Roman Klein
Head of Communications Minebea Europe
Phone:  +49 (0)7721 / 997 317
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MinebeaMitsumi EU / NMB Minebea GmbH / Press articles
Product 14.12.2016     Author: Roman Klein

Industry 4.0 Enters Private Homes

Modern room temperature regulators operate without a battery and produce their own power. Today, the conventional thermostatic valve that one turns to operate is everywhere. Most of the heating energy is saved through programmable electronic thermostat valves. Manufacturers have of up to 30% savings in heating costs, which can only be achieved by targeted heating. The biggest weakness of previous electronic valves is the type of batteries it needs. Depending on the need for regulation, these must be changed once a year in order to guarantee optimum power supply. The change may be quite manageable in private homes, but in industrial and non-residential buildings it is associated with enormous costs and efforts.

The new Smart Valve© radiator valve from PM DM uses the heat dissipation between the radiator and the room to extract electrical energy using a thermoelectric generator (TEG). The heat then turns into electricity. The engineers quickly realized that the existing battery or cable-bound systems could not simply be retrofitted with a thermoelectric generator. The entire system was rethought so that the stored and constantly changing electrical energy was sufficient for trouble-free operation. It consists of gearboxes, power management, memory, microcontrollers and sensors. During the development, a new gearbox which required five to ten times less energy to drive a valve position was created. Knowledge gained through the development of motors and fluid bearings has benefited the new changes. The engineers analyzed all components of the electronics for leakage currents and low energy consumption and optimized them. The achieved degree of utilization of energy today is well over 80%.

An ultra-low power microcontroller is the brain of the system and controls drive, positioning, communication signals and power management. The intelligent software architecture ensures the best possible utilization of the hardware. Each room can be adjusted to the desired temperature by means of a central controller. The control via smartphones or tablets is also possible. The user programs his individual weekly program by applying the times when the home is uninhabited and when the nighttime starts and ends. When the home is left empty, the rooms can cool down to 16 °C. Upon the return of the inhabitants, it will be warm again. Lowering the temperature by one degree can save six to eight percent of the heating costs.

Until now, radiator actuators have been supplied with power by cable connections or, as described initially, by batteries. Unfortunately the installation of the cables is connected with effort which is not a problem for new buildings, but could turn into a problem if someone simply wants to retrofit an old building. Once the Smart Valve© is installed, the advantage of maintenance-free operation is enhanced. Discounters and home improvement stores offer "stand-alone devices" at bargain prices.  A "stand-alone device" means that the radiator valves are not connected to a control center. These individual systems must be programmed separately for each radiator. In rooms with several radiators these devices can cause issues between each other and the room temperature control. In the worst case, the actuators constantly correct themselves, which causes the battery life to be reduced to a few months. It is disappointing to think of the masses of wasted batteries. For this reason, PM DM offers a solution with the Smart Valve©. Environmental energy such as light, heat, or movement must be used to supply electricity to small systems.