Emerson Call for Innovation

LOW-COST AIR FLOW SENSOR FOR RESIDENTIAL DUCTED HVAC SYSTEMS

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Background

Ensuring proper air flow through ducted HVAC systems is critical for overall system performance. In addition to performance problems which may include furnaces cycling on the high limit, inadequate dehumidification in air conditioning systems, and icing of evaporator coils, without proper airflow, it is virtually impossible to verify correct refrigerant charge and it also hinders accurate measurement of both heating and cooling system capacity and efficiency. Making system adjustments to improve and correct for airflows that are either too high or too low has been shown to save up to 15% in energy consumption according to utility regulators (Calif Title 24) and the contractor’s trade association, Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA).

Typical air flow meters consist of a low-cost ($50) velocity-based anemometer and temperature sensors at the input and output of a load, but the non-uniform velocity profile in the duct requires multiple measurements to be taken across the cross section of the duct. Because this method requires the technician measuring and averaging at least 12 points across a traverse plane, measurements are subject to significant error (up to 25%). The process is also time consuming and thus is not commonly practiced in the field.  Air pressure sensors (manometers) used to measure static pressure drops have also been used with inconsistent accuracy when static pressure is low.  More convenient pre-built flow grid meters such as the TrueFlow offered by the Energy Conservatory can be accurate to less than 7% but very expensive (up to $800) in addition to the cost of a digital manometer.  While the flow plate is relatively easy for a trained technician to use in the field and reduces testing time to as little as ten minutes, the high first cost can be a difficult sell for most HVAC companies.  Other specialist service tools like the Energy Conservatory’s DuctBlaster are even more expensive and are more commonly used for measuring duct leakage rather than air flow.  While a DuctBlaster can be used to measure system airflow using a pressure matching procedure where the DuctBlaster fan simulates the flow of the air handler fan, the set up for this test can be time consuming and the results are prone to significant error if the return side of the ductwork cannot be isolated from the rest of the system. Flow hoods (balometers) have also been used to measure airflow at the registers as a method of capturing total system airflow, but again, this equipment has a high first cost ($1200-1500) and the testing is time consuming and prone to error. Errors occur in flowhood testing due to the fact that multiple measurements are needed, distant proximity of the measurement location (registers) to the air handler compounded by duct leakage, and register flows in some locations being outside of the operating specifications of the equipment itself (i.e. not enough CFM to get an accurate reading.) Low cost and simplicity of hardware installation to enable fast field commissioning during initial HVAC system installation and on-going maintenance monitoring is critical to enable mass adoption by service contractors.

The Challenge

Develop a new air flow measurement tool or system to measure total system airflow across an indoor ducted furnace, heat pump, or central AC system. The tool should be easy to use by a trained technician with average total set up and testing time less than 20 minutes.  The measured airflow should meet or exceed an accuracy of +/- 7% and the total first cost to the service contractors should be less than $100. The tool or system should be capable of measuring 0 to 2000 cfm typical of residential HVAC air flow range and could be an actual physical device or an advanced algorithm using other available system data to accurately approximate a measured value. 

This JUMP Call for Innovation requires only a written proposal. Review and consideration of ideas does not require submitters to provide ideas with documented Intellectual Property (IP). If you are concerned about protecting the potential of your IP, choose the “Invisible to other Innovators” option when submitting your idea. Choosing this submission option will enable the judges to review your ideas but will not show it openly on the JUMP website.  Choosing the “Invisible to other Innovators” will not permit the JUMP community to comment, discuss, or vote on your idea.

The Award

A cash award of $3,000 ;will be sponsored by Emerson for the top selected technology submission. The idea submitter will also be invited to discuss future collaboration with Emerson and ORNL technical experts. Depending on the needs identified:

  • ORNL may provide in-kind technical support of $10,000 - $20,000 to enable ORNL staff to provide prototype development, testing, 3rd party validation, or other defined needs.
  • Successful JUMP winners may also elect to submit a "Request for Assistance (RFA)" for Round 3 or subsequent Rounds of the DOE Lab Impact Small Business Vouchers (SBV) Pilot Small Business Voucher. Successful SBV requests may be provided up to $300k in the form of in-kind technical support for prototype development, testing, and other problem statements facing small businesses in the clean energy innovation space.

Idea Submission Deadline
Idea Submission Period Ends: July 31, 2016 at 11:59 PM EST

Emerson Call for Innovation

Air flow sensor

Existing technology falls into two categories either differential pressure or hot wire anemometers. A common flaw of differential pressure sensors is repeatability. Generally pressure sensors require mechanical movement to operate. Over time, the constant mechanical movement change the sensor's characteristics and accuracy is degraded. This is often accelerated if the sensor is attached to a system where vibration is ...more »

Submitted by (@jpitcher)

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Emerson Call for Innovation

An accurate airflow technology solution

The challenge: * Easy to use, fast setup and test (<20minutes) , * Accurate (+-7%) , * Low cost , * Reliable Our Solutions includes: An airflow sensor system with thin film based air flow sensors special designed to boost sensitivity by >10x compare to traditional approach and improve accuracy. We do measure temperature change as a results of airflow, and we have a solution to enable accurate measurement. Our approach ...more »

Submitted by

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3 votes
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Emerson Call for Innovation

Low Cost Air Flow Sensor

Use existing 1" WG sensors and mate with sheet metal assembly that amplifies signal. Like a commercial VAV box on steroids. Build an adjustable orifice plate and measure across the opening, adjusting readings for opening size. Resulting pressures are like hot wire in that maximum signal occurs at low flows. Allows air flow readings down to 3 CFM.

Submitted by (@mlynn1662)

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Emerson Call for Innovation

MICROPHONE AIR FLOW SENSOR

This is an idea for a way to measure total system airflow across any type of indoor ducted system. This idea uses currently available smart phone applications that are used for measuring wind speed. The smart phone apps are capable of converting sound levels of the microphone (caused by moving air) into wind speed readings. I am not the creator of these applications, but in this idea I will explain how the currently available ...more »

Submitted by (@steven)

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3 votes
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Emerson Call for Innovation

Residential Geothermal Electricity Generation

Do the people who make the little toy jet engines have the ability to make a turbine, like a steam turbine, that could be turned using refrigerant? Just like you case up the motor and refrigerant pump in a little pot for an air source heat pump, or a/c unit, could you case up a little refrigerant turbine and generator that could be run off of superheated refrigerant? Could you you rig up a geothermal heat pump, to run ...more »

Submitted by (@bigbrubigbru)

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2 votes
3 up votes
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Emerson Call for Innovation

3D Print Airflow Sensor

Leveraging 3D printing for manufacturing personalized, highly flexible, precise and scalable airflow sensors to address the current manufacturing constraints of lab produced costly airflow sensor. It is strongly recommended to leverage the capability and resource at UI Lab here in Chicago Goose Island to make large scale 3D manufacturing feasible, desirable and viable.

Submitted by (@reedweiziyang)

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Emerson Call for Innovation

Low Cost, Fast, Accurate HVAC Air Flow Rate Measurement System

EQUIPMENT - the measurement system would consist of: • A rod several feet long (length based on the maximum duct width of HVAC systems of interest); • A pitot tube pressure probe attached at one end of the rod; • A temperature sensor located near the pressure probe; • A distance sensor attached toward the opposite end of the rod as the pressure probe, and facing the pressure probe; • A handle at end of the rod on the ...more »

Submitted by (@staghornridgellc)

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Emerson Call for Innovation

Air Conditioner Water Heaters

O.K. they're called Heat Pump waters heaters, but actually, aren't they air conditioner water heaters? They cool the air, and they don't have a reversing valve. Not the point! I answered a question once about the ozone saying that we were missing the problem. It's not the HFC's or HFCF's, it's the fact that they have been leaked. Well what if we actually did have "heat pump" water heaters, with reversing valves, ...more »

Submitted by (@bigbrubigbru)

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Emerson Call for Innovation

Simple Air Flow Calculator

2000 cubic feet / min, or 33 cubic feet per second, is the maximum flow rate this device is required to measure. Given this, the problem lends itself to a simple low-tech solution. A bellows with a known volume is affixed to the intake of the device to be measured. A flapper valve (forgive the highly technical term, I'm not in the HVAC business), capable of rapidly switching between drawing fresh air, and the intake port ...more »

Submitted by (@nrghound)

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Emerson Call for Innovation

Thermoelectric Generator (TEG) as Transducer-Less Airflow Sensor

Innovation Summary This innovation proposes the design of a small size thermoelectric generator (TEG) as an efficient airflow sensor. TEGs generate electric power for small devices (generally sensors) that need small amount of power (µWatts to few Watts) to operate. The TEG herein described has been designed and converted to a transducer-less airflow sensor device able to supply part of its input power. From my knowledge, ...more »

Submitted by (@justibdh)

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Emerson Call for Innovation

Airflow Meter.

To measure more accurately be necessary to use a thin plastic film connected to a ring and an electrical coil as a loudspeaker and then comparing the speed of the passing air with the oscillation of the film in the machine path and wherein when vibration is almost nil, then we have the approximate speed of the air in the duct. With this data it is possible to make the calculation of air velocity, distance traveled, pipe ...more »

Submitted by (@vanlee.araujo)

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Emerson Call for Innovation

Exquisite Heat HVAC Control

Exquisite Heat is able to analyze building indoor thermostat activity, and adjust boiler / HVAC source output in order to regulate system sources to produce the precise BUT supply required for indoor comfort. By adjusting boilers and air conditioning with real time activity, energy can be used in synchronization with building heat loss, at desired comfort temperatures. The conservation of fuel due to precise control will ...more »

Submitted by (@john.cockerill)

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