An automation system is a centralized and interlinked set of networks, hardware and software that monitors and controls the environment in industrial, commercial and institutional buildings. It manages the different building systems to ensure optimal operational performance, as well as the safety and comfort of building occupants.
In general, building automation starts with control of electrical, mechanical and plumbing systems. For example, the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system, also known as HVAC, is one of the most popular systems to control. Automation of an HVAC system would control these pieces of equipment:
- Fan Coil Units
- Air Handling Units
- Variable Air Volume Boxes
- Heat Pump Units
- Roof-top Units
Types of Automation Systems
The earlier systems were pneumatic. Popular pneumatic devices are controllers, valves, regulators, actuators, positioners and sensors. These systems were installed on a mass basis during the ’60s and ’70s and still exist in a great number of buildings today, especially those in large cities.
Analog electronic devices sprang up in the 80s and were faster and more accurate than pneumatic devices.
The 1990s gave birth to digital control devices and they revolutionized the automation process. However, during this time there wasn’t a standard for digital communication, so manufacturers made their own protocols. The problems with this were that an automation system could only use products from a single manufacturer. During the late 90s and early 2000s, open communication systems were created and The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers developed a standard communication protocol.
What Does a Modern Automation System Look Like?
Most automation systems today are mounted or hidden in the ceiling or underfloor. Personalized settings are made available through a control panel such as a thermostat-like device. The central management part of the system is accessed via a software program or through a Web page. Modern automation systems have made buildings rather intelligent. Modern features include wireless technology, enterprise-level functionality, flexible core systems, and hardware and software packages that are packed with every resource imaginable.
Major Benefits of HVAC Automation
Automation provides many benefits for owners, as well as managers. They operate at optimal efficiency to help reduce energy costs. They can also be used in any environment from commercial buildings to hospitals and laboratories. They are able to collect valuable data to make troubleshooting easy. Automation systems also reduce labor costs by offering intelligent dispatching and remote monitoring.