With a combination of high energy costs and increasingly stringent net zero initiatives, it is no wonder that the warehouse world is looking to better understand its energy monitoring. To reduce energy usage in an industrial space, the best place to start is understanding where your power is going and how much of it is being used. Luckily there are several different solutions for this from the micro-level up to the macro-level. With data on usage, you and your business can make more accurate decisions about green energy generation, warehouse upgrades and a host of other ESG measures. We’ve pulled together a list of technologies that can help you to monitor a warehouse space’s energy usage from a small single shed up to an entire portfolio of multi-let industrial estates.
Technology to monitor energy
Where no two businesses are alike, no two warehouses are alike in their energy usage. The tenants are the single largest factor – a high tech manufacturing facility is likely to use significantly more power than a local logistics facility. Even building construction differences between sheds can have a significant impact on consumption. One space might lose heat significantly faster or have a less efficient layout for the business requiring more power. As a result, if you are looking to understand the efficiency of one warehouse, or hundreds, landlords and tenants alike are going to need monitoring equipment on different scales simultaneously. We’ve broken the technologies down from smallest scale to largest.
1. Outlet monitoring
The absolute most precise energy consumption data you can get is through outlet-level monitoring devices. Two types of devices fit into this category – more consumer-focused devices require you to plug your equipment into the monitoring device and then plug that device into the wall. These will work extremely well for low voltage equipment like computers, fans, and low-power equipment like printers. They are quick and cheap to install (they don’t require an electrician), they give pretty accurate real-time data and they can be moved around to different sockets if you are attempting to identify the average power consumption of your various equipment. They do quickly cap out though as they are not designed for the high voltage or high amperage equipment that many industrial workshops use. This can mean that you get accurate readings on the low energy consumption equipment and miss out on some of the biggest energy hogs in your warehouse.
The other type is the more industrial-focused energy monitoring system. These systems usually attach directly to the cables feeding your outlets. They benefit from being extremely reliable, high voltage and uninterruptable as they cannot be unplugged by a confused worker or knocked when moving equipment around. They are, however, specialist and so require an electrician to install. They are also likely to come with a significant price premium compared to the consumer units. Installing a monitor on every outlet, however, will not only give you your entire equipment energy consumption, but it will also allow you to identify what equipment is using what power, and optimise your routines around that.
2. Warehouse monitoring
If you aren’t looking to understand each appliance, however, and are simply looking to understand in a live way the energy your entire building is using – whole warehouse energy monitoring solutions are the way to go. It is a very similar concept to the smart meters being installed in houses across the continent – they simply attach to the main power line and measure the usage from there. What they don’t do is monitor individual circuits. This means that you can monitor not only all of your outlets (as a whole) but also your heating and cooling, your ventilation and any other building-wide services that do not run on an individual circuit.
Installing a single warehouse monitoring solution is also significantly cheaper than installing outlet monitoring solutions throughout a space. This is ideal for tenants trying to understand their day-to-day and hour-to-hour usage to better optimise their space or deploy energy-saving measures. This can also be used by multi-let industrial providers looking to understand how a particular shed is performing. For example, providers might want to start installing warehouse monitoring equipment in their worst-performing spaces to understand the ROI of upgrading the space as part of their ESG commitments.
3. Estate monitoring
If you are a multi-let industrial space provider, monitoring a single warehouse only gives you a small portion of the picture. To truly understand the environmental impact your sheds are having you need to have data on the energy usage of every shed in an estate. This is the only reasonable way to make decisions about solar energy capacity, carbon offsets and several other traditional ESG measures. The primary issue with estate-level monitoring is with combining and storing the data. A single warehouse energy monitoring system is relatively straightforward. Deploying tens or hundreds of them, and then combining that data into a single data source that can be queried and analysed is a completely different set of challenges. The simplest way to do this is to deploy an integration system that takes the data from the energy monitoring system, error checks it to ensure that it is both accurate and not duplicating, and then stores it in an enterprise-grade database. If you’re interested in understanding more about how this works – you can check out Nexus.
4. Portfolio monitoring
The final, and most large scale, energy monitoring solution is a true portfolio-wide monitoring system. This is like the estate monitoring system above but with data from multiple sites. Again, the challenge here is the scale of the data. With tens or hundreds of sheds per site and hundreds of sites – there can be millions of data points a day. Not to mention the difference in data formats if the same system has not been deployed to every property.
Error checking is the single most difficult aspect of portfolio-level monitoring, but it is the most important aspect. Errors happen continuously with sensor data, but with so much data, those errors can cause analytical problems at scale. The benefit of an entire portfolio’s energy being monitored, however, is that you can be certain of your energy needs, your ESG performance and any offsets required to be truly carbon neutral. This data can also be used as evidence for investors and regulators as proof. It is both live and continuous – allowing all those involved to see the effects of any energy efficiency upgrades made to the warehouse and guarantee the carbon-neutral nature of your business. Nexus might be the only solution on the market that can truly do this so if you’re interested in learning how businesses are benefitting from it, check out our product page.
What is the best solution for you?
This hugely depends on your scale and goals. If you are aiming to optimise your small warehouse to understand the cost of power-hungry machinery or turn off appliances when they aren’t needed, simple outlet monitoring might be enough. If you are, however, a multi-let industrial provider you are going to have to start considering much larger deployments. Single shed deployments might be a great solution in the very short term, but all warehouse providers are going to need to start addressing their power usage sooner rather than later. With net zero requirements slowly creeping up on all businesses, green power generation will be the only real solution to this problem, and you can’t deploy solar power without knowing how much you are going to need. If you’d like to talk to us about how we can help you with this, please get in touch.