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New HVAC controller improves building management and decarbonisation plans

Mitsubishi Electric has launched a new control platform to provide more monitoring and reporting, deliver an increased amount of immediately accessible data, and enhance overall functionality to building operators and facilities managers. The new tool also supports the configuration, monitoring and pre-emptive maintenance of HVAC systems.

MELCloud Commercial is an IoT (Internet of Things) platform that collects data and sends signals to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment and allows these systems to be operated and monitored remotely from mobile devices, anywhere in the world. The platform has been designed for commercial installations, such as those used in offices, hospitals, shops and hotels, where cooling, heating and ventilation are all essential.

“There is a big focus on decarbonising buildings, but you can’t reduce what you don’t measure,” explained Manohar Lal, product manager for controls and innovation. “Our new platform will improve and simplify building management for any organisation.”

The Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) for commercial buildings are changing and are predicted to move quickly from the current minimum EPC rating of ‘E’ to a ‘B’ rating by 2030. “Around 85% of the 1.75 million commercial buildings in the UK are currently below a ‘B’ rating so there are a lot of properties in danger of being left behind,” explained Lal. 

Mitsubishi Electric has undergone field trials of MELCloud Commercial, with corporate customers throughout Europe and the UK, to build a system that has moved it from an onsite diagnostic tool to a cloud-based ecosystem. “With feedback from our trial customers, we’ve built a solution that optimises occupant comfort, increases energy efficiency to reduce carbon emissions, and streamlines service and maintenance operations,” added Graham Jones, national service manager.

HVAC systems account for around 25% of the carbon footprint of our built environment with much of this coming from heating, cooling, powering and operating these buildings. Finding ways to understand where and how energy is being used is therefore key to being able to control and reduce carbon emissions.

MELCloud Commercial allows building operators to remotely manage, monitor and control HVAC systems in multiple buildings from one central location. The control and monitor function can show an entire estate or an individual room, delivering dynamic, real-time information on the systems and their performance.

In the systems energy management App, MELCloud Commercial enables energy monitoring and reporting from anything from individual units in single rooms, or for an entire building, right up to estate level monitoring. For service and maintenance professionals, the platform can deliver refrigerant flow diagrams and graphical representations of equipment performance, system operational data, all live online. Up to 50 Mitsubishi Electric devices including four Modbus energy meters are connected to MELCloud Commercial through a single gateway via a 4G SIM card or LAN Ethernet connection, with multiple gateways able to link up centrally to provide a global overview.

“Our designers have thought of everything and enhanced its functionality following the customer trials,” added LAL, “so, whether it's multi-site management, bringing building-wide or a full estate control, or a hotel front desk ensuring rooms are the right temperature for guests, energy consumption and performance patterns can be analysed over days, weeks, or even years.”

MELCLoud Commercial is not restricted to working only with Mitsubishi Electric’s HVAC systems. In addition, other non-HVAC systems can also be monitored and controlled. Just like the HVAC equipment, alerts can be sent to the building manager if there is an alarm. The system can also record the energy consumption of the third-party equipment and report it to building users, so equipment such as fridges, ovens and lighting can be monitored and reported on.

One of the major new initiatives is the inclusion of an advanced energy dashboard, which allows MELCloud Commercial to monitor and compare the energy consumption of multiple buildings, ranking their usage by kW per hour per building size, or by the number of temperature or consumption alerts.

At a more granular level, these workspace rankings can compare energy consumption between building, floors, and even rooms. Using this data, MELCloud Commercial can help prevent a single, or multiple systems within a building from exceeding set consumption limits. “This system makes it easy for facilities managers to ensure that there are no areas of wastage, such as meeting rooms where the heating or cooling has been left on overnight,” explained Lal. “It can also limit all HVAC units to cooling only in the summer, and also schedule these units to reduce or shut-off operations when no one is around.”

The MELCloud Commercial platform offers two powerful, easy-to-use capabilities. Firstly, a Provisioning Wizard tool, which means customers can convert their buildings into smart, energy-optimised ones. Secondly, the customer has the ultimate authority in choosing who gets access to support these smart buildings.

This means that a building manager can receive an outdoor unit alert when a fault/error happens at a building and can then provide access to a service engineer, who can use the Service and Maintenance capabilities of the platform to remotely diagnose the time the incident occurred, how long it lasted, and which warning signs explain the root cause. All this can be done, without the initial cost of an onsite investigation.

“MELCLoud Commercial now allows building operators to receive information and reports that will help increase efficiency, reduce emissions and prolong equipment life, in ways that simplify their workload and increase their own reporting and productivity,” said Lal.

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