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Sensors & Controls

The Emerging Technologies team conducts research into technologies related to building sensors and controls. They work with building systems—such as a heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems—to analyze energy use and help occupants manage energy costs. Building controls have the potential to reduce building energy consumption by monitoring variables and other inputs, and then automatically responding in a predetermined fashion.

Research between the Department of Energy, industry, and laboratories focuses on:

Sensors

Photo of a ceiling-mounted fire sprinkler.Sensors are designed to help building owners and operators better manage their energy use through automation. Sensors measure predefined variables, such as the amount of natural light coming in through an office window, and then feed this data into a building's control system. The control can then respond by adjusting the various building systems. For example, sensors may note when a person leaves a room and let controls know to turn off the lights, or can ensure that faucets only release water if someone's hand is waved.

The Department of Energy (DOE) is focused on achieving 30% energy savings by enhanced management of energy consuming assets and systems through development of cost-effective sensors and controls.

DOE projects related to sensors include the Sensor Suitcase for Small Commercial Building Retro-Commissioning project.

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Controls

Photo of a hand adjusting the temperature on an electric thermostat.Advanced building controls can play a significant role in improving building energy performance. Controls can be programmed to automatically respond to environmental variables, such as daylight, but can also respond to preprogrammed parameters aligned with other factors, like whether a particular day falls on a weekend or a holiday. Responses can include increasing a room's temperature when it is cold outside, or having the lights turn on automatically at night. The delivery of continuous, up-to-date information on building system and component performance will enable more cost-effective equipment servicing and optimized building operation. Building owners and operators can realize lower maintenance and operating costs, and building occupants will enjoy greater levels of comfort and personalized control.

The Department of Energy (DOE) is focused on achieving 30% energy savings by enhanced management of energy consuming assets and systems through development of cost-effective sensors and controls. DOE projects related to controls include:

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Whole Building Performance

Photo of someone holding a tablet that's displaying information and readings on a home's performance.Whole building performance energy management systems are designed to integrate the diverse and numerous systems that a building operates to control the building environment. These systems include refrigeration, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), lighting, and a host of others. By having these systems "talk" to each other, building owners and operators can achieve improved building performance and reduced energy use.

The Department of Energy is focused on achieving 30% energy savings by enhanced management of energy consuming assets and systems through development of cost-effective sensors and controls and whole building performance. DOE projects related to whole building performance include:

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