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Smart HVAC & Sensor Technology for Smart Buildings


smart hvac

Why are companies investing in technology for smart buildings? The obvious draw is the significant cost reductions that can be achieved on energy consumption and operating expenses. Yet there are other compelling reasons that smart HVAC, sensors and other smart buildings technology give companies a competitive edge:

  • Reduced operating expenses allow companies to invest more in revenue producing initiatives, such as development of products and services
  • Savings can be re-invested in workplace transformation programs that can help attract talent, improve collaboration, and drive new ideas and innovation
  • Greater control over building systems, as well as the intelligence needed to make better facilities management strategic decisions

BONUS: you can even use smart buildings technology to improve employee experience. At a time when companies are striving to attract workers back to the office, the importance of workplace experience has never been greater.

Wondering where to start? Read on to learn about smart HVAC and space optimization technology designed to modernize your workplace while also cutting facilities expenses.

Why smart HVAC is so smart

Smart HVAC technology reduces energy costs, lessens the workload on facilities staff, and provides better comfort conditions for employees. But what exactly is smart HVAC and how does it work?

Like other types of smart building technology, smart HVAC uses sensors that integrate with your building automation system. These sensors collect data about the conditions throughout your building. Other specialized HVAC equipment provides the ability to fine-tune temperature, humidity, and air flow in various zones (based on data from the sensors) to optimize comfort while reducing energy consumption.

Sensor technology for smart HVAC

Thermal sensors

Strategically-placed thermal sensors can detect the differences in conditions in each zone of your space. For example, a crowded conference room can get warm in a hurry, while an open office area with high ceilings can get chilly (since warm air rises and people are closer to the floor). A smart HVAC system uses that data to adjust to changing conditions throughout the day or week.

CO2 sensors

According to a recent study by Harvard School of Public Health, high CO2 levels in a building can have a direct negative impact on thinking and decision making. CO2 sensors can detect the levels of CO2 gas in a space, which can increase to undesirable levels as occupancy increases. When the threshold is reached, a smart HVAC system can increase levels of fresh air supplied to the space. This technology can have a significant impact on workforce wellbeing.

Occupancy sensors

Occupancy sensors are useful for office environments (like most) that don’t have uniform usage all the time. Increasingly mobile workers are leaving desks and conference rooms empty as much as 50 to 60 percent of the time. Meanwhile, you’re heating and cooling space for people who are not there.

Occupancy sensors detect the presence of people (typically by detecting motion) currently using individual spaces within an office. That data can be used to adjust temperatures based on real-time utilization, saving you money on energy consumption.

While your HVAC system consumes anywhere from 40 to 70 percent of your building’s energy usage, electricity for lighting is also a huge expense. That figure can be 25 percent or more. In addition to controlling a smart HVAC system, occupancy sensors also control lighting to further reduce lighting costs.

Light sensors

Today’s modern office spaces are being designed to let in more natural light. However, the variation in daylight from morning until evening, and from one part of the building to another, can wreak havoc on the operation of your HVAC system. As a result, sunny spaces wind up too hot while areas with less natural light can become too cold.

The answer? Sensors that detect ambient light in a space and adjust both your smart HVAC and your lighting accordingly.

HVAC apps that boost workplace comfort

One of the biggest complaints workers have about being in the office is the temperature. Being uncomfortable gives employees one more reason to avoid the office. And for those that do make it in, being too hot or too cold hurts their productivity.

Now there are apps that can solve this problem. Employees can report their comfort level in real time (in seconds with an app on their phone), and facilities staff can see exactly where the problem is and make adjustments to building systems to improve comfort levels. And some cases, the product is integrated with building controls and can automatically make adjustments based on “crowd sourced” feedback.

Learn more: Crowd-Sourcing Office Temperature Control With Apps

More smart HVAC technology to improve comfort and boost productivity

Demand Controlled Ventilation (DCV)
This smart HVAC technology that lets you fine tune building conditions based on input from occupancy sensors. When utilization levels drop below design-based occupancy rates, this specialized ventilation equipment reduces your outdoor air intake which decreases energy usage.

Variable speed fans
Traditional HVAC fan motors run at only a single speed: full blast. Variable speed motors can adjust fan speeds to appropriate levels based on occupancy levels or current conditions. Variable frequency drive kits can also be installed to retrofit existing single-speed fans.

VRF systems
If you are renovating or building out a new, modern office space, VRF technology is the latest and greatest in heating and cooling comfort. Here are some of the reasons these new systems are becoming the smart HVAC choice for modern office spaces:

  • The efficient design means they use considerably less energy
  • Quiet operation is ideal for an office environment
  • The system is designed for zoned operation, resulting in consistent comfort with no hot or cold spots
  • Modern controls for easier operation by facilities staff

Here’s more about smart HVAC technology:
High Rise HVAC: New Technology Saves Space & Energy
The Ultimate Guide to NYC Light Commercial Air Conditioning

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For smart companies, there’s no question that investing in smart buildings technology, especially sensors and smart HVAC systems, is an important step toward reducing costs and optimizing the workplace.