Energy and facility managers often hear complaints from employees that the work environment is either too hot or too cold. Now, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, are working on a “personal comfort system” technology that could solve the problem of individual thermal comfort.
Scientists at the University’s Center for the Built Environment have created a workstation prototype equipped with a foot warmer on the floor and small, finely directed fans so occupants can adjust their workspace temperature, according to UC Berkeley.
The Personal Comfort System’s fans and heaters will also interface with smart phone apps, software and sensors to relay building temperatures, weather forecasts, and thermal comfort feedback to energy or facility managers. In addition, the PCS has occupancy sensors to save energy when the space is vacant.
UC Berkeley says a PCS uses about 2 watts for cooling and 40 watts for heating, compared to conventional space heaters that use up to 1,500 watts. The foot warmers use halogen bulbs operating at 20 watts on average over the course of a typical California winter day, much less than their maximum power of 160 watts. The PCS operates on a rechargeable lithium ferrophosphate battery.
The Center for the Built Environment estimates that the new tools can cut natural gas use by 39 percent and electricity use by 30 percent for heating, ventilation and air conditioning in typical California commercial office spaces.
The research team has also created a prototype of a mesh chair with built-in heating and cooling.
The research has been made possible with a $1.6 million grant from the California Energy Commission.
Photo courtesy of the Center for the Built Environment.