A low-cost centralized HVAC control system solution for energy savings, load shedding, and improved maintenance
University campuses rely on centralized controls for managing and optimizing complex HVAC systems in larger buildings. However, most campuses also have many smaller buildings with packaged HVAC systems controlled by a stand-alone thermostat. Even when these distributed and often overlooked systems have modern programmable thermostats, they cannot be centrally monitored or controlled, and they are typically not programmed adequately.
This paper describes the implementation of a low-cost centralized control solution for these systems serving smaller campus buildings, mostly under 5,000 sf and representative of light commercial spaces. Thanks to advances in technology spurred by residential and commercial IoT developments, simple networked thermostat solutions exist that can easily replace original thermostats, and, connect these systems to a web-based portal for monitoring and control. We show that, with small customizations, these platforms can be integrated into facility management workflows. Beyond the energy savings potential from improved scheduling and closer management of these systems, there are significant advantages for maintenance crews since these systems can now be monitored on smart phones or tablets. A grid-responsive load-shedding program has also been implemented for additional cost savings. The networked thermostats can also be connected to additional systems such as economizer controls for improved ventilation management and energy savings. With data from these systems integrated centrally, it can also be used for improved analytics and fault detection.
A toolkit has been developed to share the program with other campuses, whether for energy savings, improved management of ventilation, or a more proactive maintenance approach.