Swiss researchers have created a brain for the central heating and air conditioning system with one goal in mind: energy efficiency. Now, after spinning off the technology into a new startup called Neurobat, they're preparing to launch the self-learning control module into the marketplace.
Most central heating systems react to a single parameter -- the outside temperature -- when regulating the output. Researchers at Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne developed a system that uses multiple parameters and then learns what is best for your house by incorporating sensors and a layer of intelligence modeled on an artificial neuronal network. Neurobat (as in neuron and batiment, the French word for building) developed a system that uses sensors to determine the outside temperature, the level of sunlight and the way the dwelling reacts to conditions and then uses that information to make adjustments to the central heating system. Data from the sensors are integrated into a regulator that can be adapted to most existing central heating installations, according to the startup.
The major innovation of the control module is its ability learn. Engineers at Neurobat created tech that allows the control system to collect and record incoming data and then link them together in order to learn. The more it "learns," the smarter and more predictive it gets. The control system is even able to react to unintentional thermal sources including passive solar irradiation as well as heat generated by people (say from a Saturday night party), equipment and machines. Eventually, the system establishes predictive meteorological models specific to that home, making it more precise and less expensive than those provided by meteorological offices. The patented technology was developed with support from the Swiss Federal Office of Energy and the Commission for Technology and Innovation in Bern in collaboration with the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology.
The control systems have been piloted since 2000. In the most recent tests, conducted over the 2010-11 heating season, residential and commercials buildings in Switzerland reported energy savings between 28 percent and 65 percent -- all while maintaining a comfortable environment, the company says.
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