Campus metering project realizes financial and environmental returns

Meter Transmission Unit for domestic water at the District Energy Plant

By Gail Riese

The Facilities Management Utilities and Energy Department is now able to more efficiently monitor and track campus utility use, while saving substantial University funds and resources.

The majority of electric, natural gas, domestic water, and non-return water (irrigation, cooling towers, septic) meters are now wirelessly connected to a centralized system which digitally tracks hourly consumption.  Meter transmission units (MTUs) send readings during the day to six digital collection units (DCU) located throughout campus. The DCUs transmit the data onto a server where the information is collected and analyzed by Utilities and Energy staff.

“We implemented the metering project so we can see what impact projects will have on our systems.  We can measure at interval consumptions and we can track behaviors and uses within the buildings,” said Ken Martin, Director of Utilities and Energy.

Gas and water meters were retrofitted to communicate with the new system. In-house staff installed new electric meters at 233 campus locations.  The electric meters which were replaced were still operable and were given to the Alabama Community College System.

“The majority of our 26 campuses are master metered, thus the need for sub meters on all the buildings. Without any means of measuring utility usage, we are unable to determine which facilities need the most improvement,” said Frank Barnes, Acting Director of Facilities in the Department of Postsecondary Education. “If we can manage our facilities better, we can put our dollars to other uses, like education. We really appreciate having the meters and are very thankful to the AU staff.”

The electric meters are equipped with alarms which alert staff to outages. It also provides information about which buildings are affected, allowing faster response to situations.  

The new metering system is also tied into a high-use reporting system. This enables staff to identify excessive utility use and possible explanations for changes due to campus events, holidays, and seasonal temperature variations. Persons responsible for the excessive use can be contacted with corrective actions to resolve the situation.

Dee Gillespie, utilities and energy analyst, noted that a high-use alarm had identified a large consumption of water at one of the College of Veterinary Medicine kennels. That same day, Facility Management staff identified a leak underneath the kennel.  Within two days, a leak was repaired which was causing a 16,000-gallon per day loss of water.  If this leak had continued until the next meter reading using the old system, this would have resulted in a $4,000 cost to the University.

“This metering project has already paid dividends by monitoring excessive use. During the last year, actions from identified problems have resulted in savings of more than $30,000. It has been a great tool for monitoring our system, reporting electrical issues, and allowing our staff more time to correct issues rather than reading meters,” said Martin. 

Last Updated: April 30, 2014