MANDI, 24th April 2023: A team of researchers from Indian Institute of Technology Mandi have collaborated with a scientist from Université de Lorraine, France, to develop a novel algorithm that automatically detects operational failures in Heating Ventilation and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) systems installed in buildings.
The results of this research have been published in the Journal of Building Performance Simulation in a paper coauthored by Dr Tushar Jain, Associate Professor, School of Computing and Electrical Engineering and his research scholar Dr Mona Subramaniam from IIT Mandi and his collaborator Dr Joseph J. Yamé from Université de Lorraine, France
Heating Ventilation and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) systems are essential for maintaining the thermal comfort of occupants inside buildings. HVAC systems employing Variable Air Volume (VAV) terminal boxes offer an energy-efficient solution to maintain the thermal comfort of occupants inside the building. A VAV box sends a controlled amount of processed air inside each zone of the building.
The sensors and dampers in VAV boxes can become faulty and need repairs. However, detecting and identifying these faults manually is a slow, costly, and error-prone process. Delays in detecting and fixing the faults in HVAC systems can lead to indoor environmental issues, such as poor thermal comfort and indoor air quality, affecting occupant health and productivity. This also results in the wastage of energy, thereby reducing building energy efficiency. Research suggests that faults in HVAC systems could increase the energy consumption of buildings by 4% to 18%.
To address this problem, IIT Mandi researchers have developed an automated fault detection and diagnosis (FDD) algorithm that integrates with the building automation system (BAS) or building energy management system (BEMS). This system helps maintenance crews identify and predict potential failures, analyze their impact, determine their importance to the BAS, and quickly direct repairs, ensuring that the system is always available.
Describing the technical details of the development, Dr Tushar Jain, IIT Mandi said, “Our algorithm is robust against unmeasured disturbances and sensor noise, particularly the outdoor temperature, which affects the thermal dynamics of the building.”
The researchers used the SIMBAD software, based on MATLAB, to simulate a one-storey building with three zones and show how well the developed algorithms work. They tested four different single and multiple VAV damper fault cases in two different scenarios.
IIT Mandi’s algorithm can be retrofitted with existing BAS/BEMS without additional hardware installation. The algorithm is strong enough to handle uncertainties such as the outside weather conditions and the number of occupants in the building. This means that building engineers do not have to simplify the thermal dynamics model or use basic rule-based control or monitor algorithms that don't work well. The algorithm also estimates wall temperatures, which is important in predicting faults.
When added to the HVAC automation system, this algorithm developed by the IIT Mandi researchers can enhance the energy efficiency of buildings and enhance the comfort of occupants. It is a cost-effective approach that can help building operators save time and money by detecting and automatically addressing HVAC issues, reducing downtime, and lowering energy costs.
This algorithm is a testament to the innovative capabilities of IIT Mandi researchers and their commitment to advancing the building automation industry through cutting-edge technology.
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