Maintaining High Performance Control Systems


  • 21.1 Software Issues
  • 21.2 Communications Issues
  • 21.3 Hardware Issues
  • 21.4 Operator Issues
  • 21.5 Steps to Take

We rely on control systems to monitor and manage our building systems. For the most part it's been assumed that once the control system is installed and configured it will work for years with little attention and minimal maintenance. Some systems may be trouble-free, but, the majority of systems will need regular attention and maintenance. Over time hardware will fail, software parameters change, and the control system will drift from its original configuration and performance.

The role of control systems is somewhat undervalued. When you examine the most complex system in most buildings, the HVAC infrastructure, you find that it's the HVAC control system, not the HVAC equipment, which produces the most operational issues and is the leading cause of inefficient energy use. Lawrence Berkley National Laboratories examined 60 buildings and found the highest frequency of common problems with HVAC was in the control system. Texas A&M University research determined that of the operational and maintenance measures that could produce significant energy savings, 77% of the savings were from correcting control problems. Maintaining a high performing control system involves regular maintenance, up to date software, data management, and organizational policies. Issues that cause problems with a building control system are the same challenges all of us have had with our computer or smartphone: problems related to software, hardware, communications networking, and user mistakes. What follows is an overview of some typical control system issues along with recommendations on how to keep the system performing at a high level.

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