Using Artificial Intelligence to Improve HVAC Performance

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Using Artificial Intelligence to Improve HVAC Performance

Posted on 07, Nov. 2023

Residential and commercial buildings consume significant energy, with HVAC systems being the most considerable load. Consequently, energy efficiency measures focusing on HVAC can result in substantial cost savings. However, any upgrades to HVAC systems must maintain indoor environmental quality as this can lead to discomfort and health issues. In business settings, this can negatively impact productivity.

Artificial intelligence presents a promising solution to this challenge, as it can enhance energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality. AI can optimize airflow, temperature, and humidity, ensuring air quality is maintained at the lowest possible energy consumption levels.

Technical Challenges in HVAC Control

Maintaining effective control over HVAC systems can be challenging due to the constantly changing conditions of the building. Several factors come into play, including the outdoor temperature, occupancy levels, and indoor activities. For instance, the heating or cooling requirements to maintain a comfortable indoor temperature are affected by fluctuations in outdoor temperature. At the same time, changes in occupancy levels impact ventilation needs and temperature control. Moreover, the type of indoor activities determines the amount of ventilation and cooling required.

To ensure optimal performance, an intelligent control system is necessary. Such a system can process real-time data and adjust the HVAC system accordingly, thereby accommodating the changing needs of the building. On the other hand, manual controls for HVAC systems may not deliver peak performance due to variable working conditions.

Ventilation systems with intelligent controls

Air handlers are a more energy-efficient option for buildings compared to air conditioners and space heaters. However, the outdoor airflow in a building can impact heating and cooling needs.

For example, if the ventilation system increases airflow during the winter, more heat is required to warm up a larger volume of cold outdoor air. Similarly, more cooling is needed when the ventilation system increases airflow during summer.

Many buildings have ventilation systems that operate at a fixed total airflow rate all the time, which results in significant energy wastage, as discussed earlier. Using AI-controlled ventilation systems, the optimal airflow required for the building can be determined based on real-time data such as the number of occupants and the concentration of air pollutants like VOCs and particulate matter.

AI-controlled ventilation can prevent overventilation, which wastes energy, and underventilation, which negatively affects indoor air quality. However, it's important to note that the ventilation system should always maintain airflow below the minimum required value set by building codes.

Optimizing the heating and cooling of spaces

Various HVAC equipment such as furnaces, boilers, chillers, and mini-splits have built-in artificial intelligence for significant energy savings. Upgrading old equipment with AI and machine learning-based HVAC performance systems can yield better performance.

Like ventilation controls, heating and cooling controls should also balance energy consumption and human comfort. According to a Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study, the ideal temperature range for human productivity is between 21°C to 22°C. As the temperature deviates from this range, it causes discomfort and eventually becomes detrimental to health and, in extreme cases, life-threatening.

While it is unlikely for building interiors to experience extreme temperatures due to a faulty HVAC installation, the indoor environmental quality (IEQ) gradually deteriorates as the temperature moves away from the ideal range.

The Synergy between AI and Energy Efficiency

Adding AI and machine learning to energy efficiency measures can increase effectiveness, resulting in more significant savings. Energy recovery ventilators and airside economizers are two examples of HVAC efficiency enhancements that can benefit from AI.

Airside economizers can save a significant amount of energy in certain climates. When outdoor air has appropriate temperature and humidity for "free cooling," the economizer increases ventilation rates while reducing the air conditioning output. This results in electricity savings because fans are less expensive than air conditioners. Intelligent controls can optimize the airside economizer to maximize these savings.

Energy recovery ventilation also works better with intelligent ventilation. When outdoor airflow is optimized, the energy waste of heating or cooling additional air is prevented. The HVAC workload can be decreased by the ERV system's ability to exchange heat between the supply and exhaust air. ERV is suitable for both air conditioning and space heating. In summer, indoor air pre-cools outdoor air, and in winter, it preheats outdoor air.

Building certifications like LEED and WELL have strict heating, cooling, and ventilation performance requirements. AI-powered automatic controls can help meet these requirements by optimizing HVAC system operations.

Although cooling and heating a warehouse can be challenging, it is essential for the productivity and welfare of your inventory and employees. Luckily, proper HVAC systems can assist you in maintaining adequate warehouse temperature. A sound HVAC system will also lower your energy costs and increase the effectiveness of the air conditioning in your warehouse. For installing an effective HVAC system in your warehouse, BuildMyInfra provides several services. Contact BuildMyInfra for more information.