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IoT Products That Will be Vital to HVAC Systems in 2017

  • 5 min read



IoT Products That Will be Vital to HVAC Systems in 2017

By Peter Vowell


The Internet of Things (IoT) has had an almost unfathomable impact over the past few years. In 2016, the highly lucrativemarket was roughly estimated to have a value of 157 billion USD. This is only expected to increase for the coming year, and not just by a little bit, but in leaps and bounds. It’ll impact industries across the board, some of which you may have never even considered.
HVAC in particular has been transformed by theimplementation of IoT devices. The connectivity and precise controls now available are unprecedented. Connected sensors with Bluetooth or wireless internet capabilities are installed within an HVAC system to provide live updates. Customers can have complete control over the feel of their space with an increase in options and enhanced customization. New HVAC systems can provide long-term monetary savings, with high-efficiency subsystems all talking and working together. 2017 will also come with its own set of problems for the industry, and these issues must be conquered for the modern HVAC system to reach its full potential.




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Diagnostics and Maintenance



Connected HVAC systems help to increase not only the health of internal hardware but the health of building inhabitants as well. Back in the summer of 2015,12 people from the Bronx were killed by an outbreak of legionnaires disease. The cause - contaminated cooling towers. These cooling systems didn’t receive proper maintenance, and building residents suffered the consequences.


Augury is looking to change this, by creating a tool that can cleverly analyze machine health. The handheld toolconnects to your iPhone and analyzes the unique vibrational signature of specific parts in an HVAC system. It compares samples from the tested unit to samples from known healthy machines. If a difference is found, the cloud-based app will try to suggest what could be causing the difference, and offer potential maintenance actions. Not only does this decrease maintenance costs and increase accessibility, it can help keep building occupants out of harm's way.





Customization



Almost everyone loves to have more options, regardless of the subject matter. This is especially true when it comes to comfort, and extends to personal climate. Whether it be for home use or a large-scale office building, customizable temperature control has become extremely popular. It’s an amenity that directly influences worker happiness, and should be integrated into any newly installed HVAC system.


Controlling temperature room-to-room has been a dream for some time now, andNest has been a strong force in making this dream come true. There arequite a few options available now for integrating smart controls into an HVAC system, but Nest has been around since the beginning and is a strong contender because of it. TheNest Thermostat attempts to increase efficiency and usability by learning from your previous temperature settings. After one week of manual use, the tool will create a profile for the home or office and continues to tweak it as seasons and preferences change. The result is a significant increase in personal comfort and energy savings. And if you want to deviate from the developed course, you can do so at any time via the smartphone app.


Google purchased Nest for a little over 3 billion dollars back in early 2014. This not only affirmed the value of the product but also made it much more useful.Google integrated support for Nest thermostats into all of their current products, so it responds to voice controls from your android phone orGoogle Home. As of 2016, Nest hadaround 10,000 developer partners, ensuring ample support for the product in the future to come.


There are other options out there, however.Ecobee offers theEcobee3, which has more comprehensive coverage than Nest’s products. It utilizes a combination of temperature sensors and motion sensors throughout multiple rooms to adjust the temperature accordingly. Knowing which room a person is currently occupying can lead to increased savings, as the overall thermostat temperature is adjusted for spaces actually in use. Ecobee also offers smartphone integration, as well as the option to add voice controls viaAmazon’sEcho. The real drawback versus the Nest Thermostat is the lack of developer support, although it is a younger product so this could change moving forward.





Efficiency



To no one’s astonishment, HVAC accounts forwell over a third of a building's energy costs (on average). Early warning systems are imperative for keeping costs low, whether it be HVAC or anything else.Enervise reported that it onlytakes an hour for utility costs to increase after an issue develops. If this goes unnoticed over a weekend period, that’s at least 48 hours of monetary loss due to a lack of information.


Real-time data is imperative in the fight for efficiency, andDaikin is helping businesses with exactly that. Their trademarked “intelligent equipment” grants access to over 150 data points within a system, all of which are continuously updated. This mass amount of data is achieved via hundreds of IoT-connected sensors, placed strategically throughout a system. Daikin’s cloud-based solution means you never have to worry about big-data storage. You can access data about your HVAC system from anywhere, and make vital building management decisions on the fly. The software supporting the equipment is designed to help make efficiency decisions, using all of the information available to decide whether maintenance is required or if temperature settings should be tweaked. It’s a robust scheme for all-inclusive control and is the future of HVAC systems.





Word of Warning



While the immediate future of HVAC looks bright, there are stillchallenges to overcome. The most prominent issue is that of platform standardization. Right now, there is no “standard platform”, meaning there isn’t acommunications protocol that everyone in the industry agrees on using. As a result, individual pieces of tech within the industry may utilize different methods of communication (likeBACnet orZigBee), making it extremely difficult to create one integrated system. Companies likeCytexOne demonstrate this issue prominently, withstatements like, “...our proprietary device and secret-sauce that constantly evaluates our systems…”. The HVAC industry as a whole will need to decide what protocol(s) to use moving forward, as the technology can only progress through deliberate collaboration.

HVAC systems have undergone serious technological advancements in recent years. This is, in large part, due to the rise of the Internet of Things.IoT-enabled devices and sensors within an HVAC system allow for revolutionary monitoring and analysis techniques. This, in turn, leads to better preventative maintenance, customizable solutions, and increased efficiency. While communications protocols still remain an issue, HVAC is set to become even more connected with the coming of 2017.