One of the most exciting jobs of what we do involves keeping a careful eye on what comes next. Science and technology are offering creative new ways to improve energy efficiency, and preparing now for what’s next is the best way to stay ahead of the curve, even in mundane controls like thermostats.
With more of us spending time indoors than ever, HVAC is emerging as a crucial way to save energy and improve what we do with the power we already use. Not only are experts studying how air conditioning and heating airflow could be spreading the coronavirus, but we’re also learning that these systems offer a tremendous opportunity to do more for us without our having to even think of it.
Lighting systems have offering automatic zone controls for years; by using movement to monitor the use of a room or space, they adjust lighting levels or turn on and off without any manual input. Those are critical systems in all sorts of applications, including warehouses, schools, and hospitals. Now, researchers at the University of Michigan are working to bring the same idea to HVAC. Called HEAT (Human Embodied Autonomous Thermostat), it could change the way we stay comfortable year-round.
The idea focuses on using thermal cameras to scan the faces of anyone in a given space. The system automatically adjusts the room temperature to keep the occupant comfortable. If there’s more than one person in the room, the system calculates the most efficient temperature to keep the majority of the occupants comfortable. It’s essentially personalized automated climate control that can also adapt as quickly when people leave a room.
Right now, that’s more important than ever. While we may be home more than ever, many office buildings and other facilities are seeing seismic shifts in use. Staggered or reduced workforces, more employees working from home, and a new need to use larger spaces to gather, rather than cramped offices. That means buildings need to cool or heat more precise spaces and change their energy use once workers leave.
What’s even more exciting is that this process only gets more efficient with time. The system learns individual preferences and changes in body temperature throughout the day, meaning it will be able to anticipate needs more accurately over time.
Finally, the information gathered by the system can connect to the Internet of Things, which could help influence how other facility structures operate, including lighting and even machinery by adjusting energy use based on occupancy.
While the technology is still new, it’s already available for licensing, and it’s something you’ll be seeing and hearing a lot more about soon.
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