Applying Intelligent Circuit Breakers to Move Closer to Net Zero Energy Buildings

This article considers the potential for higher levels of building sustainability, energy efficiency and intelligence offered by the latest generation of low-voltage circuit breakers

Every building is equipped with low-voltage circuit breakers, or ‘breakers’. Their role is to control and protect the distribution of power at low voltage for essential services such as lighting, heating, air conditioning and power for IT systems.
Until recently, breakers have been straightforward ‘dumb’ switches, based on long-established technology. While there is nothing inherently wrong with these existing implementations, new developments in circuit-breaker technology are introducing the potential for energy saving, space saving, and better connectivity and control.
This article will consider the opportunities for new-generation circuit breakers in buildings, and how such technology can save space, reduce energy consumption and increase building ‘intelligence’.

Electrical Switchgear
Cabinet containing modern switchgear (Source: ABB)

Electricity Consumption in Commercial Buildings

The Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) requires that all new buildings should be ’nearly zero energy‘ after 31 December 2020 – net zero energy being different from zero carbon. 
A ‘nearly zero energy building’ (NZEB) means a building that has a very high energy performance, and the nearly zero or very low amount of energy required should be covered to a very significant extent by energy from renewable sources, including those produced on-site or nearby. 
Performance of NZEBs will be measured by energy consumption in kWh per square metre per year, with the proportion of renewable energy being expressed as a percentage of consumption.
While policy-makers encourage energy saving and energy efficiency, what is often more important to building owners and occupiers is that saving energy also reduces energy bills.
All the electrical power flowing to the loads in a building passes through the building’s breakers, which are located in a plantroom or an electrical cabinet . More recent models incorporate higher levels of ‘intelligence’, logic and connectivity, increasing opportunities to save energy. They are also smaller in size and several can be stacked in a single panel, freeing up space to use for other services or as ‘lettable space’ for a building’s occupants. 
Equipment suppliers are competing to help building managers increase energy efficiency – and because all energy consumed by a building flows through its circuit breakers, they are a good starting point when looking for opportunities to save energy and costs.

This CIBSE CPD Module 86: Applying intelligent circuit breakers to move closer to net zero energy buildings can be viewed at the below link

Applying intelligent circuit breakers to move closer to net zero energy buildings

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