If you’re planning an office retrofit that includes upgrading HVAC equipment, you may want to consider how artificial intelligence can help you save energy, achieve optimal performance, and improve indoor air quality.
Companies like SoftEQ.com are calling AI technology for HVAC the “next big thing in the commercial real estate market.” But how is AI used in heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems? How can it help reduce energy consumption in commercial and residential buildings? And what’s the difference between AI-powered HVAC systems and other smart building technology?
Let’s explore the benefits of AI in HVAC systems. Keep in mind that AI can help improve indoor air quality while maintaining a suitable indoor temperature and reducing energy consumption. We’ll talk a bit about how the technology works, and then delve into some practical applications you may want to implement in your commercial space.
The Difference Between AI and Smart or Automated Building Tech
Smart building technology has been around for decades. It first entered the scene in 1981 when United Technology Building Systems introduced the first automated building systems, or intelligent building systems (aka “smart” buildings).
Some of the first innovations included intelligent controls for HVAC systems. Earlier automated building systems – and even many in operation today – are not necessarily AI-powered though. They aren’t actually very “smart.” They just operate from a pre-programmed set of parameters.
A building with automation may function on scheduled programs. For instance, the AC systems may turn on shortly before 9 AM when people are scheduled to enter the workplace and turn off at the end of business hours. Building thermostats may also provide remote access through a smartphone or computer rather than requiring manual control.
What Sets Smart Buildings Apart
Taking it a step further, smart buildings can respond to specific events in real-time when internet-connected devices communicate with each other across the building’s network.
For instance, a smart system may turn off the heat or AC when the temperature reaches a specific threshold, regardless of the thermostat setting. HVAC systems may also be able to control aspects such as humidity, or send alerts when CO2 is detected.
Some smart systems can adjust temperature controls depending on how many people are in a room. Equipment in use, such as an oven in a commercial kitchen or AV components and lighting components in an auditorium, can also change the room’s temperature. Smart HVAC systems can detect these changes through sensors and adjust the temperature accordingly.
Smart buildings operate on the IoT, permitting devices and systems to communicate with one another over the internet. But just because the systems are smart doesn’t mean they have capabilities for machine learning. That’s where AI comes in.
But it’s not easy to achieve this level of sophistication. Calling commercial buildings with various devices on the IoT “giant robots who don’t move,” Joseph
Riddle of the tech start-up PassiveLogic told SmartBuildingsTech.com that creating truly autonomous, intelligent buildings is a “huge robotics challenge.”
Tomorrow’s autonomous buildings will have multiple systems,including lighting, AV, and water, on the network – and many already do. But AI-based HVAC systems represent a solid entry point for many building owners and operators.
AI-Powered HVAC Systems Learn from Real-Time Data
AI systems can use building-specific heating and cooling data, coupled with micro-location weather forecasts. AI systems can also reduce energy waste by pinpointing insufficient energy use. HVAC systems represent a large share of energy consumption – up to 35% of a building’s energy use, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Any energy reduction can help save money and reduce an organization’s carbon footprint.
An AI-powered HVAC system processes real-time data to learn. As it collects more data, it can respond faster and more accurately to future events. This offers several benefits, including better energy management and optimal performance.
Energy Recovery Ventilators and How They Improve Air Quality in Smart Buildings
Energy recovery ventilation (ERV) systems often work in conjunction with smart heating and cooling systems to filter outdoor airflow as it enters the building. It also removes indoor air filled with allergens and toxins.
Smart ERV systems save energy by running intermittently. They can improve indoor air quality by increasing airflow at times. For instance, a room filled with people has more germs and contaminants than an empty room. A commercial kitchen in operation will have more odors and potential allergens than one that is not in use.
Airside Economizers Save Energy, Too
Airside economizers, on the other hand, work with your air conditioning systems to minimize energy use. When the outside air temperature and humidity is conducive to “free cooling,” the economizer reduces AC output and increases outdoor airflow by using fans.
AI systems help detect these opportunities for energy savings.
Achieve LEED and WELL Certifications through Smart HVAC Systems
It can often be difficult for buildings to achieve eco-friendly certifications, such as LEED and WELL certifications. Improving air quality and reducing the energy consumption of HVAC systems can help.
If you’re planning an HVAC system retrofit or building a new commercial facility, consider hiring a top-rated contractor to implement and manage AI-based HVAC systems.
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