IoT in HVAC equipment offers numerous benefits to the building owners, occupants and facility managers. Adding the Internet of Things (IoT) increases the efficiency of the entire system by allowing users to automatically monitor and control a wide range of variables.
Although users have been using devices such as the Nest thermostat to manage the heating and cooling, IoT has a much bigger potential.
The thermostats have a way of learning the temperature the occupant prefers at different times, and even adjust the system to suit the desired levels. The IoT on the other hand increases the range of variables to monitor as well as the control which can now be done over the internet.
At the moment, demand for the IoT and smart technologies in the HVAC industry is increasing due to their potential to increase the energy efficiency, reduce costs and improve the comfort.
How IoT works in HVAC systems
Adding IoT involves the use of different wireless sensors, smart vents with the ability to control each room independently, and other technologies that add intelligence to the HVAC system and its components. Different kinds of sensors are integrated into the HVAC system to monitor a wide range of variables and provide real-time status of almost all the components.
The HVAC IoT sensor data is fed to the control system which then sends commands to automatically turn the system ON or OFF, or perform other functions. The other control functions include changing the temperature, speed of air flow, closing or opening vents, or adjusting other conditions to suit a user’s preference.
Monitoring the HVAC components and the environment provides data which can be used for planning purposes as well as determining how people are using the services in the building. This includes variables such as the temperature, water usage, lighting, occupancy levels etc. And the data can be displayed and accessed using computers, tablets, smartphones or centralized control panels.
Most importantly, the sensor data enables the relevant HVAC components to automatically adjust themselves based on the time of the day, temperature, occupancy, weather or any other variable as per the program.
In addition, the sensors provide a means of continuous monitoring of the system status as well as real-time diagnostics for routine maintenance and repairs. Once the sensors detect a potential problem, they can then send an alert to the technicians or maintenance personnel, hence ensuring immediate mitigation and prevention of major breakdowns.
Most of the modern smart HVAC come with their own sensors. But the older systems require adding and configuring the sensors to create the preferred management or control.
How IoT increases HVAC Energy and operational efficiency
The consumption of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment forms a big potion of a home or business’s overall energy consumption. This is especially so for the older systems which are not only inefficient, but relies mostly on manual controls.
Modern technologies such as thermostats and automatic controls have greatly increased the way the equipment operates and adjusts itself. However, using smart and internet of things technologies can make the HVAC systems more intelligent.
Adding intelligence to the heating and cooling of the spaces helps in addressing issues that the traditional HVAC equipment cannot. The monitoring and automation ensure that the components such as heaters and compressors only run when there is a need.
The IoT has the potential to improve several aspects of the HVAC equipment and systems. In addition to increasing the control, efficiency and comfort, IoT improves the HVAC contractor’s processes such as monitoring, planning and carrying routine maintenance and repairs.
Smart thermostats include a variety of sensors which can read the occupancy, humidity, temperature and other variables, hence determine the state of the room or space and make the necessary adjustments.
Today’s technology makes it possible to monitor almost all aspects of HVAC equipment including the duct work, room occupancy, and temperature as well as conditions external to the building. For example, placing the appropriate sensors in the ducts, it is possible to measure parameters such as the temperature, static pressure and the airflow.
Adding intelligence to HVAC air vents
Generally, the HVAC systems provide a one-temperature-fits-all approach to address the heating as well as cooling needs. The air, from a central heating and cooling device, is piped throughout the area the HVAC is serving.
In traditional HVAC systems, controlling the temperature in each room requires manual opening or closing of the vents in each of the rooms. This is cumbersome and has the probability of wasting energy. However, automating the system to make smart HVAC vents can make it more efficient and comfortable.
The smart solutions enable the vents to open dynamically depending on the status of the existing and preferred conditions of the room. For example, adding the temperature, motion, and proximity sensors on the vents allows them to monitor the conditions and determine which rooms are in use.
In case there is need to change the temperature, the motorized vent automatically opens or closes, hence redirecting the air according to the user’s preferences or as set in the program.
IoT in HVAC equipment monitoring and diagnostics
IoT is already helping with the equipment maintenance in a variety of industries and applications. Using sensors, engineers can monitor the conditions of the various electrical and mechanical components of the systems. Analyzing the data allows them to know when an equipment is about to fail or whether there is the need for repair or maintenance.
When in operation, the mechanical systems produce specific sounds. Engineers may use ultrasonic and vibration sensors to determine the state of the mechanical components in the HVAC system. By comparing the data from the sensors with that from similar machines that are working properly, engineers are able to see if there are discrepancies which may be signs of maintenance issues or faults.
IoT enables the engineers or facility managers to monitor and access the status of the HVAC systems in real time. Since this is available on the smartphones and other internet-enabled technologies, the engineers can get status reports anytime. This allows them to make better and accurate maintenance decisions.
Integrating the smart and automated HVAC systems with appropriate platforms gives the users, facility managers or technicians a single point of access, monitoring, and control. Additionally, the smart features may allow the system to send reminders for routine maintenance, service checkups, filter replacements, etc.
Benefits of adding IoT and smart technology to HVAC equipment
HVAC with IoT means better energy efficiency, management, maintenance, connectedness, serviceability and reduced downtime for the whole system and its components.
- It eliminates the manual, trial and error fiddling with the HVAC system when looking for the ideal temperature. Instead, the smart system learns the occupant’s preferences and adjusts these automatically based on the occupancy and other programmed conditions.
- The technology streamlines the monitoring and control of the various parameters in the space as well as the heating and cooling functions of the HVAC.
- Adds the ability for the system to monitor its operations and conditions, detect problems and then send alerts when there are breakdowns, hence enabling timely repairs and maintenance.
- Real-time monitoring of almost the entire system and the facility allows the gathering of data about the system functionality which is accessible from a single point. The connectivity allows the facility managers and maintenance teams to share the data, remotely monitor the operations and system as well issue control commands when necessary.
- Reducing operational costs while improving the comfort.
- Remote diagnostics using a variety of sensors to monitor various components of the system and send notifications when there are problems or issues that need addressing. The maintenance people or facility managers can monitor the operations and status of the entire system either locally or remotely using tablets, smartphones or desktop computers. The alerts help in enabling quick responses to address the issues before they become bigger problems, hence reducing the downtime and maintenance costs.
Challenges of IoT in HVAC systems
Security flaws are still a major concern for most users and professionals. Some consumers fear that hackers can access some IoT sensors through the internet, and comprise the operation of devices as well their privacy and security.
Other challenges include the incompatibility between various components and some HVAC professionals who fear that the proactive approach is likely to reduce the need for emergency repairs hence decrease their revenues.