on set schedules. Calculations and a lot of effort is done to optimize these schedules, but they don’t respond well to actual conditions. This can result in spaces that are over-ventilated, under-ventilated, too hot, or too cold at times. Additionally, building components performance drift over time and set points need to be adjusted accordingly.

The Solution

Building IQ takes the building management data and uploads it to a cloud based server. From there, analytics are performed to optimize the setpoints and operating parameters of the system. This not only reduces the amount of energy used in these systems, but also increases the life time of the equipment as they are operating only as fast as necessary.


  1. Building Owners
  2. Building Operators
  3. Control Companies
  4. Utilities


Work with control companies to find a platform of customers to develop pilot programs for installation. Get the utility companies to approve Measurement and Verification process to establish savings estimates. Next, have the utility companies issue prescriptive rebates for this type of installation. Finally, work with the controls company to install and run Building IQ at the sites.

Website: Building IQ

UNI: #bmb2189

Comment to “Floating Nuclear Power”

“I spent 8 years in the Navy operating Nuclear Power Plants on an aircraft carrier. I love this idea. The biggest issue is getting the power from the plant to the shore, but if they can do it with wind turbines, they can do it with nuclear power.”

ABB Ability for Smart Solar Solutions

The Problem

Solar PV is a great low-carbon solution to provide power. The biggest drawback is the inability to have power when the sun is not shining. Advances in energy storage is helping that, but there still needs to be effective communication between the two systems to make it work as efficiently as possible.

The Solution

ABB’s Ability platform aims to optimize the communication among the generating Solar PV, the energy storage system, and distribution system. The platform allows communities, which typically cannot rely on Solar PV, access to electricity produced from Solar Panels. The system is built to withstand extreme environments and requires no operational know-how and little maintenance.



Solar PV is often implemented in places where fossil fuels (kerosene, propane) have a history of providing cheap, reliable energy. Ensuring the selection of sites where Solar PV makes more economic sense than fossil fuels is key to have success. Additionally, there has to be a need in these areas for electricity.


  • Remote Communities
  • Developing Countries
  • ABB


  1. Identify locations where this is a good solution.
  2. Find financing.
  3. Install system.
  4. Setup billing procedure.
  5. Monitor and maintain.


ABBs website

Forbes – Enthusiasm for Solar Micro Grids in Developing World Gets a Sobering Reality Check


On “Just When you Thought it Couldn’t Get Better… HomeBioGas 2.0”

Interesting idea. Seems like the big drawback is the 20 degree-C limit. How many people on Earth live in a climate where it doesn’t get below 20 degree-C for an extended period of time (night time)? I’m guessing that would cut out every where outside the tropics and most of the tropic region, too.

SaltX HeatBoost for heating hot water

Sustainable Problem: Energy Efficiency

Hot water is used in residential applications for washing dishes, clothes, and humans. Typically, there is a natural gas or electric hot water heater that heats a 30-50 gallon tank of water, maintaining the temperature around 120F before being delivered to its final purpose.

Technology Solution: SaltX’s HeatBoost Gas Powered Heat Pump

SaltX is a company from Sweden whose founding product is a salt crystal used for thermal storage. They also make a gas-powered heat pump used to heat hot water. They claim to be able to save 500 Euros per year with each installation with a simple payback of 1.5 years. It is clear from the company’s website, this solution is made for residential hot water heating.

The problem:

The thing that first caught my attention is the claim for 50% increase in efficiency. It doesn’t say over what, though. Most hot water heaters, especially those being sold now, are already 90-95% efficient, not leaving much for improvement. The second issue I have is the claim of 500 Euros savings per year. That would mean a family would have to spend at least 60 Euros per month just heating water. I’m not too familiar with the utility usage of Europe, but in the US, typically families only spend $10-20 per month heating water.

My job is being an Energy Engineer and all the time, we have to sift through new technologies. These are simple questions that get brought up as part of our job and are addressed before supporting a product. We would need to verify the claims of savings and determine how the technology works. Without talking with the company, it seems like these are dubious claims.

Next Moves:

This company is working with the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance and Rheem to break through the US market. It’s a good strategy. If they can get the recommendation of the utility company, getting trust in the public is easier. If they are going after the residential market, it will be much more difficult to market to all of the different people buying hot water heaters. A good solution is to market to Energy Services Companies, which have customers interested in energy efficient products. Some commercial applications, schools, universities, etc have higher hot water uses, but again, the efficiency of these systems is over 90% and I would wonder if SaltX makes a HeatBoost large enough to meet those demands, certainly not at 750 Euros.

Organizational Stakeholders:

Homeowners, Utility Companies, Building Owners, Energy Services Companies, Mechanical Contractors.


SaltX Website

Article on Business Wire


Article – “World’s first “negative emission” plant”
Great find! I’m so interested in the cost aspects of this and how it compares to energy efficient measures, renewable energy, and other carbon capturing technology. The article states their goal is $100 per metric ton, but can go as low as $30. That would be great and definitely worthwhile. Also, I wonder how a localized plant would be able to have an affect on a global issue…

Fault Detection & Diagnostics

Sustainability Issue

Energy Conservation. Around 30% of a building’s energy is from the HVAC equipment. 10-30% of this is wasted due to system inefficiences.


Fault Detection & Diagnostics (FDD) uses standard “rules” to determine when these pieces of equipment are operating at deficiencies and alerts stakeholders to correct. Building Automation Systems are already in place (in most locations) and monitor the system parameters required for these rules to take place. What’s needed is to trend the data and run through data analytics to determine where the deficiencies exist.


  • Building Owners – Required buy in to fund the FDD process
  • Building Automation Companies – Work hand-in-hand with Building Owners to ensure the equipment is operating efficiently.
  • Utility Companies – Partially fund energy service projects, including FDD.
  • Government – Ensure Utility Companies are funding energy service projects.


Setup pilot projects demonstrating energy savings potential for FDD. From these pilot projects, calculate an expected energy savings utility companies can use to base rebates off. With buy-in from utility companies, building owners will trust the process and purchase FDD solutions from their Building Automation Company.


NIST – “Fault Detection and Diagnostics for Commercial Heating, Ventilating, and Air-Conditioning Systems Project”

California Energy Commission – Advanced Automated HVAC Fault Detection and Diagnostics Commercialization Program.


#bmb2189 #energy #energyefficiency


Article: “Re-circulating Aquaculture Systems (RAS)”
Comment: So good! Great solution for farmers wanting to grow fish and not grow food. There’s also a solution, aquaponics, which uses the “wastewater” directly to grow crops without going through an intermediary step of being filtered and extracted. Anything to get the word out on sustainable methods of fishing!

Hydoponics for on-site agriculture

Over five years ago now I was on top of a brand new high school in Southern Minnesota looking over the barren roof. Modern HVAC equipment has been centralized leaving roofs pretty much empty. One option to cover the rooftops is Solar PV, but for organizations that serve food, such as schools, the best option may be to grow the food for their cafeterias on-site utilizing hydroponics.

Hydroponics allow for growing without soil, meaning crops can grow virtually anywhere, provided water, nutrients, and light. Plants get exactly the right amount of water and nutrients and, since the growing season is year-round if placed in a greenhouse, yields can be 10-20 times the amount per land area depending on the crop. Again depending on the crop, 60-90% less water is used.

Growing on-site reduces the food-mileage to zero, however that doesn’t necessarily remove the carbon-footprint. A lot of electricity is used to grow the crops and depending on distance from the normal source of food and source of electricity GHG emissions could go up, or they could go down significantly. Typically, areas in the Northeast would see a dramatic decrease in carbon-footprint.

While a school was the initial inspiration of the idea, there are a lot of vertical markets that could use hydroponics: healthcare, K-12, Universities, Stadiums, and any other vertical market served by the food service industry.

I actually started a company to do this, but didn’t have much success selling the idea. Mostly the problem was the business skills and financial backing I lacked. From trying to sell this idea for a year or so, though, there’s lots of obstacles to maneuver from the customer side. First is finding a customer that will like to be the first to do this. Next is to find one that is willing to invest immediately. I didn’t want to deal with the growing of the food, just selling the development and installation of the hydroponic systems. The payback for the customer can range from 1 to 5 years depending on the crop, location, size of system, etc. There’s other business plans that might work, though, such as leasing the system or installing on-site and contracting the food.

For me, personally, this is a dream and I took a job where I still have the possibility of promoting this idea. It’s going to be a long winding road, though!

For more reading on hydroponics, this is a great article in this months National Geographic on the tremendous work being done by the Dutch. “This Tiny Country Feeds the World.”

UNI: #bmb2189

Tags: #agriculture

Comment on “Connected Rooftop Units Learn to Maintain and Monitor Indoor Air Quality.”

Great Find! From my perspective, as an Energy Engineer that worked with RTUs for several years, there’s a lot of opportunity for improvement in RTU technology. Also, these units cover virtually all vertical markets and this technology can be marketed to those. The best opportunity would be to retrofit existing units with IoT controls. Again, great find!

Gas-powered Data Centers


Data centers consume large amounts of electricity and that number is going to grow with the implementation of cloud-computing and increase use of computers in every-day and business life. According to the DOE, they use 10 to 50 times the amount of energy per floor space as regular commercial buildings.

The electric grid offers a dirty way to power data centers. Still, a majority of power in the US comes from fossil fuel plants with low efficiency rates and as much as half of the energy can be lost through transmission.


Microsoft and McKinstry (my former employer) are combining efforts to release a gas-powered data center. This data center will eliminate the inefficiencies in the grid and directly power the data center from natural gas.


Companies such as technology, financial, and many others have data centers that range in size. Utility companies (electrical and gas) would be interested in investing in this as a way to even out their portfolio.


Here is the link from Energy Manager Today:


Here is the DOE’s website on Data Centers:


UNI: #bmb2189




Diesel Keepwarm System


Sustainability Issue

New York City Electricity Demand Response

New York City is losing Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant soon and is looking for solutions to make up for the 2,000 MW produced by the plant. In addition to adding peaking plants in Westchester, Conedison is looking for customers to individually curtail their demand.

Technology Solution

I know this probably isn’t the sexiest idea in the world, but it’s so effective. Every Emergency Diesel Generator (EDG) has a jacket with water that is heated through an electric filament. That electric filament is usually around 5-8 kW and keeps the jacket warm to somewhere between 105 and 120 degrees-F. It’s necessary to keep the EDG’s this warm to start immediately when called. The utility costs for each EDG can be from $7k to $10k per year. See picture below:


Typically in large buildings, these EDGs are grouped together. I’ve seen groups from four to eight in a row.

This was brought to my attention a few months ago by a company I used to work for told me they started selling a heat pump to heat these diesel generators, which drastically reduces the electricity consumed and can save $5k-$8k per year, per EDG.

When I started walking through buildings looking at EDGs, I noticed something even more interesting. More often then not, there is a source of heat (steam pipe, boiler plant, etc.) nearby. Most NYC is on ConEdison steam, and they have to quench the condensate before returning it back to the utility. Quench is when they run city water over the pipe to cool down the condensate to a certain temperature. This wastes both heat and city water.

The heat pumps would work great, if there wasn’t a source of heat nearby. My idea is to put a HX from the source of heat to the EDGs and heat them in series. The cost to do this would be from $50k to $100k per system and can save as much as $10k per EDG. For systems of 4 EDGs, the payback is under 3 years and for systems of 8 EDGs the payback is less than 18 months.

On a larger scale, there are 700 skyscrapers in New York City. Let’s say they have a total of 2,000 EDGs that can be heated this way. We’d be taking 10MW to 20MW peak demand off the grid. The cost to do all this work would be around $70M. Based on current demand response programs, incentives would cover $22M to $44M of that cost. The energy usage rebates could cover another $14M to $22M of the cost. The rebate money is there and if Conedison limits the rebate to 50% of the project cost, the payback periods above to the customer are cut in half.

To wrap this up, because this is supposed to be about a pressing sustainability issue, according to the NYC Electricity Outlook, we’re losing Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant and replacing it with natural gas peaking plants (in conjunction with demand response programs). Cutting 10-20MW would definitely help with that. Also, from a GHG perspective, this system would save around 90M-140M kWh per year. EPA’s GHG Calculator projects this save 65k to 105k metric tons of eCO2 per year, the equivalent of taking 13k to 22k cars off the road.

Organizational Stakeholders

  • ConEdison
  • Building Owners
  • Mechanical Contractors
  • Controls Contractors

Steps to Deploy

  1. Form relationship among utility, building owner, and contractors to perform pilot project to include Measurement and Verification.
  2. Develop case study from the pilot project.
  3. Sell, sell, sell!


ConEdison Demand Response Program

ConEdison Custom Rebate Program

UNI: bmb2189