Available smart building technology makes it possible to automate almost every aspect of an HVAC system, allowing owners to streamline the control of everything from building temperature to vents to air quality. In addition to improving the efficiency of a building’s HVAC system, automation can also help improve occupant comfort, IAQ, and more.
The following are some of the top benefits of commercial HVAC automation and how new technology may soon make automated systems even more valuable. Systems like this are a game-changer and will likely see increased utilization as time goes on and they prove their worth.
1. Improving HVAC Efficiency
The primary benefit of an automated HVAC system is improved efficiency. It uses a combination of thermal sensors and information on building structure, design, airflow, and orientation to dynamically adjust performance based on changing building conditions. The system can hold the building at a desired temperature without expending as much energy as a conventional HVAC system.
Additional sensor technology, like motion-detectors, can make HVAC systems even more efficient. For example, they could know not to heat or cool building zones that have been unoccupied for a certain length of time. Automated HVAC systems can also typically be controlled remotely, allowing owners, residents, and others to adjust the temperature of the building or zones, even when they’re away.
More efficient HVAC management platforms are emerging all the time. German proptech startup Dabbel recently secured $4.4 million in funding for an AI-powered platform that would help reduce building carbon emissions by improving HVAC efficiency.
However, a full-scale, AI-powered HVAC automation system isn’t necessary for building owners to improve efficiency. Smaller structures can take advantage of smart thermostat technology, which is marketed to consumers and businesses, to automate or remotely control HVAC.
2. Making a Building More Comfortable
The automated HVAC system can also make building heating and cooling much more responsive to occupants’ needs. Recent research on workplace ergonomics has found that thermal comfort can significantly impact productivity. Occupants tend to be more focused and perform better if a building is held at a comfortable temperature.
Automated HVAC systems can dynamically adjust the temperature of a building based on a combination of building sensor data and optimal ranges for occupants. This improves thermal comfort and boosts productivity.
An automated HVAC system can also be used to simulate building zoning using smart vents or similar technology. As a result, these systems may also allow occupants or building owners to customize the temperature of different zones based on their personal preferences and thermal comfort ranges.
As a result, the HVAC system can make the entire building more comfortable and help employees set their workplace’s temperature.
3. Upgrading Ventilation and Air Quality
In the same way an automated HVAC system can dynamically respond to changing building temperatures, it can also adapt to different air quality levels.
Real-time IAQ monitoring can be used to support HVAC automation, allowing the system to adjust function as needed. Building owners may be able to leverage existing monitoring technology for this purpose. A growing number of warehouses, factories, and other industrial facilities may already have internet-connected IAQ monitoring systems they can use for support.
The HVAC system can also automatically alert building owners and maintenance technicians when air quality levels suggest filters or other equipment needs to be replaced and could be limiting IAQ.
Improvements to building air quality and ventilation can provide several benefits to building inhabitants — including increased productivity and occupant well-being.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, better ventilation can also help >slow the spread of disease. Airborne viruses and bacteria can be captured by HVAC filtration and sanitation systems, breaking the chain of transmission when a building occupant is sick.
4. Integrating With Other Automated Building Systems
Automated HVAC systems can function independently or as part of a larger building automation system that coordinates multiple functions. Integration can help improve efficiency and responsiveness to the changing needs of building occupants.
One example is the Al Bahar Towers in Abu Dhabi. They are built with smart louvers that can open and close dynamically based on the sun's position, helping building owners manage solar power and reduce the energy used to cool the interior.
A similar system using smart shades, pergolas, or other devices could help provide a building with a balance of natural light and non-HVAC temperature control. Shades could open automatically at certain times during the day, providing occupants with natural light. Information from building HVAC sensors could tell the smart shades to close when solar gain increases the temperature too much, ensuring it does not reduce system efficiency.
Automated HVAC systems could also coordinate with building security, access control, lighting, and parking systems. It uses information from them to adapt building heating and air conditioning performance.
Commercial HVAC Automation Can Make Buildings Safer, More Efficient, and Comfortable
HVAC automation systems can make buildings more efficient, comfortable, and even safer to work in. They can dynamically adjust performance to meet changing building conditions using information from internet-connected temperature sensors and air quality monitors.
These systems can also be integrated with other building automation systems, making the structure easier to manage and a place people enjoy working in. They enable building owners to save money, boost efficiency, and improve the health of the planet and occupants. Expect to see more HVAC automation systems being implemented in the near future.