“It’s only in Malaysia that going indoors is colder than being in the outdoors,” a European lady once told this writer.

That probably strikes a chord with many of us, especially in super-cold places like convention centres or even hospitals.

“We live in the tropics and we have the most advanced chiller manufacturers and building automation systems in the world, yet we experience buildings that are too cold. Something is not right,” said Prabodh K Sheth, president and CEO of iCEE International Sdn Bhd.

So what if you could come up with a system that analyses data from various sensors of a building to optimise chiller efficiency so that people won’t feel too cold or warm? Something that could also save up to 30% of energy consumption in buildings with centralised cooling systems?

In February, this Malaysian company did just that, and made the country proud by winning the top prize (energy efficiency category) in the 2016 Global Cleantech Innovation Programme (GCIP) at the Cleantech Open Global Forum in Silicon Valley in San Francisco, the United States, for its locally-developed Intelligent Chiller Energy Efficiency control system (iCEE control system). It was the sole Malaysian company to emerge winner at the Forum.

The sensors detect temperature change and relative humidity within a building and then comes up with the thermal profile of the building.

“Air-conditioning uses up to 60% of total energy consumption of any commercial building,” said Prabodh in a recent interview.

Intelligent Chiller Energy Efficiency

Prabodh K Sheth explaining how the smart chilling system works. Photo: The Star/Sam Tham

A chiller is the core component of central air conditioning – almost all buildings will use either an air-cooled chiller or water-cooled chiller; the latter is more common in tropical countries.

“Every building is different in many ways, so it’s difficult to have a standardised system to be able to tackle (the efficient energy use of) all the individual buildings.

“So we came up with a big, what-if analysis that took in all the different parameters and conditions into one calculation of the heat load, or heat profile, of a building and we match the chilled water supply to that,” he said.

The system has an intelligent set of algorithms that makes more efficient use of energy in cooling (rather than over cooling) the building. The fully automated system shows real time energy savings, which optimises chiller regulation.

Prabodh added that the system was the result of a team effort that included the company’s chief operating officer, Thirumalaichelvam Subramaniam and chief technology officer Jeya Kumar Ramanji.

Intelligent Chiller Energy Efficiency

The UiTM library features the Intelligent Chiller Energy Efficiency Control System (iCEE Control System). Photo: iCEE International

Founded in 2012, iCEE International provides green technology applications for energy conservation, and was the second runner-up at the Malaysia GCIP 2016 competition held last year.

The GCIP is a joint initiative of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), in partnership with the Cleantech Open Global Forum. Participants vying for the GCIP 2016 awards came from countries that included India, Morocco, Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey, Armenia, Thailand and Malaysia.

With ever more large indoor spaces being built, the smart system will help to manage air conditioning and also air quality, said Prabodh.

“In the tropics, even if you manage to use (passive) green technology and cool the building down to a mediterranean climate, for example, you still need (additional) cooling because human beings generate humidity and heat, and the building will still get hot,” he explained.

“Our system will create an impact not only in energy savings but also in reducing carbon emissions, he added.

For more information, visit www.icee.com.my