By Devin Brock, TE Connectivity
The biggest trends in commercial heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVACR) right now are tied to building systems becoming more connected, efficient, and responsive.
And it’s not just because of tightening regulatory constraints.
While the Department of Energy (DOE) and other agencies have set their sights on reducing the impact commercial buildings have on the environment, building owners have their own reasons to demand more innovation and efficiency from their HVACR systems. Namely, this: Commercial buildings use more than $190 billion in energy every year.
As front-line components in HVACR systems, sensors are playing an ever-expanding role in helping drive many of these trends forward. Let’s look at five key areas to keep on your radar.
Over the last several years, there’s been pressure to cut commercial energy consumption.
Take, for example, the DOE’s Direct Final Rule 79 FR 17725, which went into effect in March 2017. The rule requires maximum daily energy consumption for certain commercial refrigeration products to be reduced by 30–60 percent.
In the rule, the DOE called for greater efficiency to defrost mechanisms. Many questioned whether the rulemaking committee’s date was achievable, given the amount of research and development required to bring defrost sensors within compliance ahead of the deadline. The DOE, meanwhile, responded by outlining a solution that would use an optical sensor or temperature sensor to detect the temperature differential across the evaporator coil.
While the two sides disagreed on what technology was needed, the debate underscored a fine point: Sensors were crucial to solving the problem.
The ability to tie together multiple building components—along with other systems—is certainly not a new trend, and with good reason: Enabling heating, cooling, and lighting systems to work together can mean big gains in efficiencies for commercial buildings.
Much attention is being paid to the role occupancy sensors can play in helping better control the systems (and the energy savings that comes along with it). But there’s also a lot of room for better interoperability even within HVACR: Combining temperature sensors, pressure sensors, and humidity sensors to create more efficient heating and cooling solutions that are also more comfortable for those who work in the spaces.
Of the three, humidity sensors have been the biggest change to the equation, as they directly correspond to human comfort while allowing systems to put less stress on temperature control, another key trend in the move toward smart buildings. Which brings us to…
A popular approach to smart systems among building owners is to add a level of automation to zoned commercial HVACR. In these set-ups, a variety of sensors placed throughout the building help commercial HVACR systems determine whether to heat, cool, or circulate air in those specific zones. Smart HVACR systems go one step further than the “on/off” zoned approach: They learn how much heating, cooling, and ventilation is needed by collecting data and automate that functionality so manual tweaking of thermostats is no longer needed.
Sensors offer advantages to maintaining smart systems. Pressure sensors, for example, can monitor maintenance needs in real-time for things like airflow, blocked filters, and the like. In a commercial building with hundreds of zones (or even room-specific zones), the ability to closely monitor maintenance needs helps systems meet their promised levels of efficiency.
Of course, saving money and system efficiency aren’t the only reasons building owners are upping their sensor game. Sensors can also help deliver an enhanced level of human comfort in the workplace.
Studies have also shown that optimizing human comfort in the workspace can increase productivity by up to three percent, while improved ventilation systems can help create healthier workspaces. In this sense, humidity, temperature, and pressure sensors play a significant role in delivering energy savings and improved comfort for building occupants. Texas Instruments’ blogs on industrial strength provides useful charts and information about idea combinations of humidity and temperature in a workspace.
Internet-connected HVACR systems, part of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) trend, offer several advantages, including better performance monitoring, more timely maintenance, and better integration with other systems. To deliver on their potential, though, these systems require sensors that can collect the necessary data and share it, not just with controls, but with systems managers and technicians.
In addition, these systems can tie into a single infrastructure to handle building management solutions and require far less in the way of manual operations.
The trend around developing and implementing HVACR systems that are IoT-connected are more like a confluence of many of the aforementioned trends.
For more information about TE Connectivity’s sensors, visit mouser.com/TE.
Devin Brock is the Manager of Product Knowledge and Training for sensor technology at TE Connectivity (TE). He is responsible for the development of training tools as well as the actual training of global personnel on our sensor portfolio and providing the tools for solving tough engineering challenges in sensor applications. He has over 26 years of experience in sensor engineering, manufacturing and product development and holds a degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Clarkson University.
TE Connectivity Ltd. (NYSE: TEL) is a $12 billion global technology leader. Our connectivity and sensor solutions are essential in today’s increasingly connected world. We collaborate with engineers to transform their concepts into creations – redefining what’s possible using intelligent, efficient and high-performing TE products and solutions proven in harsh environments. Our 72,000 people, including over 7,000 engineers, partner with customers in close to 150 countries across a wide range of industries. We believe EVERY CONNECTION COUNTS.
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