On the one hand, the building sector is responsible for up to 40% of the total EU energy consumption. The space heating is the main contributor and 70% of the demand comes from old buildings (<1975). On the other hand, wiring can represent up to 80% of the total cost of the sensors network in a HVAC control system. Sensors of alternative wireless solutions use batteries which have to be periodically replaced, increasing the maintenance costs and the negative environmental impact of the system. Therefore, there is a huge potential for improvement in the field of built environment assessing and monitoring of thermal conditions and HVAC management. By using environmental damage-reducing techniques, new solutions could provide improvements in terms of energy saving, environmental impact and deployment-maintenance costs.
The project directly addresses these issues. First, by developing a self-powered
automatised and remote sensing network, it completely avoids the use of cables and removes the need of disposable batteries, thereby minimizing environmental and economical costs and enabling the deployment in old and new buildings. Second, by developing a decision-making tool for optimizing HVAC system management, it reduces the energy consumption of a building. Finally, by providing a solution for new and old installations, it takes advantage of the huge potential of energy savings in old buildings. Funded by the European Commission under FP7-ICT, the consortium involved academic and industrial partners, covering the ICT and construction fields. The project, coordinated by Mostostal Warzsawa (Poland), started in September 2010 and will reach final conclusions by the third quarter of 2013.
The project offers an integral solution for either the monitoring or control of HVAC systems:
Firstly, it proposes a solution beyond the existing wireless based HVAC control systems derived from the use of Self Powered Multi Magnitude Wireless Sensor Network (SP-MM-WSN).This network combines the use of an ultra low power wireless communication protocol and hybrid indoor energy harvesting units for powering wireless sensors.
Secondly, multiple building and HVAC system models were developed. Based on the network output and a solid data analysing technology, these models can be used as:
- a detection tool for anomalies (faults or events),
- an estimation tool for economic impact evaluation of existing HVAC system modifications, and
a supportive tool that can inform the user about or improve the performance of HVAC control loops that are implemented in the building.Finally, in order to validate the technology,
two pilots are going to be implemented in two kinds of installation: an old and a new one. The first trial has already begun in an old building. A SP-MM-WSN was set up to identify issues preventing the HVAC system in place from working in an efficient way. As for the second, its implementation is planned by the end of 2012. It will imply a full deployment of the solution in a new building: SP-MM-WSN and the management tool.
The main fields of application of the project results are real time control and monitoring of indoor hygrothermal conditions. Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) will find the outcomes especially helpful since ESCOs usually base their solution on reducing HVAC consumption. As the pilots are not finished yet, the Technology Readiness Level is estimated at 6 in the TRL scale.