Smart Sensor Could Cut Building Energy Consumption by 30%

by | Mar 4, 2015

ORNL sensor_Energy ManageResearchers at the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) are developing a low-cost wireless sensor that could make regulating comfort in small commercial buildings more efficient and less expensive.

Studies indicate that advanced sensors and controls have the potential to reduce the energy consumption of buildings by 20–30 percent.

Collecting data such as outside air and room temperature, humidity, light level, occupancy and pollutants is currently expensive, whether the information is gathered by inexpensive conventional wired sensors, or by more expensive wireless sensors, which run anywhere from $150 to $300 per node.

ORNL’s new wireless sensor prototype could bring that cost down to between $1 and $10 per node by leveraging techniques such as additive roll-to-roll manufacturing. This process enables electronics components like circuits, sensors, antennae, and photovoltaic cells and batteries to be printed on flexible plastic substrates. The nodes can be installed without wires using a peel-and-stick adhesive backing.

The ultra-low power smart sensors collect and send data to a receiver, which can capture data from many different peel-and-stick nodes and provide the information to the energy-consuming system. The more information received, the better the building’s energy management. Both new construction and retrofitted buildings can benefit from ORNL’s smart sensors.

ORNL says it is currently in negotiations to establish a cooperative research and development agreement with a premier international electronics manufacturer to make the low-cost wireless sensors commercially available.

Navigant Research forecasts that global revenue from wireless nodes for building controls will grow to $434.0 million in 2023. 

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