In the age of the Internet of Things (IoT), property owners and managers can leverage technology to maximize the efficiency of just about anything mechanical. In commercial HVAC, there are automation systems that can virtually control every mechanical aspect of a property, resulting in time saved, resources more effectively delegated, much happier building occupants, and, of course, saved costs.
So what are Building Automation Systems (BAS), and how can you tell which one is right for your building? Hopefully, when you’ve finished reading this blog, you will better understand the benefits of automation and which kinds of controls will work best for your business.
What are HVAC Controls?
Modern commercial HVAC systems have become increasingly linked to a Building Automation System (BAS) that effectively gives an operator the ability to control the settings of the mechanical systems of multiple buildings’ mechanical inputs and outputs from a remote control. Once connected to a central network, HVAC, lighting, plumbing, alarms, elevators, and much more can all be electronically set and adjusted from a single interface virtually anywhere. Observing, diagnosing, troubleshooting, and fixing issues from anywhere saves hours and confusion from commercial HVAC technicians and building owners alike.
A BAS is a network of components including sensors, controllers, output devices, communication protocols, and an interface from which everything is operated. These controls allow the operator to automate the settings of each function depending on the occupants’ needs, time of day, time of year, working hours, and more. By automating things like timers on lights, the temperature for certain building zones, and air filtration systems, people can have much greater control over the conditions in their businesses.
Commercial HVAC monitored within a Building Automation System helps result in happier and more productive occupants. When the electrical functions within a building are programmed to operate as efficiently as possible, building owners and property managers can improve the conditions inside their buildings, reduce needless energy consumption, and save operating costs in the long term.
Types of HVAC Automation Devices
Each system within a building (remember, think lighting, HVAC, plumbing, alarms) has its own set of sensors and sub-controllers that are all connected to a main controller that syncs with the interface. When it comes to commercial building HVAC systems, ‘pneumatic’ and ‘direct digital controls’ are the two main types of controls that can perform the functions that are being sent via the signal from the controller.
Pneumatic controls send compressed air signals through a series of copper or plastic tubes that are received and converted into actuator output, telling the HVAC components to perform the desired action. These kinds of controls have been around for a long time and can be found in commercial properties that are several decades old.
Direct digital controls, however, send electrical signals from the sensor to the controller, resulting in a faster response and the flexibility of remote operation. While the DDC controls are newer and more expensive upfront, property developers are increasingly opting for DDC control systems upfront so they can reap the benefits of remote diagnostics and optimized climate and system controls in the long term.
What Kind of Device Works For My Building?
The ideal solution for your building will ultimately come down to the type of business that will reside in the property. For example, for a business that owns several large multi-family apartment buildings managing the needs and expectations of dozens, if not hundreds, of tenants, then a digital BAS system would most likely be a good solution.
Conversely, a smaller building with only a few main rooms in consistent use may benefit from a less expensive pneumatic control system, where all settings and automations are set on site. Fewer cases of property usage could mean more consistent settings and a lower need for variability. Ultimately how many rooms, how many occupants, the type of work they are doing, the climate of the region, and the hours of operation are determining factors in picking the right automated controls.
What Buildings Benefit from HVAC Automation Systems
So who should be thinking about building automation systems and their benefits? Anyone tasked with ensuring the operational efficiency and capabilities of a commercial building, or network of buildings, also has an incentive to reduce energy costs and improve occupant satisfaction.
BAS can be found in virtually every type of commercial building, including manufacturing facilities, office spaces, laboratories, multi-family apartments and condominiums, government buildings, schools, laboratories, shopping malls, retail stores, and much more. Properties that have automated building systems reap the benefits of more efficient energy consumption, among other things:
- Reduced Commercial HVAC repair instances
- Reduced energy consumption
- Saved site visit fees from HVAC companies
- Improved occupant satisfaction
- Less costly outages and surprises
If implementing a building automation system seems like a daunting task, know that they exist in retro-fitted buildings and new constructions. Depending on the size and scope of a remodeling/retro-fitting, many developers decide to place more technologically advanced HVAC systems, like VRV, into older buildings so that they work more efficiently within a BAS. While automated controls can reduce total building energy consumption by as much as 24% on their own, the added benefit of using a energy-efficient system like VRV can compound the results.
HVAC automation is an excellent step in reducing operational costs and global emissions. To put it in perspective, 40% of all global emissions are due to building HVAC consumption. With the right building automation systems in place, businesses can see an average net energy saving of 36% for water heating, space heating, and cooling & ventilation. With lighting automated to be off during unoccupied hours/off-seasons, one could anticipate a savings of 23% in lighting. While any business owner can appreciate the energy savings, there is also a symbiotic opportunity to make a positive impact on the environment.
If your property has many rooms with the ability for separate controls for each room – like in a hotel or apartment building, then a BAS in conjunction with a VRV HVAC system is a no-brainer. If you’re looking for more information on how a VRV HVAC system could help your property, read about the basics here.
VAC is the Tip of the Spear In Cutting Edge HVAC Automation Controls
A national leader in Building Automation Systems (BAS) technologies and VRF/VRV solutions, Vertical Applied Controls was founded in 2022 to help businesses and homeowners save energy, enhance service, and reduce costs.
Let’s get in touch! We’re eager to hear your needs and help you get the building automation system your property needs.