An HVAC system with an AI or analytics-capable software platform can evaluate the outside temperature and humidity levels and use these measurements to regulate internal building air conditioning as well as determine temperature stress on the building.
A while back, I wrote an article on using external temperature measuring within a home (or apartment) to regulate how the internal HVAC system maintained cold/hot air flow within a building. Internal building temperatures and its structure makeup are always impacted by external environmental temperature changes and humidity. An HVAC system with an AI or analytics-capable software platform can evaluate the outside temperature and humidity levels and use these measurements to regulate internal building air conditioning as well as determine temperature stress on the building.
An enterprising student in Japan emailed me, saying that he used that concept from my paper to postulate a possible energy management solution for commercial buildings that minimized energy consumption. The idea is to track external temperature measurements as part of the internal temperature determination when heating or cooling individual rooms. With the information tracked, the AI software can judge which sides of the building or which rooms need heating or cooling based on direct sunlight.
By adding control dampers in all the rooms, the system can shut or open these dampers to circulate air — thus managing room temperature. As the sun changes positions relative to the building, the HVAC system can compensate by either reducing air flow and temperature or increasing it. So, rooms with direct sunlight would need less heat in winter or more cooling in summer. For the other rooms not in direct sunlight, the system can either turn off (closing all dampers) or reduce its HVAC air requirements.
Such an energy management approach does require more thought in building construction. It also assumes software with the capacity to evaluate both external and internal temperature and humidity. Humidity levels, of course, play a part in human comfort. Any HVAC solution designed to reduce energy requirements for HVAC temperature control would need to take this into account. This brings up an interesting endpoint requirement: temperature sensors. Potential sensors would include a window shade or glass that can reduce or increase heat or cold on its surface. As the temperature impacts the window, the sensor identifies a critical point and activates the shade or causes the glass to reflect or absorb more sunlight. For commercial buildings with glass walls, this can generate a great ROI in energy management and sustainability.
The entire process has one goal in mind — that of maintaining a constant temperature as defined by the tenant while minimizing the amount of energy needed to accomplish that. Energy consumption equates to overhead costs, so an equilibrium between tenant comfort and building management needs to be established. In an apartment complex, each tenant has different temperature and humidity requirements resulting in a complicated and tedious management of these two variables.
The use of AI software would alleviate the need for constant human interaction with the environmental controls and achieve tenant satisfaction at the individual level. The AI can do what a building manager can’t do — continuously assessing environmental configurations at tenant levels and adjusting the HVAC system accordingly. Tenants can verbally ask the AI, whether via Alexa, Echo or any other voice assist solution, for an increase or decrease in temperature and humidity levels within set parameters defined by the apartment management.
In a closed environment, such as in apartment units, regulating humidity levels falls within the requirements of the HVAC system. Too much or too little humidity is a matter of regulating the air flow moisture into the apartment unit to maintain a balance. Not an easy task. However, it is doable with an AI solution and proper humidity sensor technology.
The current HVAC industry focuses on consumption and how to read this through various meters and thermostats. There is a lot of emphasis on smart buildings and smart technologies that provide some form of energy consumption tracking and monitoring. What is missing in the equation is the involvement of the energy consumers — the individuals who live and consume energy in a home, apartment or business office.
Engaging each consumer is a daunting task when considering that each individual uses energy based on their needs. Addressing the variance from one consumer to another requires a level of granularity unprecedented in today’s world. Yes, we claim that buildings are getting smarter and, eventually, granularity of consumption habits will also be tracked and measured. The point is that the energy management industry must evolve past merely measuring energy consumption to that of managing individual consumer energy usage.
One of my earlier essays focused on a concept in electricity consumption using smart socket technology. The idea was that the smart sockets would track not just what is being consumed but also the habits associated with the consumption. Tracking consumption habits, or profiling, requires a 24/7 measuring and tracking solution that only comes from sensors that are directly involved in the day-to-day activities of individuals.
Proliferating sensors throughout a home or building may not be cost-effective. An alternative would be AC outlets that are really “smart-empowered” with abilities to monitor and gather data on how electricity is being used, which would be the basis of a consumption profile. If we add all other appliances to the mix, an in-depth profile of the individual’s daily habits would emerge, and the AI energy management program can respond to minimize energy usage. Humans do certain things repetitively when they wake up in the morning. Whether in the bathroom, the kitchen, or any other location in a home, electronics usage defines a habit that can be profiled.
The idea of profiling would be a step forward in AI interaction with consumers at the location of consumption. It also moves Energy Management solutions away from merely measuring consumption towards making strategic decisions for the tenant that benefit all.
The thought of using an AI Energy Management solution in controlling environmental factors within a house, building or apartment unit is not farfetched. Today’s smart energy is but a forerunner of things to come as energy becomes a necessary but limited commodity that includes water, gas and electricity. The industry must move beyond mere measurements and simple analytics towards an energy management solution that is interactive and consumer habit-oriented in its “smartness.”
In an article on elder care, I featured an AI energy management solution for elderly individuals living at home. This type of deployment tracked all activities within a home or apartment that included water, gas, and electric consumption. These endpoints created a daily profile of an elderly person’s daily activities. Should the daily routines change suddenly, an alarm message could be delivered to loved ones so that they can quickly respond to the situation.
Energy management in future systems must look beyond the mundane reading of meters and take on the task of cooperating with tenant lifestyle and consumption habits. Not only is this good ROI, but it also expands the services of energy management to include other “out-of-the- box” solutions that improve tenant security and trust.
Resource use — water, gas or electricity — will eventually outpace availability. The way we perceive Energy Management, or whatever replaces it, impacts the availability and conservation of future resources. In an era of global warming and carbon footprint concerns, every managed consumption indirectly affects these two global issues. How we plan now in managing consumption is key to overcoming these pressing challenges.