Bringing Building Automation to Residential Projects
Climate Automation Systems installed its env residential solution at Castel Des Flots Bleus Senior Home in Cap-Pele, New Brunswick, Canada, that extends across 110 zones, four heat pump units, three air handling units, several cooling fan coil units, dozens of circulator pumps and two large buffer tanks.
But how do you handle multi-zone, large-scale estates with radiant heat flooring, temperature sensors, boilers, pumps and other devices, while at the same time monitoring energy use? It’s not easy unless you have a sophisticated (and expensive) system typically only available in commercial environments.
That’s the dilemma faced by Ron Antinori, a software developer who initially retired with feelings of professional fulfillment - before he decided to build a house.
“I discovered this whole world of radiant heating,” says Antinori, on his way to founding Climate Automation Systems, an Incline Village, Nev.-based HVAC company that “merges technology with home environments to increase homeowner comfort and balance energy consumption with nature.”
For his house, Antinori requested ground-source heat pumps to work in conjunction with radiant tubing throughout every floor. The contractors were unfamiliar with the components, and the initial system performance was underwhelming as a result.
“My software experience was programming mission-critical applications for the banking industry to help them save money,” he says. “I knew this system wasn’t working right and that it was using huge amounts of energy, so I was forced to make it work. I figured that my software background would allow me to develop a system that would run on the computer and manage all of this compact equipment.”
Antinori soon launched Climate Automation Systems and developed env, a hardware and software-based system that goes beyond what thermostats can do to create proper temperature zones inside a home. The technology brings intelligent climate control technologies previously exclusive to large-scale commercial buildings into the residential and mid-range commercial market.
For example, Climate Automation Systems’ env is private-labeled under the name RSC by REHAU, a global polymer processing company. Its system uses the same env hardware and software to control complex, integrated commercial HVAC systems. The result is a system that in at least one instance offers improved climate control and saved a builder $20,000 in traditional HVAC and thermostat costs on an MDU senior housing project.
How It Works
Within env, Antinori relies on other products as well to deliver complete solutions for his customers. That includes DataNab networked I/O devices for monitoring and control and Kele building automation, which integrates the entire solution within its compact enclosures.
In a typical project, the I/O devices connect to the central env (or private-labeled) computer through an intranet communication link on one side, and connect to temperature sensors, pumps, boilers and other devices on the outputs. One recent residential project on a home overlooking the Potomac River spread 15 DataNab devices across three mechanical rooms to manage and control the HVAC systems and to monitor energy usage.
“We’re establishing proper temperature readings and equipment status, and sending commands out through the DataNab hardware so that the end devices operate as they should,” notes Antinori.
Cost was the biggest challenge for Antinori bringing this solution to the residential market.
“The DataNab devices are extremely cost-efficient,” he says. “The types of devices they compete with are very expensive. These cost half to one-third the price of competing devices, without losing features. It gives us the opportunity to combine our solution with their hardware and deliver a total solution for the contractor that is nicely priced.”
Antinori points to several features that benefit the installing contractors. The first is a hand switch that the contractor can use to confirm wiring and connections are secure at the device. While this seems basic, it’s essentially a manual, sliding “on” switch, Antinori says it saves contractors hours of headaches during commissioning.
“Just knowing device by device that everything is connected is very helpful, as it immediately confirms that you have a wiring problem if the device doesn’t turn on,” he says.
Saving $20K on Residential MDU Project
Antinori recently worked with REHAU to deliver a residential solution at Castel Des Flots Bleus Senior Home in Cap-Pele, New Brunswick, Canada, that extends the entire solution across 110 zones, four heat pump units, three air handling units, several cooling fan coil units, dozens of circulator pumps and two large buffer tanks. The solution eliminates about $20,000 in thermostats off the bat with the use of wall plate temperature sensors.
Kele wired the enclosures in advance and shipped the hardware to the contractor in charge of the Cap-Pele project. Once delivered, the contractor installed the RSC software on the central computer and implemented the sequence of operations to ensure efficient, building-wide energy usage and control.
Antinori says this process equates to big savings for both the contractor and the end user. For the contractor, it eliminates the headaches of connecting devices, establishing relays and debugging systems among other tasks.
“Getting everything to talk to each other can be a headache, and the commissioning process is labor-intensive, especially if the contractor can’t figure out what’s wrong,” he says. “Everything home-runs to the Kele cabinet - the contractor brings in all the wires, hooks up our computer and enters the sequence of operations, which he can do from his office. Nothing could be simpler for the contractor.”
Antinori says his software provides an online tool where contractors can visualize all the connections and gather reports, statistics and other data. The contractor can visualize a pump coming on, see the entire sequence of operations and make changes as needed without going back to the site.
He says all of this ultimately lowers costs for the homeowner, a benefit that should be considered of equal importance for the contractor.
“This saves the homeowner money, too, because of all the labor and hardware eliminated,” says Antinori. “And we can minimize ongoing costs by managing everything off-site. All the homeowner wants to do is look at his room temperatures, keep costs low and change the occasional setpoint. That ultimately makes for a good relationship between the homeowner and contractor.”