Energy conscious communities are expanding their use of Central Thermal Energy Systems for heating/cooling buildings. Thermal Energy Systems use a central system to distribute energy throughout the building, property, or community. A heat exchanger, either a boiler in the winter or a chiller for the summer. extracts the energy, which is then used by commercial units, apartments, condominiums, etc. What these systems can provide are efficient energy heating and cooling with fewer carbon emissions than distributed individual units and reduced utility costs. However, the challenge that needs to be overcome is the accurate measurement of thermal energy distribution and usage-based billing.
Measuring the Consumption of Thermal Energy
The global market is seeing a growing demand for sub-metering thermal energy. The Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions has recommended sub-metering thermal energy as a way to achieve energy cost and conservation control.
A well-designed and properly implemented thermal energy sub-metering architecture can bring various benefits, including:
- Data traceability. Thanks to smart sub-metering technology, building owners, operators, and managers will be able to trace data. With newer communication protocols that allow for real-time data reporting and consumption data cloud storage, tenants and owners can read data via web-based portals.
- Tenant engagement. Tenants want to know their energy consumption habits, and sub-meters provide them with data to analyze. That makes tenants more engaged in energy conservation because they pay for waht they use. Which is essential to conservation efforts and supplements those programs supported by municipality, utility, or a private sub-metering provider.
- Proper measurement of consumption/cost to users. Tenants can be confident in their costs if they are confident in their consumption data accuracy. This increased confidence in the measuring equipment happens thanks to compliance with thermal meter regulations.
Since it offers considerable conservation and cost efficiency benefits to all stakeholders, the adoption of thermal energy systems is expected to continue growing. In some countries, such as Canada, thermal energy is already moving towards a measurement standard to enable the equitable billing and cost allocation practices. Some countries are developing their own federal regulatory standards for thermal energy measurement, while others follow international and European thermal metering standards OIML R 75 and EN1434. China and the U.S. are basing their regulation on the European and International Standards, which are already recognized and well-established.
How Thermal Energy Metering Works
Thermal energy meters measure the amount of heat that is added or removed from each unit. They measure flow (mass) of the heat exchange fluid and the temperature difference between the heat exchange liquid on the supply and the return pipes (to calculate the ammount of energy left in the heat exchanger) . Thermal metering systems can be installed on 2- or 4-pipe heating/cooling systems. In multi-residential buildings, meters are typically installed inside the unit on the return side of the fan coil unit.
Thermal energy sub-metering can deliver regulatory compliant, cost-effective, and accurate thermal measurement for end-consumers, utilities, building owners, operators, and managers.
After considering these factors, it is clear that sub-metering thermal energy comes with far fewer risks and more benefits than other methodologies to allocate costs. It meets the best practices of mature thermal energy markets and offers long-term regulatory compliance. With metered data, tenant disputes can be resolved, and utility costs can be reduced with increased tenant engagement.