Smart HVAC: Smart Technology Dramatically Improves Ventilation Systems

April 23, 2007
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Ventilation is much more complex than simply replacing bad air with good air. The ability to help improve IAQ depends on a number of factors, such as the number and types of pollutant sources in a building, the size of the building, and the needs of its occupants. Thanks to technological improvements, smart sensors, and new integrated systems, supplying proper ventilation for homes and buildings has improved dramatically in the past few years.

IMPROVEMENTS FOR HOMES

For instance, to maintain a healthy home, it’s important to exhaust stale indoor air and minimize opportunities for mold and mildew growth through continuous ventilation throughout the day. It’s why contractors and builders are required to install two separate types of ventilation: intermittent and continuous.

Broan said its SmartSense ventilation system is capable of doing both. SmartSense uses Insteon™ communication, developed by SmartLabs Inc. of Irvine, Calf., and Broan’s Ultra-Silent fans. According to Broan, Insteon allows individual ventilation fans in the home to communicate over existing power lines in the home. No control wires are needed to operate the fans.

“The system allows the custom ventilation rate to easily be entered into any one of the Broan SmartSense controls,” said Tom Heidel, IAQ product manager, Broan-Nutone. “This control automatically becomes the master and calculates the volume of ventilation needed at the required times throughout the day. The master then monitors the manual operation of fans being used throughout the home. This is accomplished by the remaining SmartSense controls, sending digital signals across the existing power lines in the home to the master, indicating which fan, what ventilation rate, and how long it operates.

Each SmartSense ventilation system includes a master switch designed to monitor total run-time (manual and automatic). Broan said it can deliver optimal ventilation from as many as 10 fans.

“The master then deducts this from the total ventilation required and calculates if more ventilation is required. If necessary, the master will then automatically operate individual fans throughout the home in a sequential manner to ventilate what is needed in excess of manual usage.”

Contractors appreciate the fact they do not have to install control wires to have an integrated ventilation system. “The fans are used by the homeowner as in the past, but Broan SmartSense works behind the scenes to monitor manual usage and apply this to the whole-house ventilation requirement,” said Heidel. “Broan SmartSense then automatically operates fans as necessary to ensure proper ventilation for the home.

“By ventilating small amounts of air from multiple locations in the home, superior ventilation distribution is ensured.”

An easy-to-use table is supplied with each system that allows the contractor to use the size of the home and the number of bedrooms to determine the customized ventilation rate for that particular home.

To operate an AirAdvice IAQ monitor, the monitor is placed in a home so it can take measurements. This data is transmitted from the home over the phone lines to AirAdvice via a toll-free number. The data is used to generate personalized reports.

EASIER IAQ MONITORING

Today there are smart devices that can pinpoint air quality problems in compact, easy-to-use monitors. One such device is the AirAdvice IAQ monitor.

A contractor can place this monitor, which is about the size of a paperback book, in a home for a few days so it can measure temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and airborne particles in one-minute cycles. This data is stored in the monitor until it can be transmitted from the home over the phone lines late at night to AirAdvice via a toll-free number. It plugs into an existing phone line and requires no new wiring. And, it won’t interrupt current phone or Internet connections. In locations where a phone line is unavailable or difficult to reach, the monitor has enough memory to store up to 14 days’ worth of data.

AirAdvice uses the data collected from the monitor to generate personalized reports about a home’s IAQ. A contractor can then work with the homeowner to select the best solution, including improved ventilation, better thermostats, humidifiers or dehumidifiers, advanced air cleaning technology, or CO detectors.

The Optima™ system from Aircuity is somewhat similar, but is used strictly for commercial buildings. It is designed to provide facility management and building service personnel with timely and focused information, all designed to more efficiently manage and operate their buildings. The system is based on three main components:

• The Optima monitor incorporates nine sensors to measure environmental information within a building. Sensors include temperature, humidity, CO2, CO, ozone, airborne particles (two sizes), total volatile organic compounds, and radon.

• A Web-based data management system is designed to automatically analyze environmental parameters.

• According to the manufacturer, reports incorporate the collective knowledge and experience of building experts. The Aircuity Advisor was developed in partnership with Environmental Health and Engineering, the primary research contractor for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Indoor Environments Division. At the press of a button, the Aircuity Advisor combines the collected data with key building characteristics to produce a customized report, with assessments made in the areas of comfort and ventilation, air cleanliness, and building pollutants, said the company.

“A key advantage of the system is complete automation – you won’t need to write down anything,” said Elaine Kourkoutas from Aircuity. “Every bit of building data is automatically tracked to proper building, area, time, and date. You can’t accidentally lose or misplace building information or collected data.

“You also won’t need a dedicated computer or special software. All the software associated with the system is located on the Aircuity server with your account – safe, secure, and accessible to you at all times. You can access your Aircuity Knowledge Center account from any Web-accessible computer with your personal user name and password.”

HUMIDITY-SENSING FANS

Fans are an integral part in providing needed ventilation, too. Broan said its Ultra Silent™ humidity-sensing fan series features Sensaire® technology, designed to sense increases in moisture at the ceiling, and automatically exhausts the moisture, turning off once the room’s normal humidity level is reached.

“Sensaire technology detects rapid increases in moisture levels at the ceiling, where steam and humidity naturally rise,” explained Lynn Mantha, fan product manager. “Regular humidistats located on the wall simply detect absolute humidity levels and are prone to false triggers, or not operating when they should. Our humidity-sensing fans turn on and off automatically to help prevent cosmetic and structural problems associated with excess moisture.”

The Ultra Silent™ is a perfect solution for high-traffic bathrooms, or a kid’s bathroom, said Mantha.

“Humidity-sensing fans are ideal for anyone who leaves the house before humidity is properly vented,” said Mantha. “With a fan this quiet, you can’t forget to turn it off when the job is done. That saves energy and money.”

Just beneath the drop-down grille are easy-to-adjust sensitivity and run-time controls. A contractor can choose the preference, set with a screwdriver, and forget it. “Of course, you can always override the sensor at the touch of a switch,” she said. “These fans are also Energy Star-qualified, which can reduce energy consumption by as much as 65 percent - all without sacrificing performance.”

Publication date: 04/23/2007

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