How Artificial Intelligence Improves HVAC Performance

Anuj Srivastava
8 Minutes Read
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    HVAC systems are the largest energy-consuming loads in residential and commercial buildings. For this reason, energy efficiency measures that target HVAC can achieve major savings. However, HVAC upgrades that save energy should not affect the indoor environmental quality, or they can cause discomfort and health issues. In business settings, this also has a negative impact on productivity.

    Artificial intelligence has promising applications in HVAC, since it can improve both energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality. AI can optimize variables like airflow, temperature and humidity - conserving air quality with the lowest possible energy consumption.

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    HVAC Control: A Technical Challenge

    Controlling an HVAC system effectively is difficult because building conditions are always changing. Consider the following aspects:

    • The outdoor temperature is always changing, and it affects the heating or cooling required to keep a suitable indoor temperature.
    • People are entering and leaving buildings all the time, and this affects ventilation needs and temperature control.
    • The activities performed indoors also affect HVAC needs. For example, a commercial kitchen needs more ventilation and cooling than an office of the same size.

    The ventilation, heating and cooling needs of a building are always changing. Only a smart control system can process all this data in real time, and adjust the HVAC system accordingly. An HVAC system with manual controls cannot reach peak performance, due to the variable working conditions.

    Smart Controls for Ventilation Systems

    Air handlers consume less energy than air conditioners and space heaters. However, the outdoor airflow provided to a building affects heating and cooling needs.

    • For example, if a ventilation system increases airflow during winter, more heat is needed for a larger volume of cold outdoor air.
    • The same applies for air conditioning when the ventilation system increases airflow during summer.

    Many buildings have ventilation systems that operate at full airflow all the time. This represents a major waste of energy, for the reasons previously described. When ventilation controls have AI, they can determine the optimal airflow required by the building. The system can also track the number of occupants in the building, and the concentration of key air pollutants like VOCs and particulate matter.

    Overventilation represents a waste of energy, while underventilation is detrimental for indoor air quality. A ventilation control with AI helps prevent both of them. There is only one important requirement: the ventilation system must never reduce airflow below the minimum value required by local building codes.

    Optimizing Space Heating and Air Conditioning

    Smart Controls

    There are now furnaces, boilers, chillers, mini-splits and other HVAC equipment with built-in artificial intelligence. As a result, major energy savings can be expected simply by upgrading old equipment. However, improved performance is possible when smart controls are used for the entire HVAC system.

    Just like ventilation controls must balance energy consumption and air quality, heating and cooling controls must balance energy consumption and human comfort. According to a study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), human productivity reaches its peak at around 21°C - 22°C. 

    • As the temperature increases or decreases, it starts causing discomfort. 
    • When the temperature becomes more extreme, it becomes detrimental for health and eventually life-threatening.

    Extreme temperatures are unlikely in building interiors, even with a deficient HVAC installation. However, the indoor environmental quality (IEQ) worsens gradually as the temperature deviates from the ideal range.

    How AI Can Achieve Synergy with Energy Efficiency Measures

    Energy efficiency measures can become more effective when AI is added to the mix, achieving greater savings. Two examples of HVAC upgrades that work better with AI are airside economizers and energy recovery ventilators.

    Airside economizers can save plenty of energy in some climates. When outdoor air has a suitable temperature and humidity for “free cooling”, the economizer increases ventilation rates while reducing the air conditioning output. Electricity is saved because fans are less expensive to operate than air conditioners. Smart controls can optimize the airside economizer to maximize these savings.

    Energy recovery ventilation also achieves synergy with smart ventilation. When the outdoor airflow is optimized, the energy waste of heating or cooling extra air is avoided. The ERV system can then exchange heat between the supply air and the exhaust air, reducing the HVAC workload even more. ERV works with both air conditioning and space heating: indoor air precools outdoor air in summer, and it preheats outdoor air in winter.

    Building certifications such as LEED and WELL have demanding performance requirements for heating, cooling and ventilation. Automatic controls with AI can help meet these requirements, optimizing the operation of HVAC systems.

    HVAC Engineering: The Different Challenges

    You may love turning on the heater during winters, or the air conditioner during summers. It’s quick and easy, but it wasn’t so always. The HVAC engineering and industry is an ever-evolving one. With advancement in technology, meeting the demands of customers is often a challenge.

    Here Are A Few Of The Things That The HVAC Engineering Industry Is Focusing On Right Now

    1. Being Energy Efficient

    Energy efficiency is what consumers are looking for. The energy crisis of the 1970s, for instance, made countries focus on conversation and efficiency. It meant that HVAC engineers had to be dynamic and come up with new ways to perform the same task on less energy-consumption equipment. The abundant use of fossil fuels became a concern.

    Consumers today also understand the need for energy efficiency and its impact on the overall cost. HVAC systems are a lot more energy efficient today than they are before, but more needs to be done. We are sure you don’t want the high heating bills every winter!

    2. Finding the Right Equipment

    For HVAC engineers, coordinating with architecture, civil engineers, structural engineers, plumbing engineers, and electrical engineers before installation remain a worry. Here are some of the things HVAC engineers have to look at.

    • The location, size of equipment and placement of equipment to use during the design process.
    • The type of material in use for the construction of the building is also a factor for the equipment to be used.
    • The landscape can impact the thermal loads too.
    • Following the building codes, fire and protection codes.

    3. Customer demands

    Customers look for more. Offering the best solutions for the building under a budget is a challenging aspect when it comes to HVAC engineering. You need to design the layout, what material to use, and even which material to use.

    All this while ensuring that the low budget won’t affect the overall quality. Over the long-term, customers wouldn’t want to incur heavy maintenance cost.

    4. The Climate

    Every place is different. HVAC systems need to work properly even when the weather conditions are extreme. HVAC engineering needs to keep the air-conditioning, ventilation running to maintain the inside temperature.

    To do that, the engineers have to keep in mind different factors like:

    • The outside temperature,
    • The number of people,
    • The distribution of ventilation through all the zones of the building.

    They also have to work on moisture control and make sure that no mould forms. Additionally, there is a need to calculate the internal as well as the external air pressure so to avoid any undesirable moisture formation inside the building.

    5. To maintain the IAQ

    Maintaining the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is another challenge. HVAC engineers need to keep in mind the design factor, and that airborne disease cannot survive inside. The question here is, if the air quality outside is poor, how would they ensure better quality inside?

    While the challenges remain, it is no secret that the industry is one that will continue to see significant growth. The HVAC engineering industry in the U.S. alone is estimated to generate revenues of over $60 million in the next twelve months.

    Technical Standards Used By An HVAC Engineer

    The job of an HVAC engineer includes the design of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems according to the needs of each building. There are many HVAC industry organizations, and they have published standards to guarantee the correct design and installation of these important building systems. HVAC standards apply throughout the USA, and local building codes normally use them as reference – some standards have even been adopted internationally.

    An HVAC installation must keep adequate indoor conditions for human occupancy, and these include ambient temperature, relative humidity and outdoor air supply. HVAC systems are characterized by their high energy consumption, exceeding all other building systems combined in residential and commercial applications. Energy efficiency measures are strongly recommended to reduce their operating cost.

    The following are some of the main industry associations that publish technical standards for HVAC systems:

    • ACCA – Air Conditioning Contractors of America
    • ARI – Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute
    • ASHRAE – American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers
    • NFPA – National Fire Protection Association
    • SMACNA – Sheet Metal & Air Conditioning Contractors National Association

    How An HVAC Engineer Applies Standards In Project Design

    Technical standards provide calculation procedures for many aspects of HVAC design, considered the best practices in the industry. For example, the ASHRAE Handbook is one of the most important standards for mechanical engineers, and it consists of four volumes: Fundamentals, Refrigeration, HVAC Applications, and HVAC Systems and Equipment

    The ASHRAE Handbook is constantly being reviewed and updated by technical committees. An HVAC engineer who is an ASHRAE member gets the latest edition each year as one of the membership benefits. The Handbook is available in printed, CD-ROM and online versions.

    ASHRAE also has Standard 90.1, which has been used nationally and internationally to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, and many local energy codes use it as reference. The Standard 90.2 is similar, but focusing on low-rise residential constructions.

    ACCA has published a set of technical manuals with calculation procedures for many aspects of HVAC design, as well as equipment selection guidelines. There are both residential and commercial versions of the ACCA manuals, covering the following topics:

    • System concept
    • Load calculation
    • System zoning
    • Air distribution
    • Equipment selection
    • Duct size calculation
    • Adjustment, testing and balance

    SMACNA standards are very important in HVAC installations that use air ducts, since they provide the design requirements for both sheet metal and fiberglass ducts. By following the calculation procedures in SMACNA standards, HVAC engineers can ensure that air ducts are properly sized, while meeting airflow and static pressure requirements.

    NFPA standards deal with fire protection, which is a very important aspect for heating equipment that burns natural gas, heating oil or any other fuel. One of the NFPA standards is the National Electrical Code (NEC) – it applies for all circuits that deliver power to HVAC installations, as well as their protection systems.

    Industry standards may seem overwhelming at first, but they guarantee high performance and safety when designing building systems. A qualified HVAC engineer is familiarized with all applicable standards, and can use them effectively during the design process.

    Make sure your mechanical installations are code compliant and energy efficient, while getting a 50% faster turnaround. You can contact by email ( or phone .


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    Tags : HVAC Energy Efficiency indoor air quality artificial intelligence AI

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