Category: Real time

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.

Keys to Implementing Control Strategies Successfully

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Choosing to automate control systems in existing facilities is an extensive process that, when done properly, can reap long term efficiency and energy gains. Whether it’s an upgrade of an outdated system or converting a manual system to automated control, successful implementation is critical to improving building performance. Three industry best practices that enhance the success of control strategies are used by tekWorx to ensure seamless integration with the patented Control Engine Optimization (CEO®) system.

First, it goes without saying that knowledge is power. Without fully understanding the current system, there is no way in which to track improvement measures or understand how the changes in automation are impacting the ability of the system to meet demand. To empower clients, tekWorx focuses on performing energy audits and system blueprints to determine where inefficiencies may be hiding due to poor chiller plant design. Through this process, tekWorx is able to create pragmatic control strategies to lower plant kW/ton.

Secondly, plant managers need to identify opportunities for system integration that will provide additional functionality. Focusing on HVAC components is a logical place to start as cooling production has the greatest impact on energy consumption, especially with the unpredictable weather patterns of late. The core function of the CEO® is to automate all aspects involved in the chilled water production from the chillers, pumps, cooling towers, etc. to ensure that the best combination of system components are used to meet demand and minimize plant kW/ton.

The final consideration in automating plant systems involves linking building system data to business systems. Connecting the impact of the automation on bottom line financial statements is critical to evaluating the overall retrofit benefits. The use of real-time analytical tools is proven to increase energy efficiency as well as to optimize operations. The CEO® combines the data received from the overall BAS system and implements control strategies based on these real-time system parameters to reduce energy. The CEO® constantly works to cut central energy plant costs, increasing the availability of funds that can now be allocated to other important business functions.

To see how tekWorx can seamlessly optimize your system with the CEO®, check out our Results page.

Tennessee Tech Saves by Utilizing Energy Efficiency


Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, TN has grown like any typical college campus with continual expansion over the years due to new facilities and increased enrollments. In order to keep up with ever changing demands, the campus facilities group attempted to connect the original distributed cooling system with new buildings, unintentionally creating deficiencies that compromised the efficiency and operability of the central CHW system. Because the central plant was delivering cooling to some buildings while others housed their own chillers, the campus was faced with improper balancing and low ∆ T. In short, they were lacking a control strategy that would orchestrate greater campus energy efficiency.

Unlike typical BAS strategies, tekWorx Control Engine Optimization (CEO®) system does not rely on a cookie cutter technique, but adapts to the unique needs of every chiller plant. tekWorx implemented this CEO® with Tennessee Tech’s existing facilities, designing a sequence of adaptive control algorithms to optimize the hydronic system and meet changing load conditions. The CEO® uses real time plant the information to determine optimal operations points for all cooling-related components under their ever-changing conditions to ensure the best combination is used to increase efficiency. The result is a reduction in system wide kW consumption by meeting demand in the most energy efficient way.

Since the installation of the tekWorx CEO®, Tennessee Tech has enjoyed an average on-going ~10% annual reduction in their campus wide energy consumption. The chilled water plant accounts for about 25% of overall kW consumption for the campus meaning there was a 25% reduction in kW consumption by the chilled water system alone. In total, the school has avoided nearly $75,000 in utility costs since the project was completed. To find out how tekWorx can increase the efficiency in your chilled water plant, fill out our Chiller Plant Evaluation Form.

Direct Control and Supervisory Control

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“Plant modifications”, “updates” and “conversions” are phrases that often make plant personnel nervous. Which modifications will bring about the greatest and longest lasting results? What do I have to give up to get the latest and greatest? How much is this going to disrupt the plant and my day-to-day? Will this really save energy?

tekWorx gets it. Working with complex systems that demand different automation techniques and design depending on client’s budgets, time frames, and permitted levels of disruption, tekWorx has seen it all and has you covered. Whether the system needs to be converted from manual operation to automated control or sequence updates need to be implemented for energy efficiency gains, tekWorx CEO® uses custom algorithms to improve any chilled plant’s operations.

In a world with emphasis on short paybacks, shrinking budgets, and long term environmental impacts, tekWorx engineers are practical and pragmatic experts and ensuring clients invest only in what they really need- both in engineering and equipment. As such, there are two overarching approaches in which tekWorx retrofits chilled water plants with its PLC based CEO® system.

When working with a plant that has no Building Automation System (BAS) or has a control system that is too outdated to produce the desired efficiency gains, tekWorx CEO® acts as a BAS for the entire chilled water plant; this is known as the Direct Control Engine. The CEO® then orchestrates all cooling related components (pumps, fans, cooling towers, valves, etc.), ensuring that the best combination of system components are being used to minimize kW per ton.

The second optimization approach is the Supervisory Control configuration, common when the existing BAS system (SCI, Siemens, ALC, etc.) is in good shape. In this set up, the CEO® and BAS coordinate over the plant’s BAS network to control and optimize the plant, sending real time data back and forth to ensure components are operating at maximum efficiency.

In either configuration, tekWorx uses a model to begin, but builds on that by using adaptive control algorithms that make adjustments based on actual system conditions to truly optimize chilled water production.

To find out more information on tekWorx CEO® and adaptive control for energy efficiency, fill out our Chiller Plant Evalution Form.

Demand for Smarter HVAC Systems

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Technological advancements have increased the need for increased accessibility and interconnectivity in all aspects of our lives. Now this drive in the demand for intelligent products that provide convenient ways to access real time data has made its way to the HVAC marketplace. This movement draws away from standard mechanical components and toward electronic components that provide greater energy conservation, comfort, and reliability to the user. The greatest focus, however, is on the need to saveenergy. The emphasis on intelligent products in the HVAC field underscores the importance of improving building response capabilities, monitoring green building initiatives, and ultimately keeping operators in control of their systems.

As a part of this foray into smarter HVAC units, tekWorx CEO® provides a PLC based system that utilizes adaptive controls to continually optimize chiller plant efficiency. The plant-specific algorithms work with any existing BAS and provides operators with exactly what they’re looking for in high-tech developments: a product with proven results. The sophisticated CEO® continually accesses plant data points and makes adjustments to reduce overall energy consumption in the facility’s central plant. The CEO® is conveniently accessible on any computer so adjustments can be made outside of the operator room – even at home. For more information on how tekWorx can make your central plant smarter fill out our Chiller Plant Evaluation Form.