Established in 2006, Sir Joseph Swan Centre for Energy Research (or SWAN centre) is a community of sustainability and energy researchers and academics across various disciplines that involves biofuels and biomass, fuel cells and hydrogen, PV and solar thermal and sensing and monitoring technologies. It coordinates research across traditional discipline boundaries aiming to make a lasting contribution to some of the main global research challenges in the field of sustainability.
One such challenge is to identify and demonstrate techniques that account for social and technical factors to radically reduce resource consumption, eliminate associated waste and mitigate pollution effects on whole ecosystems.
As part of their efforts to tackle this challenge, the SWAN centre has launched a research programme that involves the thermal comfort and energy monitoring of a high performance dwelling built to Passive House standard with the aim of enabling a comparative and optimisation study. The programme will enable the monitoring and compilation of real world data in order to quantify the benefits of increased fabric insulation properties and air-tightness in a moderate climate similar to that of British Isles.
The first test property is a two-storey detached single family house located in Durham, North East England. This is a new build timber construction (2014) that meets Passivhaus standards. The house comprises entrance hall, living room, dining room, kitchen, office room, utility room, family room, bathroom, three bedrooms and en-suite and features and advanced thermal design to passive house standards for the external wall, floor, roof, windows and doors. Heating, whole house ventilation, solar PV and rainwater harvesting systems are also incorporated.
A vital element in this programme was the deployment of an energy and environmental monitoring solution capable or recording a very comprehensive set of real world data for extensive analysis.
In 2014, scientists from the University of Newcastle started their search for a system that could “measure temperature and other environmental factors, as well as energy usage” and “quantify performance against the average UK house”, SWAN’s Dr Mohammad Royapoor told the HeatingSave reporter.
However, finding a system to fit all of their specific requirements has not been an easy task. “We’ve spent a long time looking for the best technology to fit our needs, and the search finally led us to HeatingSave”, Dr. Royapoor explained.
Following thorough analysis, the team of researchers decided that the HeatingSave Energy Monitor ticked all the boxes. When asked what was the main reason behind their decision, Mohammad’s answer was, ”the option to remotely access data, as well as the peace of mind that data is stored locally, at monitor level, which means that data loss is kept at a minimum. Plus, the sensors are fully integrated in the system, which makes HeatingSave a complete package ready to deliver useful data right out of the box.”
The HeatingSave Energy Monitor is a Zig 2.4 Mhz wireless mesh network wireless management system that collects information from sensors placed in a building. Originally developed for the BRE, the system can collect up to 6 times a minute internal and external temperature, relative humidity, energy usage, carbon dioxide, light levels, watts per meter radiation, noise levels, volatile organic compounds and other environmental data along with information on how the heating system works. The heat-loss algorithms and other HeatingSave features such as TRV’s also allow the HeatingSave monitor to be turned into an energy and security management system proved to cut heating bills by between 20% and 50%.
HeatingSave may be used in all building types – residential, public and commercial and also monitors the way a building is used in terms of its occupancy and the occupants’ activities and lifestyles. It provides a clear understanding of the real impact of energy efficiency measures, for example through pre-installation analysis and post-installation monitoring.
The HeatingSave Energy Monitoring System was installed by the SWAN centre on their test site in mid-2015 and Mohammad described the process as simple and intuitive. He said: “We installed the system ourselves, with support from the HeatingSave helpdesk. The installation process was really easy and straightforward, and went very smoothly. We only had a few minor issues with the range of the wireless Zig 2.4 Mhz wireless mesh network products, but adding repeaters to the system solved the problems.”
Researchers and scientists at the University of Newcastle are actively using the Heating Save Monitoring System and are very happy with the results it’s provided thus far: ”We are currently using the monitoring system at its full potential. We have experimented with various patterns and running data analytics – and things are really starting to get exciting now!”
The HeatingSave reporter asked Mohammad what he liked most about the HeatingSave Energy Monitor. “Other competitor products can monitor either energy consumption or various environmental parameters (temperature, humidity, CO2, etc.). HeatingSave monitors all of them and delivers the data in a very consistent, consolidated manner. This, I think, is the system’s main strength” was his reply.
Unobtrusive room sensors, using the Zig 2.4 Mhz wireless mesh network HA protocol, measure living temperatures throughout the building, whilst a weather-proof sensor placed on an outer wall measures the ambient temperature outside. Zig 2.4 Mhz wireless mesh network based sensors, similar to temperature sensors, measure RH and CO2 concentrations each minute, whilst the occupancy sensors gather in-use data.
Furthermore, Zig 2.4 Mhz wireless mesh network pulse counting sensors accurately measure each minute the electricity, gas, oil and water consumed. The HeatingSave Monitor software converts this information into kilowatt-hours (kWh) and calculates the notional CO2 emissions for each of the fuel sources.
Mohammad’s verdict on the user-friendly nature of the HeatingSave Energy Monitoring System was, “HeatingSave offers a single access point for the whole solution, which makes it highly intuitive. The remote access feature also makes it very easy to access the required data for analysis.”
Using a password protected standard WiFi connection, sensors can quickly be set up to review and quantitatively analyse the data with user-friendly software graphics, via a laptop, PC, mobile phone or tablet-based device. This information is presented using a Dashboard system that provides consolidated and drill down views of the energy use data via the MyHeatingSave.com website.
Dr. Royapoor added that he is very happy with the quality of the after-sale service from HeatingSave: “We have contacted the HeatingSave Helpdesk on a number of occasions and the service was consistently good”.
The SWAN centre has further plans for the HeatingSave Energy Monitor. “We hope to secure the necessary funding in order to repeat this monitoring experiment and extend it to a second property – a rural, remote farm with no access to mains gas that relies largely on renewable energy sources for daily use,” Mohammad told the HeatingSave reporter.
When asked whether he would recommend the HeatingSave Energy Monitor to other researchers in the energy efficiency segment, Mohammad’s enthusiastic answer was ”Yes, I would certainly do so. I have used the system extensively and I am really happy with it!”
Summing up his experience of HeatingSave, Dr Mohammad Royapoor said: ”HeatingSave is an excellent fully integrated remotely accessible whole building performance monitoring package that enabled us to run a complete and comprehensive analysis our test building’s energy efficiency.”
Sir Joseph Swan Centre for Energy Research,
University of Newcastle
Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU, United Kingdom
Phone: +44 (0) 191 208 6169
*Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Newcastle University or SWAN centre.