The objective of this project was to determine whether providing real-time electrical use feedback to building occupants and facility managers would result in decreased electricity use. Current transformers (CTs) were installed on circuits in 14 barracks buildings at Fort Bliss, Texas, and 13 work buildings at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), Tucson, Arizona. Measurements from the CTs were transmitted via local gateways and cell phone networks to a cloud-based software platform. This fully integrated set of hardware and software is referred to as the 3M Energy Analyzer™. Electrical usage information was displayed in various formats on a web-based application that could be viewed by building occupants. Representative examples of data formats include charts and graphs for facility managers and competitive leaderboards for barracks residents.

Technology Description

The 3M Energy Analyzer™ provides near-real-time (1 minute resolution) electrical use feedback to building occupants and facility managers. For building occupants, displays can show building level performance and allow occupants to compare their usage to similar buildings. If interested, the occupants can interact with the display to gain a better understanding of electrical use over time. For facility managers, the system provides a way to easily access electrical use data for the buildings under their management. The data is presented in an easy to understand format consisting of charts, graphs, and other types of comparison dashboards. The system also addresses issues associated with anomalous data (missing data, unrealistic low and high values, etc.) as observed in the historical WattNode® data via automatic smoothing.

Demonstration Results

After a baseline data collection period, displays were mounted in half the Fort Bliss barracks representing the experimental group. Residents were informed of the existence of the displays and their purpose. During the experimental period, differences in energy use between the barracks with the displays versus the control group, with no knowledge of the study, were compared. No difference in behavioral-based energy reduction was observed between the experimental group and the control group. Several factors contributed to this result including high occupant variability due to field deployments, lack of intrinsic motivation among the resident population, and low levels of support from the chain of command to include extrinsic motivators in the study. One of the significant non-controllable variables was barrack occupancy level. Uncontrolled occupancy levels resulting from unexpected field deployments caused highly unpredictable data patterns and eventually caused termination of the project before completion. 

Early in the project it was determined that a control versus experimental design would not be viable at AMARG due to significant differences in size, purpose, and function between the buildings selected at AMARG, which resulted in high variability in electrical use. Instead the demonstration plan proposed to perform energy conservation experiments within and between buildings over short periods of time. The 3M Energy Analyzer™ was installed and commissioned in 13 buildings, and baseline data was collected. Before the displays could be installed, Davis-Monthan AFB required an Operations Security (OPSEC) review. The review resulted in full system shutdown pending additional review and compliance with Engineering Technical Letter (ETL) 11-1. Planned energy use experiments could not be performed due to the shutdown. However, during the data collection period, interesting observations were made including higher electrical use in one building with an old air conditioning system compared to a similar building with a newer system, and a period of reduced energy use during the 2013 sequestration.

At both Fort Bliss and AMARG, the system provided the first usable view of electrical use in the demonstration buildings. This enabled the resident energy managers to easily view data by building and circuit, and over varying, comparative time periods.

Implementation Issues

Although the full intent of the demonstration was not realized due to a number of factors, the project did demonstrate an efficient method of collecting and reviewing electrical use data in both residential and work settings. Findings that may inform future work include:

  • the technology was reliable, and easy to install and commission.
  • the technology is sensitive to changes in electrical use as demonstrated during occupant deployments, during sequestering, and in correlation to ambient temperatures.
  • single soldier barracks residents have little intrinsic motivation to change their electricity use behavior.
  • stronger command hierarchy support is likely required to produce energy saving behavioral changes in the barracks population.
  • access to data is not the only necessary component of a successful behavioral energy reduction effort.