Category: Automation and Control

Checklist: Deciding Whether to Upgrade or Replace Building Automation Systems


Once your current building needs have been evaluated, the next logical step is to calculate whether an upgrade or replacement will allow these needs to be met more efficiently.

1. He loves me, he loves me not:  It may sound silly, but compiling a list of the pros and cons for a replacement and for a new BAS will help you flush out the major implications for each BAS track.  Some food for thought:

  • Ease of new(er) system operation
  • Training time- in dollars AND hours
  • Maintenance expectations


2. Take it easy:  How easily can the upgrade be implemented? An easy upgrade path should ensure the level of functionality will be met. Lots of ‘well, you won’t be able to…” or “now you’ll have to” may mean a new system is the more efficient outfit.
3. Take it to the limit:  Evolution in the building automation field has brought immense changes to BAS capabilities. The tradeoff of  increased system performance at a lower cost has been that made many older but perfectly functioning systems are now obsolete. Many of those systems simply are not compatible with the architecture employed in new system designs, making an upgrade a clumsy option.

4. It’s not me, it’s you: Finally, it’s useful to evaluate the relationship with the vendor that supports the existing system. Vendor issues weigh heavily in the decision-making process, but be careful not to confuse the lack of vendor support with poor system performance.


Whether you want to upgrade or replace, tekWorx can work with any BAS system to ensure your chiller plant is operating most efficiently.  It doesn’t matter if it’s old or new, tekWorx CEO® can either replace you outdated BAS or work in a supervisory role if your BAS is in perfectly great shape.

Replacing v. Upgrading Your BAS Network

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To replace or not to replace…

Wondering whether it’s more practical to replace your existing building automation system or to upgrade it? Consider three major points in favor of biting the bullet and replacing your BAS.

  1.  Moore’s Law: Holding on to your old system may limit its ability to perform.  New systems have expanded capacity, capability and can streamline data readings from multiple interfaces into a single, comprehensive system. Wireless technology has helped to reduce installation costs while increasing system flexibility. New systems are often less expensive than their dated counterparts once were and much more user friendly.
  2.  In-house Integration: Depending on the life of your other functioning equipment, replacing your BAS with a newer system may allow a more robust interaction among instruments. Upgrading an existing system may bring system features and facility needs into closer alignment, but will never be as close as that of a complete replacement.
  3.  All Good Things Come to an End: Eventually, your BAS will become obsolete-the trick is to determine whether it already is. Evaluate whether the system has some life left or whether it’s best to reset the clock now before the compatibility window has been shut.

    tekWorx CEO® can optimize your chiller plant by either becoming your plant’s brand new BAS, or by simply acting in a supervisory manner to coach your existing system to operate more efficiently.

Taking the Treasure Hunt One Step Further


Treasure hunts are an efficient way for companies to quickly recapture lost energy costs using simple fixes. EnergyStar’s best practices include starting with lighting replacements and renegotiating of utility contracts to see basic energy reductions in short time frames. These hunts constitute a major step in the right direction for buildings looking to reduce energy consumption and energy bills. However, if treasure hunts handle the low hanging fruit, reaching the fruit located in the upper branches of the energy efficiency tree becomes a lot more complex than replacing the lights. Short term efficiency can positively bolster lean operating processes but long term goals can’t be achieved without more sophisticated methods for optimizing chilled water plants. Even with the popularity and usefulness of energy treasure hunts, Approachable Expertise® still remains critical.

Much like the lean manufacturing processes on which these treasure hunts are modeled, the key for improvement is both in pinpointing areas in need of energy optimization and then in applying best practices to improve upon these inefficiencies. tekWorx uses decades of hydronic system expertise to optimize all of the central plant equipment associated with producing cooling. Using industrial PLC platforms, adaptive control algorithms work to reduce chiller lift and ensure the system is meeting demand in the most energy efficient way. Real time data is continuously monitored and plant kW/ton is significantly reduced. Automation and control techniques such as these allow companies to reach the upper branches of the energy efficiency tree and to stay and enjoy their tremendous energy savings.

To find out how tekWorx can increase your view on energy efficiency, please fill out our Chiller Plant Evaluation Form.

Customized Algorithms = Energy Efficient Chiller Plant Control


Demand for cooling production varies from building to building but, more often than not, firms will use cookie cutter controls that run their plant just like every other. These out-of-the-box chiller plant controls are typically implemented with the idea that energy costs will drop greatly with the newly ‘optimized’ plant. When controls follow a model, however, there isn’t any optimization as these static models don’t take into account the piping configuration, equipment sizes, load profiles, and other specifics of the plant. Generally, these plants were designed poorly in the first place, compounding the inherent inefficiencies of these generic control systems. While this can design flaw can easily be addressed in the conceptual phase of facility design, existing facilities don’t have such luxuries. To combat this issue, plants can retrofit chiller controls with specialized automation and control techniques that will enable the central plant to operate efficiently at the lowest plant kW/ton.

tekWorx approach is simple: treat each plant as the unique system that it is. In doing so, customized control algorithms are created to ensure demand is being met in the most energy efficient way. Each system undergoes a detailed energy analysis that include mechanical and hydronic assessments, operator interviews, and more in order to pinpoint the plant’s energy inefficiencies. Based on this information, tekWorx develops plant-specific algorithms that continuously monitor critical system parameters in real-time and automatically adapt online operation. These algorithms not only help control plant operating costs, they also reign in maintenance and training costs.

To find out how tekWorx can develop customized algorithms that will save energy in your energy plant, please fill out our Chiller Plant Evaluation Form.

tekWorx Optimization is Making Headlines!

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tekWorx was recently consulted for their Approachable Expertise® in chiller plant optimization strategies for ACHR News. In the interview, tekWorx GM Mike Flaherty outlines tekWorx best practices for simultaneously increasing energy efficiency and reclaiming cooling capacity in central plants. With this unique approach, all of the equipment used for cooling production is optimized, especially chillers which are often overlooked by contractors. According to tekWorx, ensuring that all of the cooling equipment (chillers, valves, cooling towers, etc.) is involved in the reduction strategy is key to decreasing energy costs in the long term.

tekWorx focuses its automation and control strategies specifically on these energy intensive components. Flaherty summarizes three phases used in every tekWorx project: an energy audit to lay out what should be done, what it will cost and what it will save, the installation of an adaptive control system to continually optimize total plant kW per ton and ongoing commissioning services to verify performance.

To read the article, please visit ACHR News.

What Automation and Control Really Mean

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The word automation has increasingly become associated with the terrifying images portrayed by Hollywood of robots bringing about the end of humanity and has given the category a bad rep. The truth is automation and control processes are much less threatening than their Hollywood counterparts and are implemented in a vast number of business activities; these have yet to result in an army of automatons. So what does automation really mean then? Ultimately, automation means efficiency.

Proper control strategies can improve system efficiency in terms of quality, accuracy, and precision as key parameters are determined by engineering experts and tailored to the particular needs of the operation. While typical manufacturing processes come to mind as the biggest uses of this technology, the practical use of automation expands beyond the assembly line. Automation and control have become increasingly popular in other areas that have a hefty amount of energy consumption, such as large chilled water systems. Innovative system management of these processes has a tremendous impact upon the energy efficiencies of buildings since central plants account for 30% of a building’s energy costs.

tekWorx uses adaptive control techniques,  reducing the electrical energy required to produce chilled water in high performance buildings. A PLC based system powers the technology to ensure the system is constantly meeting demand in the most energy efficient way. While the automation is seen as having a mind of its own as programs like tekWorx CEO® are continuously monitoring demand and making adjustments in real time, the self-sufficient system can still be watched remotely by human handlers.

To find out more about tekWorx use of automation in central plants, check out our Results page.