Energy harvesting

Energy harvesting

The access solution you choose can help save costs and reduce energy use

Buildings consume around 30% of the world’s energy1. How much of it is really needed? According to one estimate, perhaps 30% bought for commercial, manufacturing and education premises is wasted2.

A simple way to save costs and reduce energy use is to ensure doors are shut. A 2010 Cambridge University study estimated that closing doors could reduce energy use in a typical shop by up to 50%3. Of course, a task that is simple to address in a shop with two entrances is not so easy for a 1,000-door office building.

An access control system combined with intelligent door closers ensures reliable, tight closing while at the same time, maintaining barrier-free access to and through a building. Inside, a closed door helps to maintain temperature differentials — between an office and the corridor, for example, or a server room and a glass atrium exposed to climate variations. Fully closed interior doors also reduce stack pressure, unwanted inward airflow on the ground floor which is caused by rising warm air inside the building.

However, the energy-efficiency performance of access control solutions varies widely. A traditional wired access control system, for example, brings its own challenge: These systems can be energy hungry. A more effective, efficient solution may be offered by choosing wireless.

Installation savings from choosing wireless access control

Choosing wireless over wired locking can play an important role in reducing energy use — and therefore expenditure. Savings begin right from installation. Indeed, this stage is the largest contributor to potential cost saving in choosing wireless access control.

In calculations for one benchmarking report, ASSA ABLOY experts examined projected costs for a 100-door installation. Labour savings for those who chose wireless versus wired locks were 82.5%4. Why? Firstly, because wireless installation is much faster. It is also less intrusive. Most wireless locks require little or no drilling around the door, whereas wired access control needs cabling through and partly around a door — which requires specialist electrical installers, too.

By choosing a wireless solution, organizations also upgrade building security without inconveniencing staff or disturbing everyday work routines. This was one of the goals at Plexal, a £15 million flexible work environment for London’s “innovation community” where enterprise and academia work together under one roof, with technology companies, start-ups, universities and creatives. Plexal chose battery powered wireless locks integrated with DoorFlow, NetNodes’ online platform for managing and auditing building access.

“Plexal required an adaptable locking solution for a range of different doors and, with no wiring required, it was quick and easy to install ASSA ABLOY Aperio® devices with minimal disruption,” says Stewart Johnson, Director at NetNodes.

Reducing energy consumption during usage — and beyond

Between 2021 and 2022, non-household energy prices rose by at least 10% in every EU country except one. In Greece, Romania and Denmark, unit prices for businesses more than doubled5. Energy cost pressures have wide ranging impact on the health and performance of a business. They impact competitiveness and reduce the funds available for investment. Any uncertainty reduces appetites for risk and innovation. And, of course, with higher costs, come lower profits. Energy and cost saving is often a strategic priority for organizations in both the private and public sectors6.

Battery-powered locks have a role to play. They use less energy than traditional wired locks, which normally work via magnets connected permanently to electricity. Wireless locks work differently. They only “wake up” when presented with a credential, to make an access decision. This translates into another potential saving on energy costs: more than 70%, or thousands of euros over a typical access control installation’s lifetime, according to ASSA ABLOY’s benchmarking report.[TS1] 

For student accommodation, the University of St Andrews sought this type of energy-efficient access control solution. They also chose Aperio, battery powered electronic escutcheons. Approximately 1,600 doors so far are equipped. “Aperio gives us central management and control,” says Pauline Brown, the university’s Associate Chief Information Officer, “and contributes to our award-winning track record in energy efficiency.”

Other related energy and material costs are also lower for wireless locks. During operation, they only need a change of their standard battery — which may be rechargeable — typically once every few years. No specialist maintenance is required.

Wireless locks also add flexibility — and can reduce costs — when an organization reconfigures or expands their office space. High-quality wireless locks can typically be reinstalled at another door without impacting their reliability. They move to wherever is convenient.

If a business is rethinking workspace to encourage flexible or hybrid work patterns, for example, cost efficiencies could be significant. Typical savings on office relocation or expansion are estimated at around 30% with wireless rather than wired locking.

The next evolution: energy harvesting technology

However, another recent innovation promises even lower power consumption at the door: energy harvesting. Electronic access control which is self-powered by energy-harvesting technology consumes no energy during the interaction between user and door. It generates its own.

Energy harvesting is becoming a familiar technology to designers of smart buildings. It is widely used in building sensors, for example. Its application to security now removes energy use at an access point altogether when it is equipped with the right digital lock. With smart key-based electronic access control based on this technology, for example, lock electronics harvest energy from the thrust and/or turning of a key. Kinetic energy from the keyholder powers communication between credential, device and the central access management system.

These “self-powered” digital devices do not require batteries or cables — or indeed, any external electricity source. Energy-harvesting access solutions combine the familiarity and convenience of key operation with the intelligence and flexibility of electronic access control. They put facilities managers in command of their premises without the disruption or energy use of traditional wired doors.

At a new residential development in Esbjerg, Denmark, ASSA ABLOY PULSE smart key-operated electronic cylinders with energy-harvesting technology now secure more than 300 apartments: “We went for a future-proof solution which was maintenance-free and where we did not have to change batteries,” explains Peter Høpfner, COO and Founder of A Place To, Esbjerg.

Such innovations give organizations further options when they are seeking a more energy-and cost-efficient way to secure their site and manage user access. Both battery-powered door devices and smart keys with energy-harvesting locks consume much less energy than equivalent wired solutions powered by mains electricity.


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