The untapped potential for building energy management
We benefit from heating and cooling systems every day, but most of us are unaware of how much energy those systems consume and what their impact on the environment is. This is especially true for heating & cooling of large spaces, such as shopping malls, office towers, warehouses, or manufacturing plants. Despite the hefty price tag, the inefficiency and underperformance of HVAC systems often goes unnoticed as facility managers lack access to solutions further optimising systems which seem to work well at first glance.
What are HVAC systems and how do they operate?
HVAC stands for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning. Nowadays, HVAC equipment operates under the control of automation systems or a building management system (BMS). They are in place to safeguard the production of heat/cold and ensure it is distributed appropriately in order to keep the temperature in the desired range. These automation systems have a fixed operation and can only react to the external & internal environment according to programmed logic.
How can we improve their performance without replacing old equipment?
There are two strategies to optimize the operation of HVAC systems. The first one is improving the efficiency of production (the chillers) that represents about 60% of the equipment’s energy consumption, where we can ensure that heat/cold is produced at the right time, as efficiently as possible and at the cheapest rate.
The distribution side (Air Handling Units, etc) accounts for the remaining 40% of the consumption and can be a source of additional energy savings when heat/cold is delivered in the right amount, at the right time and in the appropriate place.
To be an efficient system, there are three types of solutions:
- Programmed logic which follows a set of rules, such as a given operation schedule based on the time of the day.
- Reactive control which adapts the equipment operation in response to a change (such as the weather) in order to meet a set of objectives.
- Predictive control which uses machine learning to study the patterns of energy consumption and adjusts the operation in anticipation of the changing conditions.
Predictive control is by far the most innovative and efficient approach holding the biggest potential for energy savings. However, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) is fairly new and very few facility managers are aware of this opportunity.
Fortunately, it is about to change. As an example, BeeBryte generates up to 40 % savings with its automated & predictive HVAC control software and has helped reduce thousands of tons of CO2 emissions to date in Singapore and in France.
How does predictive control work and what are some of its benefits?
The software collects data from the machines, temperature sensors and electrical meters. The data is analysed in-real time in combination with external information, such as the weather forecast to anticipate thermal needs. Then the software sends the appropriate commands to the HVAC equipment. Imagine a solution turning down automatically your air conditioning in the office even before you realized you were too cold! You save money while improving comfort!
The benefits of this approach go beyond the economic and environmental dimensions. Reinforcing safety and resilience of the installations is also an important argument for adopting an energy optimization system with predictive capabilities. It allows facility managers to perform pre-emptive maintenance, prevent downtime and save time by automating frustrating and repetitive tasks.
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