Re: HVAC control software

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HVAC control software

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I maintain a building that has Alerton controllers and BacNet/BacTalk software.  The HVAC software is over 6 years old.  The IT technician and I are wanting to upgrade with a new type of software that will not utilize a dedicated computer and the new software will allow us to access the building HVAC system from anywhere; such as: home, any computer connected to the internet, or a smartphone.  Any ideas or suggestions?  The company that originally installed the package is no longer in business.

Verified Answer
  • Hi Kim,

    I would be careful if your IT department was planning to do your upgrade - you are very correct, that if they are not familiar with your settings etc, you may be creating a situation where you end up paying the contractor even more so they can fix any mistakes. Worse yet, you could potentially damage mechanical equipment, create life safety issues regarding ventilation, etc. (worst case scenarios).

    That being said, it ill depends how complicated your mechanical system is. If you have a bunch of simple roof top units, things can be pretty straightforward.

    A simple software upgrade from the original controls contractor should be just that. Simple.

    Although, if your system is not functioning, Then you need more than a software upgrade. You need someone to figure out why and make changes - definitely not a task for your IT department.

    So if we assume the latter, then your 2 choices are to either get the rep for your current product to come in and do the upgrade - or get their competition to come in and use their BACnet product to control your system.

    Depending on:  a) your relationships and b) their capabilities/reputations, either of these options may be the best choice.

    Remember. More important than the brand of system, is the relationship you need to establish with your controls service provider. Don't make this decision based on first-time cost

    Good Luck!

     

     

     

     

    • Top 200 Contributor
  • Kim-

    My name is Peter Hernandez and I'm an Account Executive with Automatic Building Controls.  We are a Platinum Alerton Dealer based in the Chicago suburbs.  I'd like to have the opportunity to help you.  You can reach me at (847) 296-4000. 

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  • Hi Kim,

    Most of your mainstream DDC Systems these days are web friendly. If you are looking for BacNet capability, I know that Automated Logic, Delta and Siemens all fit the bill (among others). Automated Logic is probably my favorite of the three - very user friendly. Check out their web-sites and see which of them have a reputable controls contractor in your area. More important than the system you choose is the capability and reliability of the local support force.

    What part of the world are you in?

    Good luck!

    Rob

  • Rob,

    I am located in Central IL.  We currently have the Envision software that is controlling the BacNet/BacTalk.  Since the software is 6 years old, the IT technician and I are still discussing as to whether or not we truly need to upgrade at this time when economical factors are put into play, such as; the costs surrounding an upgrade.  After discussing the issue at hand with one local dealer, it looks like we may require a dealer to install the upgrade.  The IT technician was wanting to order the software and upgrade the HVAC system.  I am not quite sure this is a good idea if the IT technician does not understand all of the settings and operations that are important to the efficient operation of the HVAC system.     

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  • Hi Kim,

    I would be careful if your IT department was planning to do your upgrade - you are very correct, that if they are not familiar with your settings etc, you may be creating a situation where you end up paying the contractor even more so they can fix any mistakes. Worse yet, you could potentially damage mechanical equipment, create life safety issues regarding ventilation, etc. (worst case scenarios).

    That being said, it ill depends how complicated your mechanical system is. If you have a bunch of simple roof top units, things can be pretty straightforward.

    A simple software upgrade from the original controls contractor should be just that. Simple.

    Although, if your system is not functioning, Then you need more than a software upgrade. You need someone to figure out why and make changes - definitely not a task for your IT department.

    So if we assume the latter, then your 2 choices are to either get the rep for your current product to come in and do the upgrade - or get their competition to come in and use their BACnet product to control your system.

    Depending on:  a) your relationships and b) their capabilities/reputations, either of these options may be the best choice.

    Remember. More important than the brand of system, is the relationship you need to establish with your controls service provider. Don't make this decision based on first-time cost

    Good Luck!

     

     

     

     

    • Top 200 Contributor
  • Hi Kim,

    I operate a building with Siemens Energy management system. I use Log Me In to acess my ems for the internet. Ther is a free version. Go to  www.logmein.com and download the free version. It works great for my application.

     

    Good Luck

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  • Kim-

    My name is Peter Hernandez and I'm an Account Executive with Automatic Building Controls.  We are a Platinum Alerton Dealer based in the Chicago suburbs.  I'd like to have the opportunity to help you.  You can reach me at (847) 296-4000. 

    • Not Ranked
  • Kim,

    You may not have a road map of your existing system. Work with IT to identify each component on your network.

    Create a spreadsheet showing the device, it's complete address, ports required for communication, the data path to switches or routers.

    Inventory your use of each switch or router, firewall settings, time out settings, and available addresses. If possible use a special color cable to denote facilities usage. The newer CISCO copper/fiber switches allow a VLAN per port; a nice way to isolate facilities traffic.

    Inventory your servers and their usage in a similar manner. If multiple servers are used document forward and backward handshakes, it can affect BAS licensing.

    Test the speed of your system by monitoring traffic with 100 50meg packets and 10 500 meg packets. Set up traffic from Point A to Point B across your network and monitor from a third location. You can make these on a disk from bunches of files. If bottlenecks exist they will show up.

    Now plot all your findings on a flow chart and see where your strengths and weaknesses lie.

    A six year old Alertron system should be quite durable. For remote access you can buy an inexpensive PC and create an accessible workstation for yourself and contractors wishing to access your site.

    My contact information is in my profile. Email if you have questions. I am a mechanic with 10 years of IT scars.

    Bernie

  • In my opinion the software is only a small piece of having an EMS that minimizes energy usage while maintaining comfort. Most software offerings have adequate control, feedback, and scheduling and BacTalk is pretty ubiquitous. Two other primary considerations;

    The first is having the training in place to continuously commission the system programming. The commissioning would be through training of existing staff in the software, or an ongoing maintenance agreement with an outside third party.

    The second major piece is a thorough understanding of the building's HVAC system, the building envelope characteristics, occupancy patterns and their changes over time, and most importantly maximum productivity comfort levels.

    The system you currently have in place is adequate and I would actually recommend a dedicated machine to an area as critical as HVAC. As was mentioned previously there are inexpensive solutions to adding secure remote access and by isolating the remote HVAC control to a dedicated PC the rest of the network is more secure.

  • I agree with Rob452 about ALC (Automatic Logic Controllers).  We have been using them for about 4 years.  Initially we set up several laptops in various buildings so our HVAC Techs could view the system while they were in a particular building or if the were in a building they could check the other buildings.  Now with the advent of smartphones, one can easily call up the system see what's going on and make adjustments as necessary.  We even had an ocassion to be with a customer who complained of loud noise (too much air) coming from here vent.  The Tech whipped out his smartphone and made the adjustment to her satisfaction on the spot.

    As far as installation and upgrades, we in southern California used a company called ABA (Automated Building Automation).  They did an outstanding job during the installation and continue to service and upgrade our program.  We did not use our IT department for anything other than to house our HVAC server in their computer room.

  • Look for Alerton BCM-WEB or Alerton Building Suite on the web site of Alerton. You will find the description of these products. Then go to the dealer locator to find a dealer near your location. These solution will do exactly what you want and will match perfectly with your Alerton system in place.

  • Try researching the Trane Rover system, i believe it can be installed on top of any system.

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  • One simple solution.... Niagara.

    At this point in time Tridium is the standard for almost all control Mfgs. and will be for some time to come (Johnson, Honeywell, Carrier, AAM to name a few and.... Alterton).

    Here is the proof, http://www.tridium.com/cs/partners

    You should be most concerned with the word "serviceability", create a generic top end and then you can pick any field device you desire (remember the word competitive!?!?) This is a facility director's real power over ATCs and their desire to "lock you in". Since Tridium is branded by many manufactures you can select your service organization (or keep the current one inline).

     

    One word of caution, what ever field device you select you still may be held tight by the ATC because of licensing and/or limited sales channels.

    Since we are an integrators there is no allegiance to any manufacture and have had to assist a variety of end users with their BMS woes.

    Remember that at the end of the day all control systems open a valve when the temperature changes at the sensor, there is no one system better then another (only marketing hype!).

     

    What makes up the best control system???...... SERVICE, we have proven many times over that even the most difficult BMS can made to work like a gem if it can be service by experienced individuals.

    Last advice:

    - Get past the marketing hype as best you can using a non-biased 3rd party's advise

    - DO NOT invest in any proprietary BMS (do you want to only buy car parts from the car dealer!?!?)

    - Use a generic head end system, do not get completely tied into one Mfg.

    - Ask the proposed system dealer to prove you have alternates for sales/service/support if they install their system.

         Ex. Use a manufacture that uses a dealer network or multi-channel distribution

          (i.e. JCI and Honeywell has factory branches, parts distributors and auth. ATCs - usually several in an area, Siemens has only one phone number for you to call)

    Good Luck

    Mark F

     

     

     

     

     

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  • Kim,

    First contact a local Alerton representative through the Alerton website.  Evaluate the costs involved with upgrading to the newest Alerton Controls software for a more web friendly platform.  Leverage the technology you already paid for.

    Remember that connection through the web does not necessarily mean a control system upgrade requirement.  Log me in is compatible with most EMS software.

    Make a list of what you need and then consult your service provider to see if they can make this happen for you.  I agree with others in this forum that a good relationship with your service provider is important in order for you to get the right solution and not just another "widget".

    Doug
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  • google MaintenanceEdge. That's what we have.

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  • I think you need to determine what you really have.

    Do you have bacnet products or proprietary products?

    What is your goal? To maintain a static system or expand it?

    Do you want to get rid of a PC all together?

    Do you want to manage and control the site or rely on a contractor?

    There are many solutions from independent web servers to touch panels.

    What I would not do is go with a proprietary framework or protocol if you actually have a bacnet system because this is simply another way to hook you into a specific vendor.

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