UC Berkeley-designed chair cuts energy use with personal thermal control
The Daily Californian
03 September 2013
Ph: Carli Baker / The Daily Californian
Developed by researchers at the Center for the Built Environment, the personal comfort system (PCS) will allow users to maintain a certain homeostasis at a personal level in a range of office temperatures. The system employs a host of energy-efficient devices like low-wattage fans and heat-radiating sheets that are discreetly embedded into office chairs and regulated by a control knob on the armrest. Supplementary units include a light bulb-powered foot warmer and an additional cooling fan.
The chair, cordless and repowered via laptop charger, comes as the product of 15 years of research on the sensitivity of 16 different body parts. The team found that the most fundamental areas to regulate are the head, back and feet, each targeted by the PCS. During the development process, the team, supported by a $1.6 million dollar grant from the California Energy Commission, used a thermal mannequin to calibrate measurements of the cooling fan’s efficiency to these areas.
The fans used in the system are also equipped with USB ports to remotely send data about personal usage that, combined with information like ambient temperature and others’ responses, will be aggregated to set the more conservative energy standard for the building’s ventilation units, says Hui Zhang, a researcher at CBE.