How KNX can improve energy efficiency and comfort levels

by FM Media
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How KNX – the world’s only standard for home and building automation – can improve energy efficiency and comfort levels is noted by IAN RICHARDSON, senior product engineer at ABB Australia.

For years, we have tried to develop energy efficient architectural concepts to provide designs that allow lower energy costs while maintaining comfort levels. Ultimately, the consumption of energy in homes and buildings for lighting, heating and cooling is defined by the building use and the behaviour of the user. Energy usage can now be matched to the requirements of the building’s occupants and maintained at an optimum level through the application of a dynamic management system.
It is typical to consider an automation system as a means of controlling lighting to capture moods, increase security and lower running costs. A true building automation system, however, goes beyond lighting controls and has the ability to maintain climate levels according to the requirements to heat and cool. The control system must also consider the available demand on the energy consumption, so that a minimal amount of energy is consumed to reach and maintain the desired comfort level.
In addition to controlling the heating, cooling and ventilation requirements, the building control system should manage the position of shades and shutters according to sun position to optimise the use of natural light, as well as reducing glare and unwanted heat entering the building.

KNX is an open international standard protocol that is used to automate systems in buildings and premises, such as energy monitoring, lighting, blinds, shutters, heating and cooling, security and audiovisual systems. As an open protocol, it is not a proprietary system, allowing different manufacturers to create devices that can connect with each other to form an integrated network on a common BUS System.
KNX is the most widely used BUS system for home and building automation in Europe. This acceptance of KNX led to it being defined in the International Standard IEC14543-3 to become the world’s only standard for home and building automation. The KNX system was an amalgamation of three BUS systems that enjoyed popularity in Europe in the early 1990s – EIB-European Installation Bus, BCi-Batibus Club International and EHSA-European Home System Association.
Since the foundation of the KNX standard came from a variety of BUS systems, the current KNX system has a strong heritage in offering solutions across a wide variety of building management requirements. The same KNX system can control:

  • lighting
  • heating
  • air-conditioning
  • blinds and shutters
  • entry systems
  • alarms systems and security
  • renewable energy production
  • audio and video systems
  • television
  • irrigation systems, and
  • white goods (for example, dishwashers, washing machines and dryers).

A building using a KNX home and building automation control system can provide a means to ensure the economical use of energy and, therefore, increase the energy efficiency of the building, while still maintaining the comfort requirements of the occupants.
Simple visualisation systems on energy consumption and management are easily used to provide accurate details on energy status and allow decisions to be taken, either automatically or manually, via the building manager’s discretion, to allow the optimum operating condition.
The system is also decentralised with no master controller, so it is easily incorporated into a small-scale solution or extended as required for a major building network. KNX solutions have been used in applications as diverse as domestic dwellings, six-star hotel developments, large office towers and major airport projects.
A strong advantage seen by users of the KNX system is that the technology is completely vendor independent, meaning it is not tied to any one manufacturer. Currently, there are more than 300 different manufacturers producing more than 7000 certified KNX devices globally.

KNX has been available for over 20 years, and the experience and development has placed the technology at the forefront of energy efficiency applications around the world. A number of dedicated research programs by various universities have shown startling results of energy savings when comparing a KNX installation against conventional systems in a controlled research environment.
At SciTec, the Science Department at Oundle School in Peterborough in the UK, a study revealed significant savings in energy consumption were possible, including:

  • 78 percent due to the use of natural ventilation
  • 50 percent due to the regulation of underfloor heating in 16 zones
  • 60 to 70 percent due to constant lighting control and additional presence sensors, and
  • 40 to 60 percent energy saved in total compared to a conventional school building.

While the results announced at the Oundle School are impressive, similar results have been reported at various test sites across Europe.
The KNX system has proven itself across the globe as the premium means of maintaining an energy efficient building. Across Europe, the major driver for energy efficiency has been to reduce the environmental impact on society and also lower operating costs. In rapidly emerging economies like China, the focus has been on reducing the rising power demand that is placing pressure on the infrastructure development. In both of these cases, the requirements of energy efficiency have been different; however, the constant in the solution has been the use of KNX systems to achieve energy conservation. In a wide variety of markets across the globe, KNX has been the major solution used to achieve the required energy reductions across both domestic and commercial buildings.

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