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Smart controls and thermal comfort

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The benefits of calculating better indoor environments

Heating and ventilating buildings is no easy matter when optimising energy consumption is involved. A new adaptive control algorithm should be able to introduce energy savings along with smarter control systems.


Most heating and cooling systems in office spaces around the world are uniform in their application, that is, they have one temperature setting that can be initiated for the entire space. However, neither provides for optimal heating/cooling, nor for energy savings and optimised comfort levels. Under the auspices of an European consortium's investigations it was found that both comfort levels and energy expenditures are related in fact to temperatures outside. This is solely because humans are adaptive creatures, moderating their indoor environment in accordance with outdoor conditions. The consortium investigated means therefore by which comfort and energy could be optimised through analysis that lead to the compilation of a database containing thousands of responses to various conditions across Europe. Based on their findings, they developed an adaptive control algorithm to improve indoor environments as well as to present large savings in energy consumption. The "smart" control algorithm works both in AC environments and those naturally ventilated. The instrumentation used is an assortment of sensors links via cable to a simple laptop computer that runs the algorithm software. Various variables are monitored, some of which are air temperatures, air velocities, carbon dioxide levels and relative humidity. The algorithm has been shown through tests to present potential savings of 25% in energy consumption. In further developments undertaken by other members of the consortium, a control system was developed for controlling naturally ventilated buildings based on the adaptive control algorithm. The system includes such features as night cooling, solar shading and ventilation and with further refinement should contribute greater comfort and reduced costs.

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8 June 2020