More efficient heating? With Brain maximum yield with minimum expense
Article published on the Elettrico Magazine website. Author Alessia Varalda.
How to increase the efficiency of a thermal power plant? With Brain by Tree Solutions, a real brain which, thanks to the combination of artificial intelligence and human experience, is able to make heating more efficient without invasive interventions.
The cost of energy and the need to reduce one’s environmental impact has led businesses of all kinds and sizes to carry out important efficiency works. Important not only from the point of view of yield, but also of costs and inconvenience caused by construction sites. While recognizing the need, these are still interventions that have a significant impact on the operations of the companies present in the buildings. “Is it possible that we can’t also work on other fronts, capable of ensuring a high yield with minimal effort?” is the question that Tree Solutions asked themselves ten years ago, a company at the Innovation Park of the Polytechnic of Milan that deals with digitalisation in the world of energy and systems. The answer came with Brain, the IoT device developed by Tree Solutions which can control, manage and above all optimize the use of thermal power plants for heating and for the production of domestic hot water. Designed for medium-large sized systems, such as those present in public and school buildings, in RSAs, in the tertiary sector and in industry, it allows energy consumption to be managed in an optimized manner whilst reducing CO2 emissions.
What Brain is and how it works
As the name itself suggests, Brain by Tree Solutions is a real “brain” capable of managing a thermal energy generator in the best possible way: from the classic methane boiler to district heating, from heat pumps to biomass systems.
“Brain reduces the threshold for access to the best technology for efficiency to a minimum: regardless of how the water is heated, it analyzes, understands and improves the use of the heat generator. – confirms Gunther Breda, CEO of Tree Solutions – The result is an increase in the efficiency of the system of at least 10%. Statistically we settle on an average consumption reduction of 20%, but in some cases we have reached peaks of 40%”.
Brain is a system composed of software and hardware whose control unit essentially requires electrical intervention, in order to enable it to control the boiler and circulation pumps. Once purchased, a subscription plan is activated which provides complete management of the system and remote supervision of the boiler room.
“A day of work for the installation and we are ready to move on to the next step. – continues Breda – We carry out a test lasting approximately two weeks during which days of using Brain are alternated with others in traditional mode. The information detected, such as thermal inertia, differences in use based on days and times, weather forecasts, etc., are processed thanks to the power of the cloud provided by our partner Oracle and used to continuously adjust the optimal use parameters . From that moment on, the customer begins to save.”
Artificial intelligence and human experience, together
Tree Solutions technicians, real Energy Managers, take care of the installation and configuration of Brain. Once started, the software does most of the work:
- identify critical issues,
- modify the operating parameters,
- measure the performance of the system.
“Our Energy Specialists periodically check, several times a week or daily, the operating conditions of the various systems. – specifies Breda – This is because, if on the one hand it is true that a computer is unbeatable in making calculations and analyzing numbers, on the other hand human intervention can contribute to an additional fine tuning useful for further improving overall efficiency. Systems based on AI and machine learning continuously learn from errors and variations in data, increasingly adapting to real conditions and user needs.”
Another aspect linked to the collection and processing of information coming from a system is that of predictive maintenance. An anomaly or even a simple deviation from the optimal values could indicate the onset of a problem or fault: the Brain system shows it to the Energy Specialist who reports it and documents it to the system representative so that the maintenance technician can intervene appropriately .
How much do you save with Brain by Tree Solutions?
Brain therefore offers efficiency benefits comparable to those of installing new systems, but at a significantly lower cost. One of the strengths of the system is the measurability of every parameter, including economic savings.
There are multiple Brain by Tree Solutions installations operating in Italy, such as at the Orsoline Institute of San Carlo in Saronno, in the province of Varese: the district is arranged over 4 floors for a total of 4,500 m2. Before integrating Brain’s efficiency algorithms, methane consumption for heating stood at 84,000 Smc, for a total cost of 52,000 euros. After one year of use, the reduction in consumption was equal to 23,400 Scm of fuel (-27%), despite an improvement in comfort linked to the use of environmental probes placed in points considered critical.
Hotels are also complex environments to manage, with a perception of ideal comfort that varies from guest to guest, with a consequent impact on heating consumption. A condition addressed by the Best Western Air Hotel Linate, located a few hundred meters from the Milan airport. The 102 rooms and 6 meeting rooms spread over 5 floors rely on two methane gas boilers to power radiators, fan coils and produce domestic hot water. In this case Brain was able to reduce consumption by 13.5% during the winter season (from November to March), while still maintaining the comfort level of the occupants unchanged.