The market for data-driven building efficiency software is very crowded. In order to break through the noise, startup Gridium is focusing on simplicity with its latest product offering.
At the DistribuTECH conference next week, the two-year-old company will introduce RCx, a cloud-based application that recommends steps to improve building efficiency by analyzing meter data. It also will announce that San Francisco-based energy services company Enovity is using the software to audit 1,000 schools under a Pacific Gas & Electric efficiency program.
RCx is designed to identify simple-to-implement measures using only smart meter data and a ZIP code, rather than sending an engineer to a building to perform an energy audit. Analyzing fifteen-minute interval meter data from several buildings can yield recommendations on how to adjust building management systems, such as changing HVAC start times or fixing equipment that pulls in outdoor air for cooling, said CEO and co-founder Tom Arnold, who last worked at demand response provider EnerNOC.
A traditional auditing process might identify one building out of twenty that is very inefficient, but often small organizations and businesses won’t have the means to immediately replace expensive heating and cooling equipment, said Arnold. At the same time, changes to how a building is operated can account for half the energy savings achieved by commissioning -- a finding uncovered by competitor FirstFuel last year.
“We want to focus on the really simple stuff. We’re not using a physical model of the building or statistical model. We can instantly generate insights without the burden of [manual] data collection or the complexity of understanding how accurate it is,” he said.
Arnold said RCx may be better suited for smaller companies than are competitive virtual audit products from Retroficiency and FirstFuel.
“Generally, we want to provide analytics to the bulk of the market, and that is smaller buildings,” Arnold said. The cost of RCx is on the order of hundreds of dollars per building. Enovity is finding that the application can reduce energy usage by 20 percent to 30 percent by making operational changes, such as reducing equipment runtimes, he added.
The software works by comparing the actual power readings to benchmarked levels in order to gain insights into the efficiency of a building. It also uses pattern recognition to understand how the building is operated.
Enovity project manager Henry Summers said the software complements the work the company already does: “Instead of a bulky fixed report, we get dynamic software to explore and analyze interval data and helpful diagnostic images to customize our standard reports,” he said in a statement.
Gridium, which has raised $2 million in venture funding, sells two other products -- one for weekly reports on demand charges and one for bill forecasting -- directly to building managers. RCx will be sold through energy services companies.
The company’s software demonstrates how cloud-based analytics businesses can have a real impact in commercial building efficiency. “Even five years ago, this would have been very difficult to do. Now we get 1,000 buildings’ data and spin up 1,000 servers to do the math,” Arnold said. “The elastic nature of the cloud enables these types of solutions at price points that people can actually” afford.