Building energy management is all about systems. But systems-level thinking is not necessarily the same as building-level thinking.

One example is Optimum Energy, which just raised $12.2 million in an equity sale.

Optimum is zeroed in on the largest energy hog in most commercial facilities, the HVAC system. The platform provides real-time dynamic commissioning for large, commercial systems, from the chillers to tower fans to pumps and valves. The algorithms regulate airflow while using less of everything, from fan power and chilled water to heating energy.

The market for energy-efficient HVAC systems will be more than $33 billion by 2020, according to Navigant Research, with the strongest growth coming in the Asia-Pacific region.

“There are several vendors in the marketplace offering information to energy managers and building operators to help guide their decisions,” said Jonathan Shaw, senior marketing manager at Optimum Energy. “We take a different approach: channeling information directly to heating and cooling systems to enable maximum energy efficiency.”

Greentech Media first profiled Optimum Energy about four years ago, when it was already working with well-known companies such as Adobe. While most buildings might need 1 to 1.4 kilowatts of energy to chill a ton of water for air conditioning, Optimum told Greentech Media in 2009 it can get that down to about 0.5 kilowatts. HVAC systems represent nearly half of all energy consumed in U.S. buildings, according to the Department of Energy.

“Optimum Energy is actively leading the creation of the industrial internet by bringing cloud connectivity, data analytics and domain expertise to our enterprise customers who want to optimize their HVAC systems,” Matthew Frey, president and CEO of Optimum Energy, said in a statement. “We’re putting control of the energy budget in the hands of the CFO by re-engineering facilities services to run more efficiently and predictably -- while saving energy and substantially reducing operational costs.”

The Seattle-based company says it can reduce operational costs by up to 50 percent. Unlike other control systems for water chillers, Optimum’s software-as-a-service doesn’t just keep the water at steady temperature. It also continuously calculates the most efficient sequence for cooling and heating, which is always shifting based on factors such as weather and building occupancy.

Optimum will use the new money to expand research and development in machine learning, according to Shaw. The data science team has already found additional energy efficiency gains and the investment will allow the company to expand its data science team.

Optimum makes about 1.5 billion calculations annually across more than 65 million square feet of commercial space to continuously optimize HVAC. The software has saved Optimum’s clients 135 million kilowatt-hours a year.

optimum energy savings

Constant commissioning has become an increasingly important part of energy efficiency offerings, with large companies like EnerNOC increasingly focusing on their commissioning services. While energy efficiency can save money, intelligent systems, such as a finely tuned HVAC that can respond to changing conditions, can offer far more than just a pure-play energy savings. System-level efficiency will also become increasingly important, as individual devices have already become so efficient that additional gains are minimal. 

Optimum Energy began working with Johnson Controls in 2011 with two products that offer energy management for central chilled water plants that are used to cool water for air conditioning systems in skyscrapers.

The latest funding comes from new investor Navitas Capital, backed by a VC advisory relationship with Johnson Controls and existing investor Columbia Pacific Advisors.