Airex – Smart Ventilation Control

Published: 30 September 2020

Tens of millions of homes in the UK were built with low energy efficiency standards, with poor insulation leading to cold rooms and uncomfortable draughts, with traditional air-bricks or vents being responsible for up to 15% of heat loss in the home. This means occupants often need to turn up the heating, which in turn drives up energy bills.

Airex has developed a smart ventilation control – an intelligent air brick – that automatically regulates air flow using sensors to monitor temperature, humidity and air quality.

Energy Systems Catapult has developed a Living Lab where innovators can test new products, services and business models in up to 100 real-world homes connected to a cloud-based digital integration platform by an array of in-home IoT sensors/actuators.

The Innovation

London-based technology start-up, Airex, developed a smart ventilation control that uses sensors to monitor temperature, humidity and air quality in the home. It uses advanced algorithms to manage airflow and ventilation, while also considering local weather and air quality data. Airex opens the vents to reduce underfloor humidity and closes them to reduce heat loss and improve overall comfort, leading to:

  • Warmer Homes – improving the thermal efficiency, so rooms warm up faster
  • Improved Comfort – excluding draughts, improving airtightness and thermal comfort
  • Lower Energy Bills – reducing heat loss by 10-15%, with average annual savings of £150
  • Healthy Home – good air quality by mitigating condensation, timber rot and mould risk
  • Minimal Disruption – simple, non-disruptive installation system minimises inconvenience – taking only a couple of hours to replace existing bricks
  • Cost Effective – modest upfront costs, with system pays back in 2-3 years.

The Challenge

Airex believe up to 40 million homes across Europe could benefit from an intelligent airbrick. However with their initial target market being UK social housing, the obvious beneficiary is the tenant rather than the landlord.

Research suggests that traditional air-bricks or vents are responsible for up to 15% of heat loss in the home. However residents that block air vents permanently, can suffer condensation and damp problems, with an average repair bill of £3,000.

The real-time data provided by Airex would be of significant value in enabling landlords and facility managers to carry out preventative maintenance. For example, providing indicators of damp via an interactive dashboard and simple alerts, rather than carrying out expensive repair works.

While the academic trials were very useful to validate the initial hypothesis, Airex realised that larger scale trials were needed. If their customer proposition was going to exhibit clear value, real-world evidence was required to enable landlords to build a business case for investing in the product.

The Solution

Energy Systems Catapult is helping Airex accelerate their innovation to market with product validation via test and demonstration, exploiting data from the trial for further product development, support with business planning, and extending the monitoring period in the Living Lab to a larger scale.

  • Living Lab – Airex are receiving a wealth of data about the performance of their smart ventilation product, which enabled them to validate their initial energy savings estimates for their consumer proposition.
  • Consumer Insight – from the trial helped Airex refine their customer value proposition.
  • Industry collaboration – through the Smart Systems and Heat (SSH) programme, we facilitated collaboration with SSH industry partners Engie and EDF Energy; collaborating together at the VivaTech (2018) and EDF Electric Days (2018) exhibitions.

The Outcomes

Since Airex began working with Energy Systems Catapult, they have gone on to:

  • Win the ‘pitch prize’ in the home category at Cleantech Innovate 2019.
  • Airex co-founder Agnes Czako was recognised at IUK’s Women in Innovation Awards 2019.
  • Selected as one of only five technologies approved by energy regulator Ofgem for the ECO 3
    Scheme.
  • Secure funding from IUK in the ‘Innovation in response to global disruption’ competition, designed to boost economic recovery from the impact of COVID-19 (improving indoor air quality for vulnerable people).