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Zilverline decreased its energy bill by 40% by using energy monitoring with Thinka and HomeKit

Thinka opens up Energy Monitoring for KNX with HomeKit

KNX is a professional smart building system, however it has also found a place in top-end smart homes. The owners of KNX homes are often entrepreneurs who understand how cost control is a major underpinning of financial success. These are people who spend their lives creating and developing business concepts from the ground up. Well-versed in the day-to-day functions of running companies, they know that you need to keep cost levels to the minimum. Smart energy savings are more attainable with a smart home, in combination with energy monitoring.

It has been demonstrated that using KNX can bring down energy bills considerably - by 60% in some cases.

This can be a huge saving on household finances for smart homes, but the total energy savings are naturally even bigger when KNX is used in larger-scale settings such as offices and commercial buildings.

How automation makes smart homes and buildings more energy efficient

The intelligent automated control of buildings is one of the most significant ways you can positively impact energy efficiency. Saving energy is a big concern and certainly one of the biggest advantages of building and home automation.

Buildings account for a surprising 40% of total energy consumption. Being able to target efficiencies in buildings takes a big step toward reducing carbon emissions and saving our planet.

Although not a single building, the city of Salzburg, Austria has taken their responsibility very seriously and has installed a KNX system to control street lighting throughout the city. Using KNX-powered smart controls, the city has reduced energy consumption by 2.5%, and saves 750 tons of CO2 annually. That is what we call smart lighting!

Energy savings with automations

Saving energy means switching the light off when you don’t need it. Simple but rarely achieved in practice both in the home as well as in buildings with larger numbers of people coming and going.

Significant savings can be made while ensuring optimal lighting is provided for all employees. This is achieved with automated switching and dimming of lights, based on pre-set ‘timed’ schedules or using sensors that can detect the presence of employees and determine the actual light level.

With Thinka, HomeKit bridge for KNX, you do not even need presence sensors anymore, your iPhone is the trigger that ensures the light to automatically turn on once you enter a room, by setting Geofences. Add Adaptive Lighting to the equation and you are totally set!

Geofence automations ensure that lights will automatically switch off in empty rooms, and turn on when someone enters. With Adaptive Lighting the lighting level is automatically adjusted to the natural daylight levels and time of day. Savings from lighting can reach 60%, using an intelligently programmed KNX system in combination with Thinka, HomeKit for KNX.

Smart climate control - a cool way to save energy

This can be one of the biggest chunks of energy consumption, but also one of the easiest to bring under control. Newer, more efficient smart climate control designs means that these systems are already much more energy-efficient than they used to be.

The use of heat-pumps, heat storage, and integrated cooling systems is a big advantage over older technologies, but the biggest savings can be attained with automated controls. This is especially true when utilising individual room control, because energy is not wasted on those rooms that are not in use.

The use of smart climate control ensures that all the systems are running at the right times, and in a way that is aligned with a common goal. You can also see the results using energy monitoring systems, which can also help you to target areas for improvement.

Almost all the energy on Earth comes from the sun, and this is keenly felt for anyone working in a glass-clad office. One of the most effective methods of cooling is the reflectance of solar heat using shutters and blinds. These can make a substantial contribution to energy savings and cooling costs by automatically shutting out heat from the sun at certain times of day, or based on sensors that detect light levels. By setting shutters and blinds to lower during the night, heat loss is also minimised, which adds more saving.

And, of course, ventilation and HVAC systems can all be fine-tuned to capitalise on seasonal variations and working patterns, using pre-programmed routines and sensor-based functions.

Individual room energy control

Savings of 50% on heating/cooling costs can be seen when individual room control is added to KNX buildings. The best way of adding efficiency is to ensure that the system is demand-based, with a well-programmed timed routine that runs heating and cooling systems only when the office is in use.

Using presence sensors or geofences via HomeKit can also help ensure that pre-programmed scenarios are in keeping with the actual demand. Thermostats can be set to variable values in different rooms, and times of day ensuring that the optimal level of comfort is achieved while saving money and energy. Thermostats and other sensors can be used to trigger ventilation or heating events based on pre-set scenarios, and matching the preferences of individual workers.

Use Case Zilverline - Unexpected savings from a surprising source

Zilverline is an Amsterdam-based tech company, specialised in developing apps and software. The company has 20 employees, and is situated in a stylish office in the trendy Eastern Docklands of Amsterdam, right on the waterfront.  

It has everything you could want from an office space; a loft, high ceilings, table tennis, comfy seats, and a professional espresso machine.

Zilverline uses Thinka to bridge Homekit to their KNX system, which provides possibilities for easily-customised automations using the Apple Home app. The company installed Thinka 3 years ago, and this enables all 20 employees to access the office control systems via a centrally-located iPad, or with their own iPhones. Zilverline saves significantly on their energy bill, using automated functions controlled with KNX using Apple’s HomeKit. In fact, the office has benefited from energy savings worth over 30% - achieved just by using smart efficient controls on their lights, blinds, thermostat AND espresso machine!

“A bunch of tech-geeks like us can’t simply install and use HomeKit for KNX - we of course needed to check upon the promised energy savings”, reflects Bas van der Hoek, partner at Zilverline. “We are not easily impressed by technology; however the savings we have been able to establish are beyond our expectations”. Zilverline had expected to save money by better and automated control of light and thermostat, as this is where most of the published data about savings is focused. They had already saved costs by moving from TL-lighting to LED-lighting, and saved another 30% on lighting costs, by using HomeKit automations on top of their KNX system via Thinka.

Bas further explained exactly how Zilverline expected to gain energy savings by using smart automation: “As all employees have the visualisation of the automated office on their iPhone and we defined the automation ‘last man leaving the office’, which means that when the last employee leaves the office, the lights automatically will switch off, the blinds will close and the thermostat will be adapted. By doing so we saved around 30% on our energy bill, which we expected to happen”. However, what they did not expect was the energy savings on the professional Espresso machine. This vital piece of equipment was practically a part of the furniture – it was only when all the energy consumption patterns became fully visible that the employees were able to take control by setting up smart automations. Once this was done, both the unexpected and expected savings started immediately.  

Energy monitoring showed Zilverline the way

Reducing energy consumption without energy monitoring is a difficult task. With Thinka situated on the KNX-bus, Thinka is able to gather energy consumption data of individual KNX devices that support energy measurement. The next step is to have this information visualised.

The Apple Home app is not capable of showing energy consumption, however there are several other HomeKit Apps that do just that.

For Energy Monitoring, Thinka works with Eve Energy. Eve is a certified HomeKit app with a good energy monitoring interface. Eve cannot understand KNX, but that is not necessary, as Thinka unlocked Eve Energy for KNX. Thinka shares the gathered data with HomeKit, and accompanies this data with a tag. The data and the tag can be read by Eve. Eve then translates the data into an energy monitoring visualisation complete with graphs.

In this way you can view power consumption, and, by configuring Eve with the cost per kWh, you are able to monitor the cost per KNX product too.

How adding a Thinka to your KNX building saves energy

Enabling key users (employees) to access and control the automation settings within their department can further contribute to the overall energy efficiency of the smart office or home. Although KNX installations are usually accessed through a single interface in a central location, multiple users can be given control privileges using their own iPhone via Thinka, HomeKit for KNX.

Thinka makes it possible to set up Geofences and other automations like Adaptive Lighting using HomeKit and the Home app – This also means that automation controls are easy to set up and modify.

Thinka has unlocked the Eve Energy App for monitoring the energy consumption of your KNX system. The Eve Energy App visualises the energy consumption and costs of your KNX devices individually

Of course, KNX smart buildings already have an energy-saving advantage, however this can be optimised with fine-tuned controls. Using a Thinka, energy monitoring and energy savings become much easier to achieve.