August 17th, 2018

Europe has spent most of the summer broiling in the grip of a sustained, record-breaking heatwave. Temps have soared into the 90s and stayed there in places that usually only see high temps in the 70s, like Sweden and the British Isles. Northern Ireland and Wales just recorded the hottest June on record, while Sweden logged its hottest July in 260 years.

The region is generally ill-equipped to deal with sustained high temperatures, as most facilities don’t include air conditioning systems. The heat has caused sickening algae blooms to choke water ways, and has sparked deadly wildfires.

The heatwave covers more of Europe and includes more intense temperature readings than previous heatwaves, and is considered by many to be a harbinger of things to come thanks to global climate change.

Kentucky, Ohio and surrounding states have endured their share of heat waves over the years, but that doesn’t mean heat should be taken lightly. Sustained heat waves can be deadly events and deserve the same thoughtful preparation as other disasters.

What can you do to be prepared for a heat wave? Suggestions from Ready.gov align with best practices for energy efficiency, and can be scaled for office or other large facility settings. Ideas include:

  • Cover windows with light and heat blocking drapes or shades during daylight hours. Consider using reflective material that reflects heat back outside. The window covers will keep out the heat and keep rooms from heating up.
  • Add weather stripping to doors and windows to minimize air leakage. Weather stripping will keep hot air out, and cool air in.
  • Add insulation in attic and other areas to keep cool air in and hot air out.
  • Use attic fans to clear out hot air. Don’t use electric fans in high temps; while they might provide some sense of comfort, they don’t actually reduce body temperature and could result in heat illness.
  • Insulate around window air conditioning units.
  • Encourage hydration and cooling off periods for workers who must be outside in the heat. Know the signs of heat related illness, and monitor closely for symptoms. Wear loose, light-weight, light colored clothing.
  • Keep on top of routine maintenance for all HVAC and other cooling equipment. Keep filters fresh and monitor for efficiency.

Have questions about how integrated systems can help you keep an eye on energy efficiency, and spot early signs of trouble? Call me at (800) 567-1180 for a consultation.

 

March 12th, 2018

Weren’t we shivering under a blanket of snow just a couple of weeks ago? Then temps became warmer, with sunshine abundant, and spring fever started setting in. Of course, then it snowed last night.

Spring will officially start on March 20. Between now and then we could see several inches of snow, afternoon highs in the 80s, tornadoes, floods and just about anything in between. If you have any doubts, just check your Facebook memories and you’ll probably see evidence of all of these weather conditions on this day over the last several years.

With spring on the way, now is the time to tackle some routine maintenance and seasonal tasks. Put these on your to-do list now:

Check outside lighting. Walk your parking areas and around the outside of your facility. Look for outside lighting that may have been damaged during snowy, icy weather. Look for light bulbs that have burned out and replace them.

Check landscaping. Flower beds, parking lot islands, sidewalks and lawn areas might have taken a beating when being plowed, scraped and salted this winter. Look for signs of damage and note needed repairs. Look for potholes in parking lots that need repair, and significant gaps or cracks in sidewalks that can cause slips and falls.

Check security cameras and alarms. Review the placement and condition of all inside and outside cameras. Inspect wiring, and check placement to be sure views haven’t shifted or otherwise been compromised.

Clean or change HVAC filters and schedule routine maintenance. Pollen is already flying, and more will be in the air soon. Cleaning or changing out filters is a must to keep allergen levels down inside your facility. Plus, the system is likely to have trapped a lot of debris over the winter months; cleaning or changing the filter is a must for keeping the system running at peak efficiency.

Review severe weather policies and procedures. Tornado season is already underway. Schedule a drill with your team and make sure they all know what to do in the case of severe weather. Update checklists and rosters, especially is you’ve welcomed new team members or made other personnel changes since your last drill.

If you’d like to know more about how you can optimize and integrate your building systems, call us at (800) 567-1180 for a consultation.

February 23rd, 2018

Companies have long been sold on the idea of conserving energy as a means to be better stewards of both natural resources and their own financial resources.

Energy managers have sought ways to reduce their organization’s carbon footprint, reduce emissions, reduce waste, reduce power use and more. When it comes to power use in particular, most of the effort and emphasis has been on conservation: how can we use less power?

Answers have included everything from switching to LED lighting to investing in sophisticated building control systems that monitor usage and identify opportunities to maximize efficiency.
What’s next for organizations that have maximized their conservation options? The next step might be actually producing and/or storing their own energy.

Some technologies to watch:

Microgrids. Communities and even single facilities are increasingly turning to microgrids to deliver power needs. Microgrids typically connect to local resources – often renewable energy options like solar or wind power – for operation. Microgrids are connected to the main power grid, but can operate independently. Microgrids allow communities or facilities to become energy independent, and in some cases even sell energy back to the main grid. The effect reduces overall energy costs and may even become a revenue source.

MicroCHP. Combined heat and power systems combines the production of heat and electricity and converts waste heat to electricity. The systems are more efficient to operate, and may be powered by a variety of fuels including natural gas, biomass, solar and more. MicroCHPs make it possible to keep power generation extremely local (a home or office building), thus reducing the loss incurred in transmission of energy over distances. MicroCHPs can produce surplus energy, making more available to sell back to traditional energy suppliers.

Energy storage. Utility companies are now starting to experiment with using batteries for energy storage, but smaller scale solutions for homes and smaller facilities are on the horizon, too. The development of battery storage will allow producers to capture power generated by renewable energy sources like solar and wind and store for use when production is not at peak. For homes and businesses, this could open up the possibility of generating and storing their own power, and possibly even selling it back to the grid.

November 16th, 2017

The recent arrival of cooler temps dovetailed with the end of Daylight Savings Time, making it feel like the world suddenly went dark and cold and the same time. Is your business or organization still making the adjustment?

These tips will help you maximize energy efficiency during the winter months:

Contact your energy provider and ask if they will help you conduct an energy audit. Many providers provide free audits to customers.

Review your energy usage from last winter season and set targets. How much energy did you use? What was the average daily temp and other conditions? Setting a goal for reducing use might help you keep costs in check.

Check insulation. Make sure it is adequate to meet your needs. Check seals on all duct work to make sure it is sound and air isn’t leaking.

Schedule regular maintenance for your HVAC system to keep it running at peak efficiency. Be sure to change or clean filters, too. Dirty filters make systems worker harder and less efficiently.

Check all vents and returns to make sure they are clear of obstructions. Arrange furniture so air flow is maximized, and keep paper and other debris clear.
Look for leaky doors and windows and seal them. Use caulk and/or weather stripping to seal up energy-sucking gaps throughout your facility. Gaps around plumbing access, electrical outlets and lighting fixtures are often leaky, too. Seal them up and you’ll better maintain temps in your facility.

Use programmable thermostats to maintain temps. Set temps no higher than 67 degrees when your facility is occupied, and drop temps several degrees overnight or when facilities are not in use. You’ll realize substantial savings by dropping your thermostat just two degrees.

Limit the use of space heaters. Not only do they present a fire hazard, they use significant energy and make it difficult to regulate temperatures. Encourage layering clothes or wearing sweaters for personal comfort.

Maximize use of natural light. Open blinds and curtains to allow sunshine in during the day, and close them at night to retain heat.

Monitor lighting use. Use sensors or timers to turn lights on and off automatically. Switch to LED lighting wherever possible. Use smart power strips and sleep settings to operate office equipment efficiently.

Need help monitoring and integrating your HVAC and other key building systems? We can help. Call (800) 567-1180 to learn more.

August 30th, 2017

Consumers have been diving into the internet of things (IoT) via connected devices for quite some time. Most of us sport a fitness device of some sort that collects our health data – activities, heart rate, sleep patterns and more – and records and reports it out over time. We check our smart devices to see what the temp is in our homes, and make adjustments if necessary. We log into our computers to check our security cameras and see if a package has arrived, or whether or not the dog has jumped up on the sofa (again!)

Many businesses have taken advantage of the IoT wave, too. Connected systems that control HVAC, video and security are increasingly common.

Even getting a drink in a restaurant is an IoT experience. Coke Freestyle machines don’t just allow customers to mix their own special drink, they track pump performance and automatically replenish syrup. Data is collected from each machine worldwide so Coca Cola can track trends.

While the IoT is certainly far from tapped out in the consumer sector, applications are gaining steam in the industrial sector, too. Connected devices, equipment and systems are helping manufacturers gain efficiencies in resource allocation, production processes, materials handling and the workforce.

Why does the IoT matter to your business or organization?

Data. From HVAC monitoring to tracking customer patters to keeping tabs on staff, the IoT enables organizations of any size to readily access data for smart decision-making.

Security. Organizations will need to be more cognizant than ever of what devices are connected and how they are connected. Risks extend beyond exposing customer data or some other immediate breach. Last year, hackers used unsecured video cameras to launch a DDoS attack that nearly brought down some of the Internet’s most popular sites, including Twitter and Spotify. Such attacks may open up the possibility of liability for companies that fail to secure devices.

Consumer expectations. The more consumers come to rely on the IoT, the more it will shape their expectations of the services they receive from business, government and other organizations.

Need to know more about how to connect and automate your building systems? Call (800) 567-1180 to talk to a member of our team.

July 25th, 2017

The dog days of summer have arrived, and with them peak energy use. Air conditioners are pumping at full blast, and energy managers are dreading next month’s power bill.

What can businesses do to conserve power and control costs? Here are a few simple tips:

 

  • Set the thermostat to 78 degrees while facilities are in use, and 80 or above when not in use.
  • Check all air filters and change as necessary. Service units regularly to make sure they are running at peak efficiency.
  • Install programmable thermostats to automatically adjust according to your desired settings.
  • Replace older equipment with newer, more energy-efficient models.
  • Check in with LG & E about possible rebates for new energy-efficient equipment. LG & E also offers a demand conservation program which may provide your business with modest monthly savings.
  • If you use an outside vendor to providing vending machines in your facility’s break room, check with them to see if the machines are Energy Star machines. If they are not, negotiate for an upgrade.
  • Replace all incandescent light bulbs with more energy efficient CFL or LED bulbs.
  • Don’t forget outside lights. Put outside lights on timers or sensors, or make sure they are shut off during daylight hours.
  • Install motion sensors that automatically turn off lights when rooms are unoccupied.
  • Keep window shades/blinds drawn to block heat, or install screens or film to reflect bright sunlight.
  • Turn off and/or unplug equipment when not in use.
  • Consider flexible work arrangements where appropriate. If employees duties don’t require them to physically be in your office, why not have them work from home? Fewer workers in the office means less demand for lighting, cooling and power.
  • Maximize your landscaping to shade and shelter your building. An ocean of asphalt is not the most energy-efficient setting. A few well-placed trees can block the sun’s rays from heating up your facility.

April 12th, 2017

Spring is here, and several ECT Services partners have announced the launch of new products. Here’s a rundown of the latest:


HID Global announced the launch of HID Location Services. The new offering allows organizations to track its workforce in a facility. The real-time proximity-based services verify employee locations for use cases such as monitoring employee check in and check out, monitoring room occupancy, facility management, workforce optimization and more.
“HID Location Services extends HID’s leadership in physical access control with a cutting-edge Internet of Things offering for workforce optimization solutions that can be easily integrated into existing systems,” said Harm Radstaak, Vice President and Managing Director of Physical Access Control Solutions with HID Global in a company press release. “These new capabilities leverage the power of trusted identities to provide a new level of visibility for customers to better understand how buildings are used, help quickly find people in emergency situations, and deliver an extraordinary user experience.”
HID Location Services is off to a strong start, snagging the Most Valuable Product (MVP) award from Security Sales & Integration (SSI) magazine. HID Location Services also took top honors in the Security Industry Association (SIA) New Product Showcase competition in the category of Access Control Devices & Peripherals Wireless.
Bosch Security Systems also introduced a new line of intelligent IP cameras, all of which feature video analytics. The new MIC IP fusion 9000i camera also offers metadata fusion, which fuses the metadata of the camera’s built-in optical and thermal imager.
Bosch also introduced In-Store Analytics, a Cloud-based solution that uses intelligent Bosch IP panoramic cameras to give retailers insights on store traffic, according to a release from the company.
Axis Communications also recently announced new and updated product lines. The FA series of discreet indoor surveillance cameras includes the AXIS FA54 Main Unit, AXIS FA1105 Sensor Unit with a standard lens, AXIS FA1125 Sensor Unit with a pinhole lens and AXIS FA4115 Dome Sensor Unit with a varifocal lens. The series enables indoor surveillance of four closely situated areas using a single system system.
“By separating the sensor unit from the camera body, the sensor units can fit into tight spaces and blend in with the environment for unobtrusive surveillance. The pinhole sensor unit is especially useful at entrances for capturing people’s faces at eye level,” said Erik Mårtensson, Global Product Manager for Modular cameras at Axis Communications, in a company press release. “AXIS FA Series is really cost-efficient since it offers customers the possibility to cover multiple areas of a location with one high-performance camera system.”
Axis also added the indoor AXIS P1367 and outdoor AXIS P1367-E and AXIS P1368-E network cameras to its AXIS P13 fixed-box series.
Belimo also launched a new line of HVAC sensors, developed to seamlessly integrate into building automation systems. The sensors feature universal compact enclosure design, screwless snap covers and a detachable mounting plate.

March 30th, 2017

Maintaining school facilities is a challenge in nearly every school district. Most districts don’t have the funds to adequately resource regular capital improvements, and maintenance is sometimes deferred and systems and equipment are repaired long after they should have been replaced.


It’s no different for Jefferson County Public Schools, which has 155 school buildings, shifting population and a $1.3 billion list of maintenance and new construction projects.
Addressing the maintenance and construction issues is a complex challenge, but the payoffs are considerable, including improved energy efficiency and better utilization of resources, among other things.
But the most important payback of all might be improved student performance. How?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, schools without a major maintenance backlog have a higher average daily attendance of 4 to 5 students per 1,000 and a lower annual dropout rate by 10 to 13 students per 1,000 compared to schools with backlogs.
Check out these other benefits and impacts the EPA cites:

  • Studies that measure school conditions consistently show improved scores on standardized tests as school conditions improve.
  • Controlled studies show that children perform school work with greater speed as air ventilation rates increase, and performance of teachers and staff also improves.
  • Higher ventilation rates have been shown to reduce the transmission of infectious agents in the building, which leads to a drop in sickness and absenteeism.
  • Moderate changes in room temperature affect children’s abilities to perform mental tasks requiring concentration, such as addition, multiplication and sentence comprehension. Poor temperature and humidity regulation can lead to problems with focus.

Well-maintained systems are key to building maintenance, and important for the development, health and safety of students and staff.
We’re always happy to discuss how our solutions can help. Connect with us at the Kentucky School Plant Management Association conference and workshops Oct. 18-19 at the Embassy Suites Hotel at 1801 Newtown Pike in Lexington or call us at (800) 567-1180 to discuss your needs.

February 3rd, 2017

Are you retrofitting an existing building with a new security system? Or perhaps you are embarking on a new construction project, which will include integrated building controls?
Maybe you’ve already put a great deal of thought into your system needs, and perhaps you’ve even done some research into the products and features you want, and discussed your vision with your architect.
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Those are great first steps. Being an informed consumer is always an excellent idea, and working with a knowledgeable professional is well worth the investment of time and other resources.

But when it comes to specialized systems such as access control, temperature control, security and building integration, and additional level of expertise is necessary, too. With the introduction if the Internet of Things, system complexity is increasing exponentially. Having these types of systems designed by someone who specializes in them will ensure quality and performance, and reduce the risk that systems won’t perform up to full potential due to design flaws.

ECT Services will partner with your architect to design and draw a plan for your temperature control, building integration, security and other systems. We don’t compete with your architect; we complement their services for maximum value.

Our design engineers track every element of the systems they design – down to the last plug and screw – and deliver clear, precise, detailed drawings. If design elements are changed during the building process, we update the plans accordingly, so changes can be tracked later.

What does that mean for you? It means updating, expanding and troubleshooting systems will be a much easier process later on, even years after installation. It means you’ll know exactly what elements are included in your system, and you’ll have a complete picture of how they all work together.

Interested in learning more? Call us at (800) 567-1180 to discuss your needs.

December 21st, 2016

Recent weeks have brought news of new integrations, products and acquisitions for several ECT Services partners.

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On December 1, HID Global announced the acquisition of Bluvision, adding enterprise Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to its capabilities.
Bluevision offers real-time location system technology, presence and proximity-based location capabilities and condition monitoring solutions as well as cloud infrastructure, gateways, beacons and software as a service (SaaS).The acquisition will expand HID’s real-time asset tracking capabilities and extend HID’s cloud services for access control and related applications.
HID also announced the launch of the industry’s first end-to-end identity access management solution that offers a single credential for accessing doors, IT systems, networks and data. HID PIV unifies physical and IT security systems, a must for government and regulated industries.
On December 5, Shooter Detection Systems announced that its Guardian Indoor Active Shooter Detection System now integrates with Software House’s C•CURE 9000 access control system.
Then integration will provides the ability for instant shot location information, initiation of lock down procedures, capturing live and recorded video from cameras in the incident related areas, and immediate notification to first responders.
On December 15, target=”_blank”>Axis announced it would begin marketing seven new models of Canon network cameras. According to a press release, the cameras include the VB-S30VE, a compact outdoor mini PTZ dome camera, and the VB-H761LVE, an outdoor fixed box camera with 20 times zoom and IR illumination. Most are designed for outdoor surveillance, and all offer HDTV 1080p resolution in full frame rate.
Looking for innovative, effective building integration solutions? We can connect you to the right partners.