Coolautomation product manager, Roy Muchtar, looks at how the global pandemic has impacted the world of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC).
The Coronavirus impacted the world with a force and suddenness that touched almost everything we know. No one really knows how deep or long the impact will be, but there is a consensus that many of the ways we have operated and acted in the past will have to change moving forward.
Since most of the world’s population is under a social distancing regime, and are spending more time at home, people are investing in home comfort. This includes ensuring HVAC systems provide the right comfort level, i.e. temperature, humidity, and a growing demand for fresh air circulation.
It’s not just about opening a window there is a growing awareness of systems and technologies to automate better standards of air quality.
Once social distancing regimes are relaxed, people will carry this new awareness to their office environment and demand air quality standards are improved at work.
This in turn, will fuel adjustments in HVAC operations in commercial facilities. The coming months, and possibly years, may include cycles of regular business operations and periods of partial-work-from-home or shutdowns triggered by governments to try and control the rates of infection.
This means office buildings will cycle through quick periods of near 100 per cent occupancy to almost zero occupancy and will have to do so effectively.
Maintaining building systems and office spaces ready for all occupancy rates, optimized to allow comfort for each level, all while keeping energy consumption efficient, is a challenge for any facility manager at normal times. Doing so in a dynamically changing occupancy environment, will make it much more complex.
Building systems are designed to work at high occupancy rates. Operating it at low occupancy rates for long periods, with the ability to ramp up very quickly, requires good planning, as well as the tools to easily move between operating regimes.
HVAC technical service organizations and HVAC contractors will have to transition to a new way of providing services.
The current model, which involves sending a technician on-site to address every service call will be challenging in an environment of ever-changing travel restrictions.
It isn’t easy to service a vacant building (unfortunately HVAC problems can occur even if nobody is at the office…). Someone needs to be on-site to grant building access, ensure everything is working and then test the system at different loads.
Even in a vacant building HVAC requires ongoing monitoring.
There will still be times tenants will alert owners/managers if the temperature is too high/low or if comfort has deteriorated.
But if the building is empty, these issues may only be noticed when occupants come in and may render the environment potentially uninhabitable (consider a glass office building in summer without air conditioning for a week).
These considerations emphasize the importance of tools that will allow service teams remote access and control. Technicians will need monitoring tools, diagnostics and easy access via an app.
The Coronavirus crisis is one of the defining challenges of our times. For the HVAC world as for every other aspect of our lives, this will mean making critical adjustments in how we live, work and travel. The good news in the HVAC world is that technology around big data, the cloud and IOT will allow us to make this transition an efficient one.
About the Author
Roy Muchtar is product manager of Coolautomation with years of industry experience. His focus is in the various fields of remote system management, data processing, advanced analytics, smart devices, digital health, IoT, and communication. Roy holds a B.Sc in Computer Science & Economic from the University of Jerusalem and an MBA from Tel Aviv University.