TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Engineering researchers at The University of Alabama are part of a nationwide project to find ways of reducing energy used to heat, cool and ventilate buildings.
Dr. Zheng O’Neill, UA assistant professor of mechanical engineering, is leading a team developing testing standards and control strategies for sensors used to control heating, ventilation and air conditioning, or HVAC, in commercial and residential buildings.
The goal is to provide a way for those who manage HVAC systems to know sensors work efficiently when detecting human movement and occupancy to control heating, cooling and ventilation.
“When we complete the work, we should be able to say that if we use this kind of sensor-driven control strategy, we can achieve HVAC energy savings of at least 30 percent,” O’Neill said.
UA received nearly $1.5 million from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E, through its Saving Energy Nationwide in Structures with Occupancy Recognition, or SENSOR, program.
About 13 percent of all energy produced in the United States is used to heat, cool and ventilate buildings, with much of it wasted—used when buildings are unoccupied or not fully occupied. The SENSOR program supports innovative and highly accurate presence sensors and occupant counters that optimize HVAC of buildings while reducing cost and slashing energy use.
SENSOR project teams can take advantage of existing low-cost wireless and electronic communication technologies and could reduce HVAC energy usage by 30 percent, while simultaneously addressing user requirements for cost, privacy and usability.