Very Low-cost MEMS-based Ultrasonic Anemometer for Use Indoors and in HVAC Ducts

The new airspeed sensor is disruptively inexpensive and disruptively sophisticated.

The Regents of the University of California on behalf of the Berkeley campus

Recipient

Berkeley, CA

Recipient Location

9th

Senate District

15th

Assembly District

beenhere

$2,462,263

Amount Spent

closed

Completed

Project Status

Project Result

This project has completed and the final report is under review. The recipient produced a prototype anemometer that is disruptively low cost, calibration free, accurate and uses low energy. A number of manufacturers may be interested in the ultrasonic technology and a provision patent was filed through University. A major control manufacturer signed a Non-Disclosure Agreement. The agreement laid the groundwork for further commercial development. The recipient continues to engage with potential manufacturers.

View Final Report

The Issue

Air movement in buildings impacts comfort, ventilation, air quality, occupant health and safety, and is responsible for about half of the energy used for heating, ventilating and air conditioning buildings. Currently, the way air velocity and air flow are measured is inaccurate, failure-prone, and often expensive. Airflow within rooms is almost never monitored because of the expense, power draw, and fragility of existing sensors. Air flow in ducts, and in other HVAC equipment are often out of calibration. The result is that building control systems cannot predict energy flows accurately.

Project Innovation

This project develops and tests prototype room and duct anemometers that are low-cost, low power, accurate, calibration-free and compact. The anemometers are wireless, able to be inexpensively installed in existing buildings, can operate on a battery for years and communicate wirelessly via the internet to the building's control system. The technology is expected to save energy by using collected data to correct wasteful HVAC malfunctions that result in inefficient systems and uncomfortable buildings.

Project Goals

Create sensor for monitoring 3D airflow speed and direction for indoor environmental applications
Implement stand-alone wireless communication of airflow and temperature
Assure low cost, small size, low power draw; battery life providing years of normal operation

Project Benefits

The ability to accurately control airflow with these low cost sensors can expand the comfortable temperature setpoint range in air-conditioned buildings, such as allowing the setting higher indoor temperatures while still being comfortable. Based on industry feedback, the most promising application is to incorporate the sensors into HVAC system. Assuming a 15 percent market penetration for applications, and a 10 percent penetration for retrofit the estimated total statewide savings could be 265 gigawatt hours per year and 38 million therms per year, based upon an estimated level of market penetration 10 years.

Lower Costs

Affordability

The prototype uses very low power to operate and is less expensive than products currently on the market. The estimated cost to produce at volume is under $200 (compared with over $1,000 from other vendors). The anemometer uses very low power to operate. The estimated savings to California commercial and residential ratepayers are $26 million per year in reduced energy bills for building owners/occupants, assuming technology applicability in 25-75% of buildings, a 10-15% potential savings on all HVAC related energy use, and market penetration of 5-25%. Due to potentially less equipment operation time, equipment life could be extended along with reduced operations and maintenance cos

Economic Development

Economic Development

This project provided work for 17 individuals in California for a total of 42,683 hours over the course of 3.5 years. The mature technology has the potential to create high tech manufacturing jobs in California.

Increase Safety

Safety

Safety of occupants is improved when ventilation air is accurately measured, as inaccurate measurements often lead to insufficient ventilation to the occupants.

Key Project Members

Edward Arens

Edward Arens

CBE Director; Professor emerituys
Charlie Huizenga

Charlie Huizenga

Research specialist
University of California Berkeley, CBE

Subrecipients

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Taylor Engineering

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Regents of the University of California, on behalf of the Berkeley Campus (Center for the Built Environment)

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BAF Technologies Inc.

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Chirp Microsystems, Inc.

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Price Industries

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TRC Engineers, Inc.

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Match Partners

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Regents of the University of California, on behalf of the Berkeley Campus (Center for the Built Environment)

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BAF Technologies Inc.

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Vigilent

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Chirp Microsystems, Inc.

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Price Industries

Rocket

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