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Posted: May 29, 2013
Self-powered wireless sensors and network for smarter, greener buildings
(Nanowerk News) The TIBUCON project ('Self Powered Wireless Sensor Network for HVAC System Energy Improvement - Towards Integral Building Connectivity') has developed a new-generation integrated heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system suitable for larger multi-tenant buildings in particular.
The building sector is responsible for 35-45 % of total energy consumption in Europe, and space heating uses the largest share in most Member States. The three-year TIBUCON project, which received just over EUR 1.5 million in EU-funding, has been developing an efficient alternative to HVAC systems found in most buildings today.
The TIBUCON team realised that the HVAC systems themselves are not energy efficient, requiring disposable batteries and wiring to connect the sensors with the control units and installations. In large multi-story buildings, the amount of waste and carbon emissions from these installations begins to add up.
'There could be hundreds of sensors in a newly-deployed, wireless-based HVAC control system for a mid-range commercial building, generating hundreds of used batteries,' notes the TIBUCON team.
So they proposed to replace the reams of cabling and piles of battery-operated sensors with a 'Self-powered multi-magnitude wireless sensor network' (SP-MM-WSN). For example, the wireless sensors detect when a room is too hot and automatically sends signals to the control unit to adjust the heat to pre-defined settings, and vice-versa for cooling in summer.
Doing away with the wiring and batteries is a real breakthrough, the team suggests. Not only is it a greener solution but the cost savings are significant. Wiring alone can represent up to 80 % of the total cost of an HVAC system.
The team was keen to prove their SP-MM-WSN system will work in future constructions as it does retrofitted in current buildings, alongside or replacing current infrastructure. TIBUCON's system was thus scheduled for testing in two demo buildings: a newly-built multi-tenant office block in Poland and an existing apartment building near San Sebastian in Spain.
'Because of the investment costs, the system is not suited for individual houses. But in collective dwellings it's possible to monitor several parameters and to control the HVAC-installations in real-time,' explains a project partner in a recent Innovation Seeds article.
Other advantages of the new system include reduced energy consumption and power costs, lower emissions and waste generation in buildings and will be less invasive. It will also be a more flexible wireless infrastructure, with more reliable hybrid power sensors, greater comfort thanks to real-time temperature monitoring, and more efficient overall HVAC system and management.