Smart controllers of heating and cooling systems and their role in reducing residents’ expenses
The HVAC control market is growing, and forecasts show it will reach $27 billion by 2023, an increase of $13 billion from 2018. The ability to automatically control heating, ventilation and air conditioning functions in a building. is clearly a growing need. The reason for this, how HVAC controls work, and the benefits of smart HVAC systems all form the basis of this article.
What are HVAC controls?
HVAC controls include devices that control the operation of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment in a building.
HVAC can be described as the “climate control” for a building. While it covers air heating and cooling, it also addresses indoor air quality (IAQ).
The main purpose of air conditioning is to maintain good indoor air quality through adequate ventilation and provide thermal comfort, either through cooling or heating the space.
Buildings are usually equipped with a thermostat that is connected to the air conditioning and heating system. By adjusting the temperature of the thermostat, you in turn control the operation of the air conditioning and heating.
For example, when you set your thermostat to 24 degrees in the summer, you are telling your air conditioning unit to run until the indoor temperature reaches 24 degrees, at which point it will automatically shut off. If the temperature rises above 24 degrees, the device must be turned on again.
In this example, the thermostat is considered as the HVAC controller. However, it also acts as a sensor because it effectively “senses” the temperature inside the house. Sensors are an important element in smart HVAC systems, something we’ll explore in more detail later in this article.
In larger facilities, HVAC controls are often part of a larger system known as a building management system.
What is a building management system?
A building management system (BMS) controls various elements of a facility. For example, it monitors and controls major electrical and mechanical equipment, access control management, intrusion and fire detection and monitoring; Turn heating and air conditioning on and off and maintain a set temperature and adjust ventilation based on occupancy and weather.
Consolidating all these functions under a central platform can be beneficial in many ways. This is what makes a building a smart building.
A smart air conditioning system, the main element of a smart building, has the ability to reduce energy consumption and increase workplace comfort by monitoring and improving indoor air quality.
How does a smart HVAC system work?
Smart air conditioning systems work with Internet of Things technology. They combine a network of interconnected motion and noise detectors, humidity sensors, thermometers, geofences and location markers, along with real-time weather data from the Internet.
Data generated from all these sources is fed into a central platform. Here, artificial intelligence and machine learning create a suite of automations that adjust HVAC systems without manual intervention, adapting to changing environmental conditions and reacting to fluctuating indoor air quality.
These smart HVAC controls also convey valuable information to facility managers, allowing them to make informed decisions about investing in long-term indoor environmental improvements. This may be through the purchase of devices such as humidifiers or dehumidifiers. Repair or replace appliances that may be responsible for unhealthy levels of greenhouse gases and maintain ventilation systems.
How do smart HVAC controls work?
A building management system consists of four main elements:
- Front-end software and user interface
- Network infrastructure
- Terminal devices
These four components make up an air conditioning control system that aims to achieve occupant comfort and safety while being as energy efficient as possible.
A sequence of operations, sometimes referred to as a “logic statement,” automates the operation of HVAC systems based on input from sensors and user actions.
Consider our previous example. You set the thermostat to 24 degrees. This input from the thermostat is sent through the network infrastructure and back to a controller. It then receives the feedback and executes the following sequence:
Indoor air temperature is more than 24 degrees -> start air conditioning
The air temperature inside the house is equal to or less than 24 degrees – > Stop the air conditioning
This is a very simple example. Larger air conditioning systems with more complex equipment will involve a longer sequence of operations.
Machine learning and artificial intelligence, two features of smart HVAC systems, are sensitive to user input. For example, if occupants manually turn off the air conditioning at 25 degrees, it is assumed that this is the optimal temperature for that particular area of the building and the particular occupants inside. Smart HVAC systems learn this and use it to create automations that are more convenient for occupants.
Are there different types of HVAC controls?
Newer buildings are usually equipped with digital controls that communicate through electronic systems. However, older buildings may be equipped with pneumatic HVAC controls. These operate on air pressure and use mechanical processes to control HVAC equipment.
As you can imagine, digital HVAC controls contribute to a more automated and efficient building.
What are the benefits of smart HVAC systems?
The main purpose of air conditioning controls is to provide maximum comfort to building occupants, in other words, to create a healthy building by improving indoor air quality. But with smart air conditioning systems, there are other benefits.
Air conditioning operations account for almost half of a building’s energy consumption. With buildings responsible for 39% of energy and process-related carbon dioxide emissions, the importance of creating an energy – efficient building cannot be overemphasized.
With a smart air conditioning system, it is possible to monitor individual spaces through sensors connected to the Internet of Things, setting automation to turn off heating and air conditioning where it is detected that rooms are not occupied. Turning off the heating where the ambient temperature has increased, or turning off the air conditioning where the temperature has decreased. All this significantly reduces waste.
In addition, smart air conditioning enables building occupants to adjust their individual climate conditions to suit their personal preferences as well as current weather conditions and the tasks they are currently performing. Even better, the system learns from user input, so people can enjoy their own personal HVAC automation.
IAQ Sensor and Smart Office App – Smart Spaces Operating System How Smart Spaces Can Make HVAC Controls Smarter?
Smart Spaces is an IoT-based app-based platform that enables automated control of HVAC systems. It allows facility managers to monitor, regulate and maintain indoor air quality, closely monitor and reduce energy consumption.
Using a digital twin visualization platform, a 3D copy of the building can be used to determine the necessary measures to achieve optimal working conditions.
Occupants can also control the conditions of their personal working environment through a smartphone app. Machine learning stores personal preferences and creates presets for specific tasks, times of day, and environmental conditions.
With HVAC energy consumption accounting for more than 40% of a commercial building’s total energy consumption, it’s no surprise that many facilities managers (FM) are studying ways to optimize the system’s efficiency.
There are many ideas, many of which are considered best practices for any FM, such as changing HVAC filters on schedule and performing regular maintenance. But if you want to be more proactive, check out the ideas listed below. Also keep in mind that not every approach may be right for every building. A good way to start on the path to savings is with an energy audit, which provides targeted recommendations for optimizing HVAC energy use in your commercial building.
HVAC energy consumption in commercial buildings: 4 ways to save:
- Run your HVAC system strategically to avoid peak demand costs.
Midday temperatures are high and high, and naturally your building’s AC is running. However, this strategy also increases the cost of demand on your electricity bill. The demand charge is the part of your bill that represents the maximum power you might need at any point during the month – ensuring your building gets all the energy it needs at all times. Your demand charge is based on your maximum electricity usage during a billing period (usually measured in 15-minute intervals). Running multiple air conditioning units at full capacity during the hottest time of the day requires a lot of energy, which means an unwanted increase in your demand charge.
You can reduce demand-side costs related to HVAC energy consumption by taking strategic cooling measures. If you know it’s going to be a hot day, you can change your air conditioning operation schedule to cool the building earlier in the day and reduce the amount of electricity needed later. You can also estimate the operating times of your units, so they don’t all turn on at the same time and reach their peak usage.
By being more strategic about cooling, you can reduce the demand costs associated with HVAC energy consumption.
- 2. Adjust the outdoor air intake to match the actual occupancy level.
In many buildings, the amount of fresh air ventilation is maintained at a fixed level, usually based on peak occupancy. However, most buildings are not at peak use most of the time, which means you are paying too much for the electricity you need for ventilation.
A demand control ventilation system adjusts the outside air intake to accommodate the actual human occupancy and activity inside the building. CO2 levels can be actively monitored and depending on the data received, the HVAC system is automatically directed to reduce the intake of outside air or to introduce additional outside air. Such a system reduces the work for heating and cooling systems and reduces your energy consumption. With demand control ventilation, you can save up to 20% on your electricity bill.
- 3. Cool your building with ice.
There is growing interest in an alternative cooling method called thermal energy storage (TES), which freezes water overnight and is later used to cool the building the next day. As explained by Green Building Consultants: At night, “chillers” cool the solution circulated through pipes in insulated water tanks. Ice collects on the submerged coils and by morning, the tank is frozen. During the day, a warm antifreeze solution circulates through the same pipe and is cooled by the surrounding ice. The resulting cold liquid either directly cools the building or is used to cool the air distributed through ducts.
A company was able to reduce the peak demand of its refrigerated warehouse by 29% using TES technology. Some states, such as Massachusetts and California, have also taken steps to use thermal energy storage in response to the high cost of operating traditional AC systems.
Beyond best practices
As previously mentioned, regularly changing air conditioning filters and performing regular maintenance are part of optimal system performance. But the intensity of these practices can also be increased to provide greater cost effectiveness.
Clogged filters cause fans to work harder than they should, which is why it’s important to change filters regularly. But filters are expensive. So instead of changing them according to a predetermined schedule, why not change them as often as you need? IoT sensors set up to monitor airflow can alert you when filters are blocked or not getting adequate airflow, allowing you to save on filter costs.
Regular maintenance checks ensure that your HVAC system is working properly and efficiently, which is a good preventative maintenance strategy. But adopting a proactive maintenance strategy can keep critical elements of your HVAC system (such as pumps, motors, and compressors) healthy for longer. For example, IoT sensors that monitor your compressors can alert you when the compressor is running more than normal, or if vibration deviates from normal. Both patterns take longer to identify under a traditional maintenance schedule, but can be addressed immediately with predictive maintenance.
- 4. Control the speed of your HVAC electric motors.
HVAC systems all use electric motors, which account for a large portion of the total HVAC energy consumption in commercial buildings. This means that significant savings can be made simply by making those engines run more efficiently. One way to do this is to use variable frequency drives (VFDs).
A motor running at partial speed is more energy efficient than a motor running at full speed. VFDs can be used to control the speed of HVAC blower fans, pumps, or compressors. Fans and pumps often operate at partial load. A VFD can change the speed or torque of a motor to control the output of the system, thereby increasing efficiency and saving energy.