Troubleshooting Common Building Automation System Issues

a technician performs maintenance which helps avoid the need to troubleshoot building automation system issues

Troubleshooting your building automation system (BAS) is likely not your favorite way to spend your workday — or your weekend. As a building manager, it falls to you to iron out any problems with your facilities’ BAS with minimum fuss, overtime, or system downtime. 

Read on to find out some common issues you’re likely to encounter with your building automation installation and some tips for heading off trouble before it occurs. 

Sharpen Your Building Automation System Troubleshooting Skills

Modern BAS installations are increasingly sophisticated and integrated, which makes troubleshooting challenging. From faulty dampers to suspect system controllers, it’s hard to know where trouble will next raise its ugly head. Fortunately, today’s building managers have access to an unprecedented range of powerful diagnostic tools.

You can troubleshoot a building automation system by being smart about maintenance, upgrading at the right time, and working with a trusted automation partner. Keep in mind that BAS snafus usually present as one of the following common issues. 

Top 10 Building Automation System Issues

Here are 10 of the common BAS troubleshooting issues that may already be on your facility management team’s to-do list:

1. Comfort Issues

Inconsistent heating and rooms that are either too hot or too cold are common complaints for any building manager. You’ll likely need to spend some time figuring out if this is a local or building-wide issue and whether a fix is as simple as readjusting settings or if there is an underlying equipment fault in play.

2. Nuisance Alarms

False fire or unauthorized entry/exit alarms are annoying for all and a potential safety threat as they may encourage your tenants to ignore or even disable alarms. In most cases, these are the result of faulty or inappropriately configured sensors.

3. Manual Overrides

If tenants or maintenance staff regularly override your automatic settings, it can be difficult to restore your optimized configurations, especially if no audit log is available. In some cases, you might not even know if your automated systems are safe to run.

4. Energy Use Spikes

If your heating or power bills are going through the roof you’ll need to take a system-wide look at where you are burning those dollars before drilling down to identify misconfigured systems or faulty components. While this can be a complex task, some BAS interfaces offer smart software and sophisticated data analysis tools to help you figure it out.

5. Expansions and Renovations

Changes to your physical building can mean problems finding supported equipment for legacy systems or integrating equipment from different suppliers. If you are supporting existing sensors with new controllers or server equipment, you might have to install a layer of signal translators to integrate your systems.

6. Outdated Software

More and more automation functionality is moving into the realm of information technology, enabling systems that can be improved, expanded, and reconfigured on the fly. That can only happen if all of your system devices are compatible, web-accessible, and up to date with the latest updates and patches.

7. Outdated Hardware

BAS hardware is also moving fast and it is getting harder to find off-the-shelf replacements for field controllers and other older equipment. That means extra work making sure your legacy equipment is up to the job, and the risk of substantial system downtime if you need to scramble to find a replacement for a unit that is no longer supported by the OEM.

8. Proprietary vs. Open Source Systems

The rapid shift to common industry standards means many existing building automation systems include both proprietary and open source technology. Managing and troubleshooting the integration of these hybrid systems can be a demanding task, especially where OEMs no longer support legacy equipment.

9. Cybersecurity Risks

The integration of sensors and controllers with high-level IT systems comes with an increased risk of online intrusions by hackers looking to access your tenants’ valuable data or even hijack their operations. The rise of I.P.-enabled sensors and controllers that use the Internet itself to communicate has only increased the threat to your BAS. 

10. Missing Documentation

As frustrating as it is, missing documentation is a common problem. BAS troubleshooting is harder when you have AWOL operations, maintenance manuals and logs, or missing “as-builts” and wiring diagrams. Working with a well-established equipment supplier can help. Conexus offers QR codes on our pre-fab panels that link back to archived documentation on our site.

Best Practices for Troubleshooting a Building Automation System

Nailing down the specific cause of any BAS issue can be frustrating and time-consuming. However, there are several things you can do as a building manager to both anticipate problems and limit the potential for major disruption and system downtime. These include:

  • Regular maintenance:  From greater system efficiency to extended product life, it’s hard to overstate the importance of simply getting to your equipment regularly and not skimping on periodic maintenance. Set a schedule and stick to it.
  • Staff training: Modern BASs come with a lot of bells and whistles. Make sure your staff are not learning on the job during a crisis and know how to use all your system’s building analytics and other built-in troubleshooting features.
  • Be proactive: Have a plan for replacing equipment, especially older units no longer available off the shelf. Timely upgrades limit the likelihood of extended system downtime while you scramble to re-engineer a panel to replace a part that no longer exists.
  • Know when it’s time to upgrade: Replacing an entire BAS is a major undertaking but sticking with legacy equipment involves mounting costs too. Know the signs that it’s time to sunset your existing installation and step up to a new system.
  • Choose a trusted partner: Work with an experienced automation company like Conexus to get the most out of your existing installation and ensure a seamless transition to new equipment when the time is right.

What Problem Can We Solve for You Today?

Building automation technology is changing fast. Conexus helps facilities’ management professionals install, integrate, manage and upgrade your building automation systems. We build long-term relationships to help you optimize performance today and invest in smart open-source technology for a better tomorrow.

We offer:

We support, supply, and help upgrade products from leading BAS equipment makers including Distech Controls, Niagara, Tridium, Honeywell, and Johnson Controls.    

Click below to learn more about how we can help you build a BAS that’s right for your building, resources, and budget.

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