Sensors are becoming an increasingly important part of the HVAC ecosystem due to the ability to help build greater control of an overall building control system. With sensors feeding the system important data with regard to how a building operates, it helps optimise its operation and in turn drives energy and cost savings.
Conserve It General Manager Chirayu Shah, and Vice President of the Haystack Corporation Richard McElhinney share their thoughts on the current status of the sensor market within the HVAC industry.
With the evolution of building systems, how are sensors likely to be used into the future?
Richard McElhinney: With the advent of IoT and building data analytics, it is likely that we will see more and more sensors installed in buildings in an effort to gather a finer grained understanding of how buildings operate.
Chirayu Shah: With new technologies evolving and costs falling, there is the potential for new wireless sensors to become available, changing how they are installed and thus reducing labour costs. With the push for Smart Buildings, sensors can be used for more efficient and intuitive performance of Building Management Systems proactively rather than reactively.
Occupant comfort and wellbeing are buzz words that are becoming key priorities for building owners. Are you seeing this to be the case, and can sensors contribute to achieving this?
RM: We are seeing that comfort and wellbeing are rising as factors in how a space is let or advertised. In many instances, we come across leasing arrangements that specify the requirements for the conditioning of a space and what are acceptable temperature ranges, so in these circumstances you need empirical measurement.
CS: Comfort and wellbeing can be subjective and thus difficult to measure. Sensors and building control systems work to control a space to what is deemed to be an optimal working environment for that building or space. The comfort and wellbeing of individuals will often align with this but it is still very much an individual preference that may be difficult to have overall control over.
What are the key elements of current sensor technology in relation to the HVAC market?
CS: Most of the sensors that are favoured in the industry are based around the measurement and monitoring of chiller plants, although some can also be used for other parts of mechanical air conditioning systems as well as the metering of building loads and consumption.
RM: Some sensors are application specific and we use our industry knowledge to bring value to our clients by guiding and sourcing the best components for a given job. Sometimes clients are under significant pricing pressure and therefore need a solution delivered but don’t have large budgets. Again this is where we work closely with all stakeholders to determine the best sensors for the job.
One of the next big things in sensors is wireless technology being built into the sensor. As battery technology improves it will likely remove the need for running power and data cables.
Chirayu Shah is General Manager of Conserve It, and Melbourne-based company specialising in end-to-end HVAC plant room management. Conserve It provides a range of software and product solutions designed to optimise energy efficiency in plant rooms.
Richard McElhinney is the Vice President of the Haystack Corporation. Project Haystack’s purpose involves fostering the common association and interests of international software and technology companies focused on developing semantic modelling solutions for data related to smart devices.