HVAC systems are gluttonous. In fact, they use 15% of the world  energy supply. The good news is that in the future this number is likely  to drop significantly thanks to digital optimization. HVAC systems are  complex and behave in non-linear ways. The current technologies used to  control them are far from optimal.

This is where Artificial Intelligence comes into action. Instead of a  simple formula-based response, the HVAC AI algorithms create numerous  scenarios from a large data spectrum and pick the best scenario for the  task.    

Here is my pick of the most significant existing technologies  which I believe will be at scale in the industry within the next 5 to 10  years.

N°1 : Demand response

With the development of naturally variable energy sources (e.g.,  wind, solar), balancing energy supply and demand has become a much  bigger thing. Spot electricity prices give the opportunity to flexible  loads, such as HVAC, to reduce significantly their energy bill by  consuming at the most favorable prices.

N°2 : Weather forecast

99.99% of HVAC systems in the world do not use nor have access to  weather forecast. This upgrade can bring large improvements in both  efficiency and comfort but technically it is not as easy as it might  sound. Advanced algorithms are required to make it work effectively.

N°3 : Building behavior and usage

This is one of the biggest issues of existing HVAC controls: they are  generic whichever the application and they do not adapt to the specific  building and its usage. If on a Friday at 5pm everybody has left the  building, why does the control time clock turn-off the HVAC at 9pm?

N°4 : Electrical signal analysis

There is an enormous amount of information contained in the  electrical signal of HVAC systems: compressor wear, cleanliness of heat  exchanger, fan bearing state… But this is only accessible at a  reasonable cost when using energy disaggregation, a branch of Artificial  Intelligence, powered by edge computing which brings processing closer  to the data source. This is maybe the most futuristic technology of this  list, but it holds a large saving potential in HVAC operating cost by  predicting and preventing breakdowns.

On the paper, Artificial Intelligence has everything it needs for a roll-out in the HVAC world to save billions:

  • Day by day, AI becomes more and more accessible to developers thanks to the continuous flow of open source contributions.
  • Electronics and networks have never been so affordable which is critical for data acquisition and control.

But when looking closer, there is a missing bit for a massive HVAC AI  roll-out: no one has sorted out the IT infrastructure. Like having  high-speed trains but 19th century railroad network. This is what  WattSense intends to fix: https://wattsense.com/