Radiator thermostat control

Smart heating project envisions automatic temperature control in buildings

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A project to test a smart temperature control system that can heat or cool individual spaces within a building according to its users’ individual needs is underway, led by Finland’s VTT Technical Research Centre.

The HumanTool project is aimed at saving energy when unused rooms and spaces can be left completely unheated or uncooled, as well as adjusting the temperature for specific areas in a given space. Once the project is completed, the aim is to produce a completely new smart heating product suitable for use in any kind of building.

The project will involve the practical testing and development of a smart temperature control concept in hospital and office conditions during two heating and cooling seasons. The first pilot sites will be VTT’s main office, Digitalo, in Espoo, the Seinäjoki Central Hospital and Kuopio University Hospital. In the hospitals, testing will begin in office premises and then proceed to patient facilities.

The experiences of users of the rooms, including staff and patients, will be gathered.

It is estimated that we spend around 90 per cent of our time indoors. Our experience of thermal sensation is important to productivity and comfort and is mainly affected by a room’s temperature level. The HumanTool project aims to enhance the comfort level of indoor temperatures, which affects the thermal comfort, health and well-being of a facility’s users.

For many people, especially in shared, open-plan offices, their environment is often too hot or too hold, as the heating system for the building has to please everyone. It is not uncommon for one person to sit in a short-sleeved shirt, complaining about the heat, while an adjacent colleague sits wearing an outdoor coat at their desk.  

“We will use the Human Thermal Model (HTM) method developed by VTT,” said project manager Pekka Tuomaala of VTT. “We will evaluate the thermal sensations of various user groups, which will be taken into account in the design of comfortable and energy-efficient buildings. Because digital solutions for facility monitoring are now cost-efficient, we will use the latest technology for temperature control.”

The HTM method is based on the fact that people’s evaluation of thermal sensation is based on individual anatomy and physiology. The HTM method is used to assess the impact of individual characteristics – gender, age, body mass index and muscularity – on the volumes of various tissue types (bone, muscle, fat and skin). The transfer of warmth and moisture between a person’s anatomy and clothing and the environment can help to determine the local temperature of body tissues. This can be used to calculate local thermal sensations in different parts of the body.

The results of the project will be ready at the end of 2018, with the assumption being that the project findings – and the new smart heating product developed in parallel – can then be applied in public places such as offices, hospitals, hotels, schools and vehicles.

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