• Ellie Gabel.
    Ellie Gabel.

Freelance journalist Ellie Gabel explains the role of HVAC in a connected world.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has expanded into almost every industry, and the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) sector is no exception.

Smart heating and cooling systems have made it easier than ever to save energy, support the expansion of renewable technology and enable predictive maintenance. Here’s how smart HVAC will play a pivotal role in a data-driven future. 

A 2018 McKinsey analysis predicted heavy industries could reduce maintenance costs by 18 to 25 per cent by changing their digital maintenance strategies, including adopting predictive maintenance. Unlike preventive maintenance, which occurs on a schedule, predictive maintenance uses AI or IoT sensors to forecast when a device needs servicing. 

Smart HVAC systems, especially those with consolidated cooling and heating equipment, are highly compatible with predictive maintenance technologies. Sensors can detect problems early, allowing power companies or homeowners to maintain equipment before a more serious problem occurs. This strategy reduces energy waste, downtime and unnecessary expenses. 

Using less electricity during peak demand periods alleviates strain on the energy grid. It helps avoid grid failures, brownouts and wasted energy by balancing the supply and demand of electricity. Additionally, it reduces grid congestion and supply interruptions.

Smart HVAC systems let power companies track customers’ energy consumption in real time. If the software predicts a potential grid failure on the horizon, utility companies can rapidly notify customers that they should use less power. AI-based HVAC systems also let utilities switch to backup power or on-site generation if necessary.

Creating a more stable electric grid protects people during storms and extreme temperatures. It keeps critical devices like heaters, refrigerators and medical equipment operational during severe weather events. By stabilizing the energy grid, utility companies can save lives and earn people’s trust. 

Energy conservation is one of the most significant benefits of using smart HVAC systems. Heating and cooling accounts for 38 per cent of a building’s energy consumption, so smarter HVAC technology can make a big difference in electricity usage.

Smart thermostats measure and report a building’s energy use to the owners and the power company. During peak demand periods, a smart thermostat can automatically adjust the temperature by a few degrees to lower energy consumption. It can track a building’s electricity use patterns over time to accommodate people’s needs better.

An IoT-connected HVAC system can also create reports showing people how much electricity they use and when. These insights can help people determine how to reduce their energy consumption, prompting people to renovate buildings or change their daily habits.

Decreasing energy use benefits the environment by reducing the amount of coal, oil and natural gas needed to power buildings. In turn, it lowers greenhouse gas emissions. It also minimizes the need to maintain old standby energy plants or construct new ones, saving additional fuel and materials that would otherwise have to be mined or harvested.

More people are switching to wind and solar power than ever before. Because these renewable energy sources are not always available during periods of peak demand, it becomes necessary to store excess energy for later use and make it available as people need it.

Intuitive demand response programs connected to smart HVAC systems could make it easier to use renewable energy in daily life. These programs could inform building owners with on-site renewable power generation and batteries when to use, store or sell their energy. 

There has never been a greater need to conserve energy and build a stable grid that supports wind and solar power. Unlikely as it may seem, the HVAC sector will play an important part in realizing these goals. By harnessing the power of AI and machine learning, IoT-connected heating and cooling systems can help build a more sustainable future.

About the author

Ellie Gabel is a US-based freelance writer living passionate about science and technology and how it impacts our lives. When she's not writing or working as the Associate Editor for Revolutionized, you can find her spending time with her two cats.