Just In Case

Sensor suitcase measures energy efficiency in buildings

Here’s a novelty option for measuring energy efficiency in your building: your suitcase.

This “Sensor Suitcase” developed by three west coast laboratories is said to enhance energy efficiency within commercial buildings.—Pacific Northwest National Laboratory photo

The “Sensor Suitcase , a portable diagnostic toolkit that uses sensors that gather information about how a building operates, was created as a result of a collaborative effort by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, developed with funding from DOE’s Building Technologies Office.

The portable case contains convenient sensors that are said to enable the average worker to identify energy-saving opportunities in small commercial buildings. The automated and reusable system combines hardware and software in one package so users can identify cost-effective measures of saving energy. It claims to save small commercial buildings about 10 percent on their energy bills.

E-Source, a popular industry guide, included the technology in its list of Top 22 Technologies and Trends of 2014. The project team is now working with a commercial partner while aiming to make a prototype commercially available by 2017.

The suitcase implements 16 pocket-sized sensors that can measure three things: temperature, whether lights are on or off, and how a heating and cooling system is operating. Users follow clear instructions from the Sensor Suitcase’s operations software, which runs on a separate tablet, to install sensors inside a building, says a Berkeley Lab news release.

About a month later, users can gather the sensors and return them to the suitcase, which can then be connected to a PC in order to transfer the collected energy data. The system’s analytical software is used to automatically crunch the sensor data, eliminating the need to hire a professional to manually plot, inspect and interpret data.

The final result is a report that allegedly identifies problems (such as excessive lighting), recommends low- and no-cost ways to fix problems (such as installing occupancy sensors that turn lights on only when a room is being used), and aims to provide estimated cost savings for addressing each problem.

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