At this point, you've worked through the planning, engineering, purchasing and physical installation of your metering hardware and infrastructure. It is tempting at this stage to think that we're done with the hard parts. Simply add a dashboard and coast across the finish line; right? Well, not quite!
Step 5: Programming and Commissioning the Metering Equipment.
Programming and commissioning the hardware is the step that trips up many do-it-your-selfers. It tends to be an exercise in solving for many variables and if any one of them is wrong, your system will not work or will provide invalid or unreliable results. This step is the key to making it all work together as a nicely integrated package that provides both valid and reliable data.
validity vs. reliability
Reliability basically refers to the idea that you consistently get the same results - over and over again. If we're talking about a rifle, it is reliable if it always shoots a "tight group" (on a dead rest to take the skill of the shooter out of the equation). In other words, the holes in the target merge into one. The key is consistency.
Validity, on the other hand, would refer to accuracy relative to the bulls-eye. Even though the lower right target shows a relatively wide spread of hits, they average out pretty close to the bulls-eye so we can say that the results are valid even if they are unreliable or inconsistent.
Of course, what we want to see is the upper right result: "reliably valid", or in other words, "consistently accurate."
The worst case scenario is that the bullets never leave the gun. We have a rifle that simply won't fire when the trigger is pulled.
We often see the same range of problems with energy monitoring systems!
Settling for less?
Metering projects fail in many ways. We've seen installed meters that have been abandoned because they never worked or because the readings did not seem credible. We've seen people manually checking each meter with a clip-board in hand to note readings because they were unable to get the meters to communicate to the rest of the world. We've seen energy managers give up on dashboard software because they didn't trust the information provided or because too much programming is required to make it provide the information that they want.
Here's the thing. You don't have to settle for less! If the meters and communications infrastructure are properly programmed and commissioned by an experienced technician, all of the above problems go away.
What is programming & commissioning?
Programming and commissioning consists of some very simple concepts, but because of all of the interrelated parts, it must be done with care and great attention to detail. I won't try to cover everything here but let me give a few examples.
- It starts with confirming proper installation of electric meters. Are the current CTs and voltage probes in the right places and properly matched? Is the power source properly connected.
- For pulse meters, are they actually generating pulses?
- For ethernet communications, were the cables installed and do they go to the right places? If using WiFi, are the transmitters and receivers installed correctly and do you have good signal strength? Did the IT department provide the needed IP addresses and security clearances? What if you're using cellular modems?
- Are the electric meters programmed for the CTs that were used? Are the multipliers right?
- Most meters collect far more data than you will want to see. Are yours set up to report the data points you are interested in receiving?
- After confirming that the meters are providing data, it's important to confirm the accuracy and reliability of that data through a trusted independent source.
- Verify and test the data acquisition server(s) and confirm that the meter data is arriving, stored and forwarded while maintaining data integrity.
- Make sure that the main data server, whether cloud-based or local, is seeing, collecting and storing the data.
get it right.
In other words, there is a lot going on here. There are many potential break-down points and any one of them can prevent you from getting the most (or even anything) out of your meters. Proper programming and commissioning is an essential part of building an accurate and reliable energy monitoring system. If you do not have the expertise in-house to tackle this challenge, you should find outside help for this critical step.
Coming up: 7 Steps Part V - Data Analytics Dashboard software installation & configuration.