Maximising on control

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Published: 02 November 2021


Donna-Marie Evans, B2B product marketing lead at LG Electronics UK, discusses why HVAC control strategies are critical to extend system efficiencies and meet future legislation.

With HVAC equipment pretty much as efficient as it can be, we have to look at other ways to maximise the effectiveness and efficiency of our heating and cooling technologies. Legislation is driving the net zero carbon agenda and some hugely optimistic targets for achieving a greener future; the key to progress is the available system control options to advance the cause.

For many, the simplest of controls – on/off – is still the one that is used in homes and commercial settings across the country, with too much energy wasted because the heating or air conditioning is left operating for far too long and at times that are inappropriate to its use. Sometimes this happens because the individuals responsible for controlling the HVAC equipment simply do not understand the controls available. Still, in many cases, it’s a lack of responsibility invested from those responsible for ensuring the heating or air conditioning is only switched on when needed and at required levels.

So what is the solution to this dilemma, and how do we maximise the use of advanced controls technology to help waste less energy and create lower emissions levels?

Control networks

HVAC controls have advanced in sophistication for domestic and commercial heating, and air conditioning, with intelligent controls that encourage us all to save money and energy becoming ever more popular. The most basic control is direct digital control, with most controllers being programmable to include timing schedules, setpoints, trend logs and alarms. In addition, these controllers usually have inputs that allow measurement of variables – temperature, humidity and pressure, and in direct correlation, outputs that control system processes and modulation.

More complex HVAC systems can interface with building automation systems, allowing building owners to control their heating and cooling. The building owner or its facilities management team can monitor the systems remotely and control what happens in that building or group of buildings. This remote control method is generally applied with dedicated gateways, capable of connecting advanced variable refrigerant flow and split HVAC systems to home automation and building management systems, utilising various user interfaces.

HVAC controls in commercial settings are more important than ever and vital in providing good indoor air quality. For example, removing contaminants, odours, and particulates is key to providing a decent working environment, and increasingly in the UK, this is extending to HVAC in the home. Particularly in inner-city areas, there is a requirement to ensure that the indoor air quality inside the house is acceptable to protect people from dirty air and the common ailments this can cause – after a considerable increase in levels of asthma and other chronic long term respiratory diseases.

Modern HVAC systems are increasingly providing additional levels of air ‘cleaning’ to remove even the finest dust and particulates from air circulating in a workplace or a home. 

Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards

HVAC legislation has seen significant changes in recent years. Two primary reasons have prompted these changes: reducing high carbon footprints and a growing urgency to tackle climate change issues. In 2018 we saw the introduction of the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standard (MEES), which restricts new leases on existing commercial buildings unless the property secures an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of E or above. Future legislation will ramp up this approach, and we will see increased emphasis on energy recovery solutions to maximise the reuse of potentially lost and wasted energy.

VRF application

VRF air conditioning has already been proved to be highly energy efficient. Still, new legislation relating to leak detection requirements and limits on existing refrigerants will need to see further changes in installation techniques and the refrigerants we use. On top of the benefits of simultaneous zonal cooling and heating control, VRF air conditioning systems benefit from their flexibility and modular design. Several outdoor units can be linked together to increase the capacity of a system and increase the possibility of energy recovery. 

VRF equipment connects to some of the most advanced, intuitive and innovative control solutions, many with web access and gateway functions enabling users on their respective smart devices to monitor and control tasks without limitations easily. Intuitive user interfaces help owners conveniently check the operating status of their air conditioning system and its schedules at a glance. As owners can visually check a unit that wastes energy, they can easily adjust the energy consumption to reduce inefficiency and lower running costs. 

As a result, air conditioning equipment, in its broadest definition, can play a big part in reducing a building’s overall energy load through tighter control algorithms and further environmental benefits such as improved air quality, low noise levels and reduced footprints.

Better controls and improved systems are constantly being developed to meet the forever changing legislation to decrease our impact on the environment. Controls technology is clearly an area ripe for further improvement as the requirements of our HVAC systems become ever more demanding.