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IoT-Powered HVAC Systems: 3 Use Cases Improving Energy Efficiency

Construction Tech Review | Saturday, December 19, 2020

IoT-powered HVAC systems come with automatic Fault Detection and Diagnostics (FDD) features, including a combination of sensors and algorithms to detect and prioritize faults early on.

FREMONT, CA: Currently, lower technology expenses and the growing availability of wireless technologies make it simpler than ever to obtain sensor readings cheaply for various HVAC components. Furthermore, recent advancements in data storage and cloud computing empower building operators to obtain the number of HVAC data points, like temperature, flow rate, pressure, and gas concentration.

Smart HVAC Control

Smart building HVAC controls maximize the amount of air-conditioned (i.e., heated or cooled) in the entire building. Smart controls optimize airflow using data generated by CO2 levels, occupancy, temperature, humidity, static duct pressure, and air quality sensors and modulate airflow in one area without starvation or over-ventilation. In one laboratory, the institution fitted Rooftop Units (RTUs) with advanced controllers featuring multi-speed fans, economizer, and ventilation controls. Approximately 50 percent of the electricity savings for RTUs were identified in the assessment.

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Controlling Multiple Zones

Many commercial buildings have a multi-zone system, making it more challenging to maximize air conditioning use. There are two ways to execute this kind of control:

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• Constructing a multi-zone Variable Air Volume (VAV) system where sensors are located in each field so that they can be more reliably conditioned separately from each other

• Implementing a Constant Air Volume (CAV) system with a single unit makes the control choices less flexible: the system does not control the zone and disconnects the airflow from the entire floor.

One business opted for a VAV-based solution to air conditioning and heating at its headquarters. The office was divided into so-called neighborhoods: if any of them stayed unoccupied for more than 15 minutes, the neighborhood HVAC system would shut down automatically. Despite the corresponding rise in the number of workers, the company achieved a 65 percent reduction in energy usage.

Fault Detection and Diagnostics

HVAC systems face leakage, blockage, and corrosion daily, contributing to natural system degradation over time. IoT-powered HVAC systems come with automatic Fault Detection and Diagnostics (FDD) features, including a combination of sensors and algorithms to detect and prioritize faults early on.

Modern FDDs can not only indicate that something has malfunctioned in the HVAC system but can also identify the exact problem and its origin. For example, one technology giant had 2 million data points at its main campus, consisting of 125 office buildings. The data generated were combined into a single output that laid the groundwork for major predictive maintenance. As a result, maintenance tests used to take weeks could be carried out in a couple of minutes. Overall, the business has achieved energy savings of about 10 percent per year. As a result, 48 percent of the errors found were corrected within 60 seconds.

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