How Offices Could Be More Comfortable With Less AC

Jun 28, 2013

If you’ve ever shivered through a meeting in a conference room when it’s warm outside, you may have wondered: “Why don’t they just turn off the air-conditioning?” New research has found a way to keep you more comfortable and keep office costs down.

Michael Brambley (left) and Guopeng Liu in Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s Building Controls Lab. New research at the lab has found a way to keep you more comfortable and keep office costs down.
Credit Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

  You know how lights sometimes turn off when you leave a room? Research out of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash., is proposing something similar for heating and air conditioning systems.

Researchers have found a way for office building air conditioners to sense how many people are in a room. That way the air won’t blow too fast or too slow. It would shut off completely when rooms are empty.

That could save tens of thousands of dollars for offices across the country. Michael Brambley led the team that wrote the report.

“We’re finding many things that can be accomplished with controls that save significant amounts of energy, just by changing how things are operated, when they turn on and off, how they interact with the presence of people," he says. 

Brambley says savings are larger if lights turn off at the same time as the air. He says the system costs too much right now for commercial use. The team is working to make it more affordable.

Copyright 2013 Northwest Public Radio