Air conditioning (AC) is a consumptive business while air conditioners are costly to run. AC systems in general, and older ones in particular, do not have any temperature feedback. You set the temperature on your remote, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the actual temperature in the room. Even when it gets colder outside, many aircons keep blasting cold air into your space. As a result, you have to constantly readjust the temperature as needed for optimal comfort throughout the day.
AC systems are improving day by day, but there are still old systems that cannot be updated. In some instances, it is impossible to invest in a new system, and it is can be too costly to rip out the old aircon out and install a new one.
A basic aircon has many parts that typically are split between an outside and inside configuration, hence you may have to undergo a drastic interior renovation. Tibbo Technology’s office in Taipei, Taiwan was reportedly trapped in such a situation, just getting by with the AC system they had. Now its aircon is controlled with a dozen of infrared remotes lying around.
According to Oleg Bushmanov of Tibbo Technology, “A while back, we set a challenge to create a management system for our dated HVAC system. Needless to say, we used our Tibbo Project System (TPS) for this endeavour. Our spec for the aircon controller consisted of two main items. The aircon must run or not run depending on whether the lights are on or off. The formula is simple: no lights = no people = no need to run the AC.
“Also, the temperature in the room must be monitored by the device that stops the aircon whenever the temperature is cooled off to the preset point.”
To achieve its goal, the company used a TPS2L system equipped with:
- Ambient temperature probe
- IR code processor Tibbit (#26)
- IR front-end Tibbit (#27)
- Ambient light sensor Tibbit (#28)
The probe is a new item. It replaces the ambient temperature meter (Tibbit #29). “It is handy to have the meter built right into the TPS,” says Bushmanov. “The bottleneck is, the meter is influenced by the internal heat of the TPS system itself. This impact is particularly visible for the TPS2L device – it’s LCD really warms up the box. The latest sensor has the same circuit as the Tibbit #29, with the additional advantage of being external to the TPS device. From now on, the measurements are accurate.”
Tibbo offers a look at the items you need to set up in the menu:
IR commands. This is where you train your IR code processor to be able to transmit two commands: “On,” and “Off.” For the “On” command, use the lowest temperature that your aircon’s remote allows you to set (usually 16 degrees C). The logic here is that when you need to lower the temperature in the room you can use the coldest temperature setting, and when the room cools down to the preset temperature, the aircon is turned off. So really, you only need two commands.
Target temperature. You don’t need to set it here. There are dedicated buttons on the main screen.
Pre-cool start time. This is something we added along the way. Now it is possible to turn the aircon on, once a day, even before we all arrive at the office. Our day starts at 9 am. We set this time for 8:30 am, and by the time we get in, the office is nice and cool (while the scorching Taipei summer keeps on raging outside). The pre-cool timer is hardcoded for 45 minutes. If the lights are still off at 9:15 the aircon is turned off.
Brightness threshold. This is the brightness that the TPS will consider to correspond to “lights on.” The value is not expressed in any standard measurement units; it’s just the value the Tibbit #28 returns. So, how do you know what number to set here? Simple: the brightness is displayed on the main screen, like this: “Light level: 718”. Note the value with the lights off and on, then set the threshold to some value in the middle between the two.
Temp. meas. adjustment. This is useful for when you choose to use the Tibbit #29. As we’ve explained above, its measurements are affected by the internal heat of the TPS itself. You can use a regular thermometer and determine the measurement error. For example, if your thermometer reads 25C, and TPS shows 28C, then you must adjust the temperature by 3 degrees C. The data returned by the new external probe need no adjustment.
“In phase 2 of this project we will connect our aircon controller to an AggreGate server,” said Tibbo’s spokesman. “It will be possible to control the system via a smartphone app, which we going to design for this purpose.”
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