Building better control

While the benefits of utilising the open KNX standard are clear, fresh thinking in an approach to total room automation that links traditionally separate control systems for lighting and heating could pave the way to significant energy savings for buildings.

It is estimated that buildings account for around 40% of primary energy consumption across Europe, and of this sum approximately 85% is used to heat rooms or cool them down – as well as to provide electrical energy for lighting. With such significant energy usage, continuing to seek methods to ensure maximum energy efficient use in buildings is essential and could play a major part in reducing society’s overall energy demand. This is particularly important with high energy prices predicted to be the norm rather than the exception in the years to come.

The full benefits of using building management systems to control and reduce energy consumption and cost can only be achieved through intelligent control and monitoring. This can be delivered by a range of products and systems designed to provide convenience and versatility in key areas such as heating, cooling and lighting. In the past, having a number of individual control systems each performing their own tasks has meant extended wiring requirements to link and run between sensors and actuators to the control and monitoring centres. Such mass wiring in turn led to more complex design and installation requirements, increased fire risks and, ultimately, higher costs.

Removing problems

The development of the KNX open standard specifically for building controls has removed the problems associated with these ‘isolated devices’ by ensuring that all components across various systems can communicate via one common software language on one bus network.

With over 200 member companies participating in the KNX open protocol, delivering many thousands of products to the market, the interoperability advantages in terms of a commonality between manufacturers’ products are clear and have helped form the foundation of true efficiencies in terms of building control and energy management.

An important element when considering KNX standard products and control systems is to ensure that the specified element can not only be linked with peer group devices, but that the devices can also operate in tandem and exchange data (i.e. talk to each other).

Total automation

When it comes to embracing total room automation opportunities through KNX open protocols, the merging of separate lighting and heating control systems can contribute to maximising convenience and minimising energy use. Traditionally such control systems have been utilised independently using disparate control and operation but advances in technology under the KNX standard now make it possible to seamlessly bring intelligence-led control systems under a single automated room control platform, and thereby maximise efficiencies in installation, daily use and overall energy consumption.

Using open protocols, room lighting, heating and cooling requirements can be linked together to provide a holistic approach to total room control with sensors communicating key data to actuators intelligently and efficiently to control all requirements to meet the daily needs of the room.

For instance, in terms of energy saving lighting strategies, central controls can switch off forgotten lights, reduce the use of artificial light by harvesting available daylight (such as in the summer months) and use presence detection to switch lights off in rooms that are not occupied. Other control options such as blind actuators (controlling the amount of sunlight in a room) can provide a more comfortable working environment.

The control network that operates the lighting can also be applied to heating and cooling needs. The same sensors linked to the room controllers can help to optimise energy efficiencies by controlling the supply of heat and cooling control to a room to match requirements. This enables consistent room temperatures to be maintained for comfort while in use, but also provides the ability to reduce heat, and therefore cost, when the room is not in use.

Conversely, cooling requirements can be met by pre-programmed cooling applications that will provide comfortable room temperatures – again determined by the usage needs of the room in question. Integration via one total automated room control strategy can embrace other features such as monitoring air quality via CO2 levels with actuators opening and closing windows for natural ventilation and alleviating the requirement for energy hungry fans – again, aiding energy saving targets and companies’ CRC obligations.

Meet standards

Another important factor when assessing the viability and value of total room control is to ensure that the room controllers selected meet the eu.bac international standard. Such controllers boost superior levels of accuracy, but more importantly have been rigorously tested and independently verified by eu.bac – a renowned international standards group. With certified controllers tolerating temperature swings of just 0.2 degrees either way, such accuracy in control tolerances helps prevent overheating and under-cooling occurrences, as well as providing the ability to pre-programme so that room temperatures are accurately achieved at the exact time required.

With energy costs continuing to soar and as companies come under increasing pressure to apply stringent carbon reduction targets, embracing total room control options will not only enhance daily comfort and convenience for room users, it can also help deliver maximum efficiencies

By taking a fresh integrated approach, building managers and engineers have the best possible opportunity to take real control of such vital areas, that when implemented can drive down energy consumption and halt cost escalation.