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3 innovations for efficient HVAC systems

The goal of a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system is to create and maintain a comfortable environment within a building which meets occupants needs. In dense urban contexts in tropical climates like South East Asia, it can be difficult to supply this level of comfort relying solely on the natural air exchange between outdoors and indoors. As a result, buildings heavily rely on HVAC systems to cool down spaces, decrease humidity levels, manage fresh air intakes, and improve the overall quality and comfort of indoor environments.

Additionally, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pointed out that on top of providing comfort, HVAC is essential in preventing pollutants and bacterials contaminants to accumulate in closed spaces thus fundamental in ensuring good indoor air quality (IAQ). These pollutants can cause numerous immediate health troubles such as irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, headaches, dizziness, and fatigue. After a long or repeated periods of exposure, they can cause serious health effects which include some respiratory diseases, heart diseases and cancer.

Maintaining clean and environmentally filters

After regular use of equipment, pollutants will accumulate in the filters. Too often, Acid and Alkaline cleaners are still used to clean the filters which not only is toxic by essence but also permanently damages the system through corrosion.

To prevent this, the maintenance can be outsourced to companies like AESS (Advanced Energy saving Solutions limited) which are providing multi-enzyme solutions to protect air-conditioning systems from commonly occurring bacterial and mould contamination problems. “By treating the coils, air-handling rooms, filters and ductwork, Aeris Environmental addresses the issue of contaminated indoor air at its source.” How it works? The product works as a biofilm which leaves a thin coating on the coil’s surface. The patented anti-microbial technology is chemically formulated to clean the coils over a period of 12 months by regularly releasing a small amount of the active biocides. “HVAC systems protected by this solution provide significantly improved IAQ for health, equipment efficiency and asset management benefits.”

Increasing energy efficiency of AHUs

Equipment efficiency and related energy consumption is also an important factor to take into account in designing HVAC systems as space conditioning is the biggest contributors to energy consumption in buildings.

"For instance, in Thailand and tropical countries, air conditioning contributes to the major part of electricity consumption with 72% to 83% in offices and more than 60% in hotel resorts."

To tackle this issue, Technic Electrical Engineering in Thailand proposes products like CONTINEWM, a technology from Japan which relies on a particular ceramic material that naturally emits specific infrared rays to reduce energy consumption. “These specific infrared rays are able to break down clusters of water molecules present in the air so that a larger surface area is in contact with the fins of the AC unit. This allows the AC unit to reach the desired temperature faster and reduces energy consumption by 25% up to 45% on average according to the AC model in which the product is installed.” The product is designed to fit most of HVAC systems types and can be easily installed with no technical skills required, making it easy to implement in existing facilities.

Increased comfort through communicating thermostat

Last but not least, smart technology and connected devices assist HVAC systems in bringing higher quality and cost-effective space conditioning. Indeed, the integration of the Internet of things (IoT) to HVAC systems supports further their performance, monitoring and management by collecting data which increases their energy efficiency, reduces their maintenance need and improves their controllability. For instance, these IoT-enabled HVAC systems can automatically switch equipment on and off at predefined times, monitor environmental conditions and send alerts when measurements exceed thresholds,as well as provide data on energy consumption patterns.

Siemens has developed a set of solutions for smart building automation called Synco Living, an efficient combination of home automation and consumption data acquisition. “Energy savings of up to 30 percent are possible – without sacrificing comfort – thanks to highly precise, on-demand individual room control with intelligent automation and energy saving functions.” As part of their solution portfolio, they also propose communicating thermostats and controllers which compared to conventional ones, can be programmed remotely and are augmented with a self learning algorithm that detects and learns from indicators such as temperature, humidity, hazardous gases as well as occupant’s presence or absence. This allows for optimal space conditioning with minimal manual user intervention. These thermostats can be applied to fan coils, VAV systems or heat pumps and exchange information on energy usage to ensure systems are in operation only when necessary. Because they are designed along standardized communication protocols, they can be easily integrated into existing building automation systems.

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