How to use renewable energy to power ventilation systems

Wykorzystanie energii odnawialnej w zasilaniu systemów wentylacyjnych

How to minimise the demand for electricity in ventilation systems? How to reduce installation costs and material consumption? These are questions that keep ventilation experts all over the world up at night. In the race to reduce energy consumption and in striving for low-carbon construction, efficient airflow management is a challenge that the entire industry must tackle.

New ECO solutions from SMAY

SMAY’s R&D department always considers the environment and the need to reduce CO2 emissions during installation and subsequent operation when working on new ventilation solutions. Our engineers test various solutions and look for new technologies that could be used in ventilation units, so the company takes part in scientific research and co-operates with universities and environmental organisations. It also closely follows developments in science and technology.

It was during one of the conferences on low-carbon construction, mainly the PLGBC Green Building Summit in Warsaw — where Olga Malinkiewicz discussed the use and break-through capabilities of perovskites — that our team linked up with a company working on obtaining energy through the use of perovskite solar panels.

CAV regulator operated by an actuator made of perovskite cells

The system consists of an actuating module that is tasked with adjusting the actuator of a ventilation unit. In previously used wireless solutions that included an HVAC unit and an electric actuator, the components were powered by silicon-based photovoltaic cells. Our innovative solution uses perovskite cells instead. Due to their unique design, they offer outstanding efficiency in both sunlight and reflected (i.e. artificial) light. Additionally, they do not require a particular incidence angle.

Why are we betting on perovskites?

In the case of silicon-based cells, light should ideally hit the panel surface at a ninety-degree angle. In turn, perovskite cells do not require a particular incidence angle. They can thus be installed in any position. Another benefit of perovskite cells is that they can be printed on a plastic film. This flexibility makes it easier to adapt the cells to any surface or object geometry.

Airflow regulator powered by a perovskite panel

An actuating module synchronised with a CAV airflow regulator consists of a perovskite panel that is connected to a charging system and a battery connected to a circuit board. The energy generated by the perovskite panel powers the circuit board and an electric actuator. The circuit board receives a radio signal and sends information to the actuator, so that it can adjust the angle of an HVAC unit damper.

The unit does not require any external wiring to supply electricity or any external control signal. Additionally, it is equipped with a pairing/disconnect button that allows a given module to be assigned to a particular control channel.

Less wiring provides significant savings during HVAC solution installation

The system in question solves the issue of providing a power source to ventilation units, as perovskite panels can generate electricity from both reflected light and sunlight. Under proper conditions, the amount of electricity generated from reflected (artificial) light is sufficient to supply the energy needed to adjust the HVAC unit actuator and thus to ensure energy balance.

Storing energy thanks to perovskite panels

A battery connected to a perovskite panel can store an appropriate amount of energy to ensure good device performance, should artificial light or sunlight become scarce. At the same time, an actuating module attached to an HVAC unit is properly optimised (a built-in microcontroller) to save energy stored in the battery when it’s not used.

How does it work?

The microcontroller in the module only activates the rest of the electric circuit upon receiving an external signal. It requires a minimum amount of electricity while waiting for a signal. The system in question makes it easier to adjust electric actuators in ventilation units by means of a wireless control signal.

The ability to install the module with a battery in any position ensures a wide range of applications in existing HVAC systems.

Saving energy… and space during installation

Moreover, when an HVAC unit is installed above a dropped ceiling, perovskite panels can be located on the dropped ceiling surface and still efficiently manage the air flow. The panels are incredibly thin, which only slightly increases the overall regulator dimensions, which is important when there is limited room for HVAC units within a ventilated space.

Radio communication controller

The controller is responsible for radio communication with the actuating module. It uses radio waves to send information to the microcontroller attached to an actuating module. The device requires external power supply (24 V AC/DC) and can communicate with one or more actuating modules at the same time. In order to avoid power failures between floors, we recommend using at least one controller per floor.

Controller features

The controller can store and reset the number of actuating module activations. The above feature detects undesired activation attempts, in order to optimise and limit the amount of energy used by the actuating module.
Other controller features:

  • Communication over RS485
  • Analogue control 0–10 V
  • Actuating module addressing
  • Compact design

The controller can be connected to air quality sensors, including carbon dioxide, temperature and humidity sensors. This enables individual comfort parameter adjustments within rooms.

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