Emerging technology is making waves in the HVAC industry in the form of new developments within energy harvesting. Energy harvesting is essentially gathering energy from existing resources. Solar, wind, geo-thermal, and tidal power are all types of energy harvesting technology. Now, however, engineers have scaled down this science by developing a micro-electromechanical technology to harvest small amounts of energy to power wireless sensors and other devices.
HVAC Applications for Energy Harvesting
As with other forms of harvested energy, the power derived from this new technology could be used immediately or stored in batteries for later use. These energy harvesters are self-sustaining and do not rely on any external source of power. Many applications are possible for these new power scavengers within building facilities, and more are being developed as the technology itself becomes more efficient and compact. Some of these include motion-activated light sensors, equipment monitors, timers, etc. It is the goal that eventually electromechanical energy harvesters can be incorporated directly into the devices they power.
How Harvesters Draw Power
There are different kinds of micro-electromechanical harvesters that scavenge their energy in different ways, mainly in the form of light, heat, or movement. Solar harvesters are activated by either artificial or natural light. However, they should be used in brightly lit areas during use and may not be well suited to the outdoors. They work using similar technology to photovoltaic cells, but within a much more compact system.
Thermal gradients, which express how and at what rate temperature changes, are the source of energy for other devices. These harvesters are well-suited for dynamic environments where rises and falls in temperature are common, such as in manufacturing factories, heated or air-conditioned settings, on motors and engines, and even on the human body. Thermal gradients can be felt in areas like store entrances, where you walk into a heated or air-conditioned environment from an extreme outdoor temperature.
Kinetic devices rely on movement, such as from vibrations or rotations, to generate power. Kinetic watches, powered by the movement of a user’s swinging arm, rely on this type of technology.
The role of micro-electromechanical energy harvesting is expected to be one of the most influential emerging technologies. As we seek more alternative solutions for energy generation, and as the technology itself becomes more refined, use of these wireless sensors will likely spread, especially in HVAC to monitor equipment and environmental conditions. This also means there will likely be a greater need for qualified individuals to fill a growing number of HVAC technician jobs. Energy harvesting technology represents a cost-effective solution to powering small devices that would otherwise have to require regular battery changes or require sometimes tricky wiring to connect the device to a power source.
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