ARPA-E Announces Funding Opportunity to Reduce Energy Use in Buildings

January 18, 2017

ARPA-E today announced up to $30 million in funding for the development of a new class of building sensor systems aimed at improved controls for heating and cooling that will improve comfort, reduce costs, and reduce energy use. 

ARPA-E’s Saving Energy Nationwide in Structures with Occupancy Recognition (SENSOR) program seeks to develop innovative and highly accurate presence sensors and occupancy counters that will lead to significantly improved heating and cooling of buildings and lower energy use. In 2015, the United States consumed 97.5 quadrillion BTUs (quads) of energy, 13 quads of which was used for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) of buildings. HVAC is the largest consumer of energy in the commercial building sector, totaling some 37% of all energy used in this area. Greater than 1.8 quads of this energy is wasted by heating, cooling and over-ventilating unoccupied or partially occupied spaces. Currently available building automation and control systems are limited in their ability to substantially reduce this HVAC energy use due to a lack of accurate and reliable occupancy information.  

ARPA-E’s SENSOR program will take advantage of existing low-cost wireless and electronic communication technologies and focus on four main areas for technological advances regarding: 1) human presence sensors for residential use, 2) occupant counting sensors for commercial use to enable both temperature and ventilation adjustments, 3) low-cost CO2 sensors to enable ventilation adjustments, and 4) validation testing of these sensor systems and their effect on energy savings. If successful, SENSOR technologies could minimize or eliminate the need for human intervention with HVAC systems to reduce HVAC energy usage by 30% in both commercial and residential settings that address end-user requirements for cost, privacy, and usability.

ARPA-E is allocating up to $30 million for SENSOR, with $10 million available to small businesses under ARPA-E's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program and $20 million available to all applicants.

The deadline to submit a Concept Paper for SENSOR is 5 p.m. ET on March 17, 2017. Additional information, including the full FOA and how to find project teaming partners, is available on ARPA-E’s online application portal, ARPA-E eXCHANGE