Smart technology for efficiency

Uponor demonstrates how smart technology is a necessity in buildings to improve efficiency, cost, energy reduction and ease

From doorbells and security cameras to appliances and cooking utensils, smart technology which allows products and gadgets to be controlled via an app or voice command is becoming ever present in modern buildings.

Heating and cooling within a building is one area in which smart technology can be used to provide a range of improvements for end users including increased comfort and productivity as well as reduced environmental impact and energy bills.

 An appropriate solution

Underfloor heating (UFH), in particular, is a solution which can be efficiently integrated with smart technology. Installed within the floor of a building, UFH is deemed an ‘invisible’ solution which achieves either heating or cooling without the need for radiators or electric heaters. Unlike radiators, UFH primarily transfer heat by radiation, which means it distributes heat evenly across a whole building or room, ensuring a thermally comfortable environment at all times.

An absence of radiators also enables complete design freedom with layout and flexibility when it comes to arranging furniture, fixtures and fittings. It also works in perfect partnership with the majority of floor coverings, meaning no design preference is off limits. What’s more, as radiators transfer heat mainly via convection currents, they can increase the amount of dust circulating around a room. The use of UFH mitigates this.

Integrating technology

In response to the ever-increasing appetite for smart technology and connected buildings, some UFH manufacturers have introduced smart controls for their solutions. Most, including the Smatrix Pulse from Uponor, are compatible with the Amazon Alexa and Google Home devices, meaning heating and cooling can be managed by voice-activated commands.

The smart controls can link to an app meaning the temperature can be adjusted from anywhere via a smartphone or tablet, helping end users to achieve the ideal temperature within every room from wherever they are. Featuring the latest encryption technology with the very best data protection, some smart systems also allow access rights to installers, allowing them to check the system or make improvements without them having to revisit the building.

Improving efficiency

With the UK government pledging to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, there is a growing requirement for sustainable buildings. When you consider that 40% of the UK’s carbon footprint is attributed to the built environment, half of which comes from the energy used within buildings, the need to focus on implementing more sustainable heating and cooling systems is clear.

UFH runs at a lower overall temperature than traditional heating systems whilst generating similar heat output. This means it requires fewer energy resources, making it a more environmentally friendly solution. This efficiency can be further enhanced with the use of smart controls. Whilst using a traditional thermostat to control UFH can result in a 3-4-degree variance in room temperature past the set point, smart controls allow the system time to switch on and off from its set point meaning the degree variance is prevented, resulting in an even more energy efficient solution.

Uponor’s UFH smart controls, in particular, also include additional features including weather forecasts and auto-balancing technology which monitors the temperature of each room and immediately reacts to changes in the environment. This technology provides a 20% energy saving compared to a normal unbalanced system.

Another smart way

Another increasingly popular ‘invisible’ solution to achieving optimum heating and cooling within a building is via the use of Thermally Active Building Systems (TABS). TABS use the concrete mass of the structure to store and exchange thermal energy, by circulating warm or cool water through pipes embedded within the slab of ceilings and/or walls. This noiseless process takes advantage of the exposed surface of the ceiling slab in order to provide cooling or heating to the room below. The system can be used to both heat and cool a building, meaning that in the colder months, heat is radiated to the space below and in warmer months, cooling is provided to the space below.

While UFH systems are always installed into flooring, TABS can also be installed in the walls or ceiling, offering additional flexibility. The system is mainly used in new structures and can comply with all types of concrete construction methods. Moreover, contractors can benefit from 30-50% lower installation costs, due to smaller refrigeration, smaller heating units and reduced air-conditioning ducting.

Alongside the installation cost savings, TABS can be up to 30% more cost efficient in the life cycle of a building compared to alternative conventional HVAC systems and creates a significantly improved indoor environment benefitting of the personal health and work productivity of those occupying the building. This solution is perfect for use with renewable energy sources making it ideally suited for modern, sustainable buildings. The option to deliver heating and cooling from the ceiling can also offer several advantages. For example, it is easier to leave a ceiling exposed to the room below, creating a better radiating surface to occupants and objects, in turn making the building more habitable.

TABS can be used to efficiently achieve an ideal indoor climate and require minimal overall maintenance, with savings occurred during the construction and installation phase as well as during the lifetime of the system. What’s more, Uponor TABS are compliant with sustainability certificates for buildings, including LEED, BREEAM and DGB, helping to add to their environmental credentials.

Enhancing comfort

When used correctly, smart technology helps to provide practical solutions which make the lives of end-users easier and more comfortable. This is particularly the case when integrated with heating and cooling systems such as UFH and TABS which already provide a number of benefits to the end user. Whilst previously considered as energy intensive and expensive, advances in technology have allowed manufacturers to utilise advanced systems and smart controls to provide heating and cooling solutions which are energy efficient.

Discover more about smart technology here.

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