Quantification of HVAC energy savings through occupancy presence sensors in an apartment setting: Field testing and inverse modeling approach

Zhihong Pang, Mingyue Guo, Blake Smith-Cortez, Zheng O'Neill, Zhiyao Yang, Mingzhe Liu, Bing Dong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


While many simulation-based studies have demonstrated the energy-saving potential of occupancy-driven smart thermostats in residential buildings, field testing of these devices remains relatively limited. The objective of this study is to propose a new field-testing approach to evaluate the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) energy-saving potential of occupancy-driven thermostats and occupancy-centric controls (OCC) for HVAC in a residential apartment in Texas, U.S. A proprietary prototype occupancy sensing system was chosen for this study, coupled with a Raspberry Pi-based hardware framework to facilitate OCC implementation by linking occupancy sensors to the existing HVAC system. Energy consumption of the HVAC system during both non-OCC baseline and OCC modes was measured using various sensors installed at the test site. Furthermore, XGBoost models were developed, used onsite measurements, to consider the effects of various factors like occupancy and outdoor weather conditions on HVAC energy consumption to facilitate a fair comparison. The scope of the analysis was further expanded to cover the period from 2018 to 2022 and Typical Meteorological Year 3 (TMY3) by incorporating a statistical occupancy schedule generator. The results suggest that approximately 15.1% cooling energy consumption could be saved during the testing period, equivalent to around 109 kWh in electricity savings. Moreover, OCCs have the potential to achieve electricity savings ranging from 300 to 330 kWh in the months between April and September, depending on the weather in each year. This corresponds to a cooling energy saving ratio ranging from 19% to 24%. Despite energy savings, OCC had some minor adverse effects on their thermal comfort and perceptions of Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ). Moreover, residents' ratings for indoor thermal comfort dropped from neutral to slightly dissatisfied after the implementation of OCCs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number113752
JournalEnergy and Buildings
StatePublished - Jan 1 2024


  • Occupancy sensor
  • Occupancy-centric control
  • Residential buildings
  • Smart thermostat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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