Energy-Efficient HVAC Systems

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Energy-efficient HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems are designed to provide heating, cooling, and ventilation for buildings while minimizing energy consumption. These systems incorporate advanced technologies and design principles to improve efficiency, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and enhance occupant comfort.

Impact on climate action

Energy-Efficient HVAC Systems in Energy-Efficient Buildings significantly reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions. By optimizing heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, these innovations lower building energy demand, mitigate environmental impact, and advance climate action by promoting sustainable building practices and reducing reliance on fossil fuels for heating and cooling.


  • High-Efficiency Equipment: This includes equipment with higher energy efficiency ratings, such as ENERGY STAR-certified furnaces, air conditioners, and heat pumps.
  • Variable-Speed Drives (VSDs): VSDs adjust the speed of motors in HVAC equipment, such as fans and compressors, to match the actual load requirements, reducing energy consumption.
  • Demand-Controlled Ventilation (DCV): DCV systems adjust ventilation rates based on occupancy and indoor air quality, reducing energy waste while maintaining healthy indoor environments.
  • Heat Recovery Ventilation (HRV) and Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERV): HRV and ERV systems recover heat from outgoing air to preheat incoming fresh air, reducing heating and cooling loads.
  • Smart Thermostats and Controls: Smart thermostats and controls allow for automated temperature adjustments and remote monitoring of HVAC systems, improving comfort and energy efficiency.
  • Building Automation and Control Systems (BACS): BACS integrate and control various building systems, including HVAC, lighting, and security, to optimize energy usage and building performance.

TRL : 7-8

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Geothermal Heat Pumps: Geothermal heat pumps utilize the constant temperature of the ground to provide efficient heating and cooling for buildings.
  • Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) Systems: VRF systems use refrigerant as the heat transfer medium and allow for individual zone control, improving comfort and efficiency.
  • Dedicated Outdoor Air Systems (DOAS): DOAS provide ventilation independent of heating and cooling systems, improving indoor air quality and reducing energy consumption.
  • AI-Powered HVAC Optimization: AI and machine learning algorithms can be used to optimize HVAC system operation in real-time, taking into account factors such as weather conditions, occupancy patterns, and energy prices.
  • Building-Integrated HVAC Systems: Integrating HVAC systems into building design can improve efficiency and reduce space requirements.

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  1. BrainBox AI:
    • Technology Enhancement: BrainBox AI leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to optimize the energy efficiency of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in commercial buildings. Their AI algorithms continuously analyze building data, occupancy patterns, and external factors to predict and optimize HVAC operations in real-time, reducing energy consumption and carbon emissions.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: BrainBox AI stands out for its AI-driven approach to HVAC optimization, which enables proactive and adaptive control of building systems based on evolving conditions. Their solution goes beyond traditional HVAC automation by incorporating predictive analytics and machine learning to deliver significant energy savings and occupant comfort improvements.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: BrainBox AI serves commercial real estate owners, property managers, and building operators seeking cost-effective and sustainable HVAC solutions. Their technology is deployed in office buildings, retail spaces, hotels, and other commercial facilities, helping customers achieve energy efficiency goals and reduce operational expenses.
  2. 75F:
    • Technology Enhancement: 75F offers cloud-based building automation and HVAC control systems designed to optimize comfort and energy efficiency in commercial buildings. Their solution combines wireless sensors, smart thermostats, and predictive algorithms to dynamically adjust HVAC settings based on occupancy, temperature, and other factors, delivering personalized comfort while reducing energy waste.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: 75F stands out for its user-friendly and scalable approach to HVAC control and automation, which empowers building occupants and managers to monitor and optimize indoor environments in real-time. Their system integrates with existing HVAC infrastructure, making it easy to retrofit and upgrade older buildings for improved energy performance and occupant satisfaction.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: 75F serves small and medium-sized commercial buildings, including offices, retail stores, schools, and healthcare facilities. Their energy-efficient HVAC solutions are particularly well-suited for buildings with varying occupancy patterns and thermal comfort requirements, enabling precise control and energy savings without sacrificing comfort.
  3. enVerid Systems:
    • Technology Enhancement: enVerid Systems specializes in HVAC air quality and energy efficiency solutions for commercial and institutional buildings. Their technology includes advanced air purification systems and energy recovery ventilation (ERV) modules that improve indoor air quality while reducing energy consumption. By capturing and filtering contaminants and recovering energy from exhaust air, enVerid’s systems help buildings achieve healthier indoor environments and lower operating costs.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: enVerid Systems stands out for its focus on both air quality and energy efficiency in HVAC systems, offering integrated solutions that address multiple building performance objectives simultaneously. Their patented sorbent media and ERV technology enable buildings to meet indoor air quality standards and sustainability goals while minimizing energy use and carbon footprint.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: enVerid Systems serves a wide range of commercial and institutional customers, including office buildings, schools, hospitals, and laboratories. Their HVAC solutions are particularly beneficial for buildings seeking to enhance occupant health and productivity, comply with ventilation standards, and achieve energy efficiency certifications such as LEED and WELL.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL):
    • Research Focus: NREL is a pioneering institution in research on Energy-Efficient HVAC Systems, focusing on developing advanced heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) technologies for residential, commercial, and industrial buildings.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses the design, optimization, and testing of innovative HVAC components, systems, and controls to improve energy efficiency, indoor air quality, and occupant comfort. They also conduct techno-economic analysis, market assessments, and technology transfer activities to accelerate the adoption of energy-efficient HVAC solutions in the built environment.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in new construction, retrofits, and building energy management systems. By developing cost-effective and scalable HVAC technologies, NREL’s research contributes to reducing energy consumption, lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and enhancing building resilience in diverse climate zones.
  2. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL):
    • Research Focus: LBNL is at the forefront of research on Energy-Efficient HVAC Systems, leveraging its expertise in building science, mechanical engineering, and indoor environmental quality to develop cutting-edge solutions for energy-efficient heating and cooling.
    • Uniqueness: Their research spans the development of high-efficiency HVAC equipment, advanced controls, and integrated building systems for optimizing thermal comfort and energy performance. They also conduct field studies, simulation modeling, and building performance evaluations to assess the effectiveness and scalability of energy-efficient HVAC technologies in real-world settings.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in residential, commercial, and institutional buildings. By advancing energy-efficient HVAC systems, LBNL’s research supports energy conservation goals, reduces operational costs, and enhances building occupant productivity and well-being.
  3. University of California, Berkeley:
    • Research Focus: UC Berkeley conducts innovative research on Energy-Efficient HVAC Systems, leveraging its multidisciplinary expertise in mechanical engineering, environmental science, and building energy analysis to address challenges related to energy consumption and thermal comfort in buildings.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses the development of novel HVAC technologies, renewable energy integration strategies, and building automation systems for optimizing energy use while maintaining indoor environmental quality. They also investigate the intersection of energy efficiency, occupant behavior, and building design to inform policy decisions and industry best practices.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in both residential and commercial buildings, including office spaces, schools, hospitals, and multifamily dwellings. By developing energy-efficient HVAC solutions, UC Berkeley’s research contributes to reducing carbon emissions, enhancing building resilience to climate change, and promoting sustainable building practices.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Energy-efficient HVAC systems are widely available and are being implemented in various building types around the world. Building codes and energy efficiency standards are increasingly requiring the use of high-efficiency HVAC equipment and systems.