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Technology Convergence Brings New HVAC Applications

Young Hoon Kim
Jul 27, 2021

Smart Home

Ever since Willis H. Carrier introduced what is considered the first modern electrical air conditioner in 1902, the technology has advanced to include heating and ventilation (now it’s called HVAC). Although the HVAC industry has a long history, the technology still shows various innovations through technology convergence.

Technology Convergence Is Growing in HVAC Applications

For hybrid HVAC, combining two different energy sources, such as gas and electricity, into a heat pump shows efficiency improvements and provides flexible operations. Unlike an electric heat pump (EHP), a gas-engine heat pump (GHP) drives the compressor directly instead of an electric motor. In 2018, Panasonic launched a more efficient hybrid heat pump in Europe that combines GHP and EHP. This hybrid solution can reduce energy costs by automatically switching between GHP and EHP, depending on each source’s demand. The technology can offer an interim solution to reduce energy costs while the HVAC market in the US moves toward electrification.

Regarding other technology integration into HVAC, a recent paper from University of Michigan scientists proposed an HVAC system that turns biofeedback into a comfortable temperature. The system observes the occupants’ facial temperature then trains itself to understand the ideal temperature for most people in the room over time. Conceptually, this Human Embodied Autonomous Thermostat system can be paired with an HVAC system to keep most occupants comfortable with minimum energy consumption.

HVAC can contribute to developing other innovative technologies; for instance, combining a heat pump with other technologies can build energy storage. Malta Inc., founded in 2018, offers an Electro-Thermal Energy Storage System. As the following figure describes, this Malta energy storage system uses conventional technologies such as molten salt, chilled liquid, a heat pump, and others. In this system, the heat pump takes a core role in converting electricity into thermal energy, creating temperature differences.

Malta Electro-Thermal Energy Storage System

(Source: Malta)

Innovation Will Likely Continue with Technology Convergence

HVAC technology is never stagnant, showing innovations converging with technologies in other realms. A hybrid heat pump that can choose either gas or electricity as an energy source and an occupant's thermal image being used for integrated HVAC management can further advance HVAC applications. In addition, a conventional heat pump can be a contributing solution as a part of innovative electro-thermal energy storage. Many possibilities for using HVAC technology are still ahead of us if we expand our view and further technology convergence.