FALL 2017

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A s front-line components in HVACR systems, sensors are playing an ever-expanding role in helping drive many of these trends forward. The biggest trends in commercial HVACR are tied to commercial building systems becom- ing more connected, efficient and responsive. This is in part, but not solely, due to tightening regulatory constraints. Commercial buildings use more than $190 billion in energy every year. While the Department of Energy and other agencies have set sights on reducing the impact commercial buildings have on the environment, building owners have their own rea- sons to demand more innovation and efficiency from their HVACR systems. The following six trends have emerged as a result. TREND 1: EVOLVING REGULATIONS Over the last several years, there's been pressure to cut commercial energy consumption. The pressure's been so steady, in fact, that by 2023, HVACR efficiencies will be required to have improved by 50 percent over 20 years ago. This may read as old news to some, but many of the newer regulations are just now going into effect. With these new regulations, new solutions will be needed to expand upon existing efficiency efforts. Sensors are often at the core of those solutions. Take, for example, the DOE's Direct Final Rule 79 FR 17725, which went into effect in March 2017. This rule requires maximum daily energy consumption for certain commercial refrigeration products to be reduced by 30-60 percent. In the rule, the DOE called for greater efficiency to defrost mechanisms. There was debate as to whether the rulemaking committee's compliance date was achievable, because some thought there'd be too much research and development needed to improve defrost sensors to meet the DOE's goal. The DOE responded by outlining a solution that would use an optical sensor or temperature sensor to detect the temperature differential across the evaporator coil. As a result of these and other regulations, the industry is also seeing a trend toward more accurate sensors and more sensors per system. Many of the older HVAC systems used temperature or pressure switches as part of their control schemes. Today, however, controls have evolved to almost exclusively using sensors rather than switches. This change allows for much finer control and enhanced efficiency. The number of sensors per system is also increasing as manufacturers look for finer control of the overall system and the ability to modulate the system. Most of the systems today can run at a variety of speeds or levels, which not only increases the efficiency of the systems, but also improves the overall comfort of the occupants since the temperature and humidity of the space do not fluctuate as much. TREND 2: INTEGRATIONS AND CONNECTIONS The ability to tie together multiple building components — along with other systems — is not a new trend and certainly not new to contractors and engineers. Enabling heating, cooling and lighting systems to work together can mean big gains in efficiencies for commercial buildings. Among temperature sensors, pressure sensors and humidity sensors, the latter have been the biggest change to the equation, as they directly correspond to human comfort, while allowing systems to put less stress on temperature control. Another under-discussed piece of the puzzle: wireless sensors for future flexibility. Digital sensors, on the other hand, have improved the resolution in recent years and are approaching the levels of resolution offered by analog sensors. They also offer more flexibility in terms of the amount and type of information provided to the control system. This helps create systems that can be more easily adjusted and upgraded throughout their lifecycles. TREND 3: GETTING SMART Similar to the industry's move toward greater integration is its move toward smarter systems and increased smart communication with energy grids. A popular approach to smart systems is to add a level of automation to zoned commercial HVACR. In these setups, commercial HVACR systems rely on a variety of sensors placed throughout the building to heat, cool or circulate air in those specific zones. Smart HVACR systems go one step further than the "on/off " zoned ap- proach: They learn how much heating, cooling and ventilation is needed by collecting data and automating that functionality so manual tweaking of thermostats is no longer needed. Pressure sensors, for example, can monitor maintenance needs in real time for things like airflow, blocked filters and the like. In a commercial building with hundreds of zones (or even room-specific zones), this ability to closely monitor maintenance needs helps systems meet their promised levels of efficiency. For zoned systems to be efficient and effective, they require accurate and reliable sensors to control each zone. When paired with smart grid systems, this allows key usage data to be sent back to the utility companies. Top six HVACR trends advancing the industry, driving efficiency B Y D E V I N B R O C K UPPING THE GAME A small, ceramic-based, PCB-mounted diff erential pressure sensor with an analog output signal. This modular wireless pressure transducer is enclosed in a stainless steel and polycarbonate housing. HVACPproducts.com HVAC & Plumbing Product News \ Fall 2017 18

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