SWARM: Increasing Visibility & Comfort While Saving Energy
- What is SWARM?
Most campuses have hundreds of small buildings with isolated HVAC systems that are not connected to a centralized scheduling or control system. SWARM connects these isolated units to a secure network to allow for remote HVAC scheduling, engages with occupants to ensure comfort, and allows remote troubleshooting for the HVAC technicians. Additional benefits include building relationships with occupants all over campus and sharing information about other best practices, establishing visibility of past equipment and climate trends, and tracking air quality levels in the space.
- SWARM at UC Davis
The UC Davis main campus houses around 1,200 buildings of various sizes and usage. Some larger buildings' HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems can be monitored remotely from Facilities Management because they are connected centrally to the same system. However, this leaves out smaller buildings that operate from individual HVAC units, much like the ones you would have in your home.
UC Davis's Energy & Engineering team uses Pelican Wireless internet enabled thermostats, economizer controllers, and site management to schedule and monitor small buildings across campus. The results have moved SWARM from a three-building pilot project to a campus standard for small buildings.
SWARM now controls 72 buildings and 340,000 square feet of campus, including 1,000+ tons of heating and cooling! UC Davis will see energy savings of 700 MWh/year of electricity, 6,000 therms/year of natural gas, and $68,000/year in cost savings thanks to SWARM.
Case Study: IETCR + MMO Buildings - After implementing SWARM, the buildings saw a 43% reduction in energy just from scheduling improvements.
Holiday Shutdowns and Extended Vacancy
After building relationships with occupants, the Energy & Engineering Team is able to communicate with the occupants for upcoming holidays and periods of extended campus shutdown events such as the COVID-19 suspended operations period to shutdown HVAC systems for entire buildings or certain zones. SWARM has enabled 31 buildings totaling 49% of the SWARM footprint to be scheduled off for part or all of the COVID-19 suspended operations; these buildings would have been running on their normal schedule if not for the remote scheduling capability implemented by SWARM.
As an example, The Barn has seen a total energy reduction compared to the predicted use of 32% since mid-March just from scheduling the HVAC in the building off! The graph below shows how energy use stayed lower than predicted as people left the building for the COVID shutdown.
- Toolkit for Starting SWARM on Other Campuses
With the generous funding from the UC Office of the President's Carbon Neutrality Initiative, the Energy & Engineering team has developed a toolkit for other UC campuses, designed to help kickstart pilot SWARM projects. For more information and collaboration, email SWARM@ucdavis.edu.
For Energy Managers:
These resources provide guides for identifying potential SWARM buildings, approaching HVAC technicians, campus IT, and building occupants to explain the benefits and logistics of SWARM, and tracking the energy use and savings from implementing SWARM. These will hopefully help start pilot projects and take pilot projects to campus-wide practices.
Energy Manager Module.pptx
Energy Data Analysis Module.pdf
Technical Reference Guide.pdf
For HVAC Technicians:
The stakeholders who will have the most day-to-day interaction with SWARM will be the HVAC technicians that respond to hot and cold calls and take work orders for HVAC equipment. It is crucial for them to understand and be comfortable using the technology, so along with this information module, the Energy & Engineering team is happy to offer information and training sessions for the program.
HVAC Technician Module.pdf
For Campus IT Team:
Because SWARM requires hooking into the campus internet infrastructure, collaboration with the IT team is required. The more confident the IT team is with the technology involved in SWARM, the quicker projects will be able to be installed.
For Building Occupants:
If building occupants are interested in how SWARM works and how it will affect them, they can refer to this module.
Building Manager Module.pdf
Current and Planned SWARM Pilot Projects
Campuses that are installing or planning on installing their own versions of SWARM: UC Santa Barbara, UC Davis Health, and UC Agriculture & Natural Resources - Kearney Extension Center. If your campus is interested in this program, the Energy & Engineering team may provide a starter kit of thermostats, a gateway, and any necessary repeaters for one pilot building. Email SWARM@ucdavis.edu to inquire about receiving a starter kit.
Timeline for Adding a Building to SWARM
- Building Identification
There are 3 indicators that a building may be eligible for SWARM implementation:
1. The building is not connected to the Central Heating and Cooling Plant.
2. The size of the building is large yet not connected centrally, which have a greater capacity to offer savings.
3. We have received TherMOOstat feedback from the building occupants, but no visibility on their HVAC systems.
- Initial Contact/ Site Visit
- – A team member will reach out to the building managers via email or phone call.
– The initial contact serves to assess building personnel's interest in partnering with SWARM.
– Once the building manager agrees to work with SWARM, the team gathers information about how the building has been performing from the building manager's perspective and how SWARM could improve energy usage and cost.
- Data Collection
- – When the building managers agree to collaborate with SWARM, electricity and gas usage data are collected if available.
– Some buildings do not have meters installed when they were first built, so an electricity meter will be installed and monitored to gather baseline data for 3 months.
– An inventory of HVAC units and thermostats will be taken to identify and determine zones, schedules, and setpoints for that particular building.
- – Since SWARM operates on thermostats that communicate on a wireless network, a local network will be installed after the data collection period.
– Some SWARM-eligible buildings' HVAC units have economizers, which are units that utilize outside air to help regulate temperature. If there are economizers present, then an economizer controller will be installed as well to further optimize energy savings.
- Site Activation
- – After the installation period, a SWARM team member will go over best practices with the building managers to advise best setpoints based on the use and needs of the buildings.
– At the ECO front, the SWARM team will be focusing on data acquisition, monitoring, and analysis.
– Building managers will be able to receive monthly progress reports on how much energy is saved.