Spotlight on InfoComm


How Helping Clients Go Green Will Enhance Your Value and Make You Stand Out in the Industry

Providing solutions for energy management and system reliability can reap cost savings for customers and boost your cachet.

Tim Albright

When you hear the term “energy management” what is the first thing that pops in your head? Power conditioners, breaker controls, daylight harvesting, or a simple UPS?

Energy management has become increasingly important to your clients. Let’s get beyond the various initiatives that companies have started to become more “green.” The bottom line for these companies is the bottom line  — their energy costs and costs that downed systems have on operations.

For every minute that a conference room is down a corporation is losing hundreds of dollars in productivity. If it’s a banquet facility they are losing thousands. Then there is are the costs associated with systems that remain on and ready to go even though the last person left the building hours ago.

The great news for integrators is that opportunities loom, because you can help your clients save time, money, and increase the longevity of the investment they have made in their AV systems.

Bring AV into the Equation

“When people talk about the high efficiency building movement they are looking at lighting, HVAC, and others. AV is getting left out,” says Paul Mott of equipment rack and power protection/distribution manufacturer Middle Atlantic.

As you begin your conversation with the architect, general contractor or client, bring up energy management as an option. This is an area where you can bring value to the table as well as demonstrate your technical knowledge. In this day and age of AV being relegated to a secondary trade, it never hurts to show what you can do to enhance the client’s experience as well as increase the value of their investment.

You will most likely deal with some pushback from other trades. Energy management has been the area of the electrical contractors and the like. However, they have some drawbacks as well.

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“People converted to LED lighting five years ago, but as you look at the fixtures being sold, the LED manufacturers don’t tell you they are still using more energy in standby mode,” explains Mark Bishop of LynTec, a manufacturer of smart circuit breaker panels.

This is not meant to knock what the EE designer is specifying, but to point out ways to enhance what they are already putting into a system. If the LED lighting is meant as a cost savings as well as aesthetic enhancement, then AV professionals can make it better and even more efficient than originally designed by actually turning off the power to these fixtures when they’re not in use. The same is true of the video walls and other power draws.

“Video walls consume a lot more energy than people anticipate,” says Bishop. If you’ve ever stood next to one while it was on, or even in standby, you know the residual heat from them is proof of this.

Where to Start with Savings

Let’s say you are ready to begin incorporating energy management into your designs and AV offerings. Where do you start? With questions.

“Do you want to monitor branch lines or individual devices? Once you decide that you can look at different products that can do either one,” says Mott.

From there you can examine various ways to control the power and monitor what is going on. One way is offering space and cost savings by connecting directly to the electrical panel.

“Include circuit breakers as the electrical closets are tight on space,” says Bishop. This does require having a working knowledge of the electrical loads your equipment is going to need. If your engineering and design staff isn’t already doing so, it is a simple addition to their checklist of product specifications.

Then move on to some of the concerns the client has with their existing power system.

“Customers experience problems with brown outs, outages, and other power issues,” says Middle Atlantic‘s Scott Lowder. “If these events are being logged, the integrator can share this data with customers and offer suggestions for improving reliability or reducing AV system energy costs.”

You could actually start before your next client calls requesting a design. Look in your own office. “Start small to try new technology,” Lowder suggests. Create a demo or lab room in your own warehouse or offices. In this way you can test out the
equipment in your own environment, see the data it really does provide, and find out in a controlled environment how to truly integrate these products.

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Using a smart energy management system will provide more data than most clients and electricians know what to do with. Again, this is where you can provide added value to the end user and make the system even more cost effective.

By serving up the data collected by these systems you can show where and when the system experienced lower than optimal voltage, spikes, or all out power loss. With this information you can formulate a plan of attack to mitigate the impact these electrical issues have on the overall system. Solutions may include UPS (uninterruptible power supplies), active power conditioners, or individually controlled outlets.

“When people talk about the high efficiency building movement they are looking at lighting, HVAC, and others. AV is getting left out.”—Paul Mott, Middle Atlantic Products.

The smart outlets are another cost saving measure. In these systems the client, or you as the integrator, has the ability to power cycle individual devices as a first step in troubleshooting.

If a wireless access point, Apple TV, or other electronic device is not responding a common step is to unplug the device to “reset” it. With a smart energy management system you have the ability to turn off individual power outlets and reset the device without rolling a truck.

As you move through the design and specification process some pushback is to be expected. “One of the most common misconceptions is return on investment,” Lowder says. “It’s very difficult in an initial discussion to talk about a higher equipment cost for monitoring devices unless the customer can see the benefit.”

As easy as it may be to remove perceived higher ticket items in a value engineering step the real value of these devices show themselves in the data they provide to the client in saving their overall system.

“Smart power products have been around for a while in IT; it’s just the very beginning in AV,” says Mott. “We see the standard product going away and this being the norm in AV like it is in other industries.” So, get on board now with energy management and prove your worth to other trades and your clients.