“We are driving sector coupling in buildings”

Expert Interview – April 25, 2024

Heinz Lux is CEO of KNX Association in Brussels.

Intelligent buildings, energy management, inter-operability – these are buzz words often heard in connection with the energy transition. But what difference does it make if, for example, the heating is automatically switched off when a window is opened? We spoke to Heinz Lux, CEO of KNX Association in Brussels.

KNX Association is an international association of more than 500 companies from 49 countries that have agreed on KNX as a standard, manufacturer-independent communication system for home and building services. Today, all renowned building services manufacturers are members. KNX was originally designed for large buildings, but was later also installed in residential buildings. With buildings doubling as power generators, energy management is becoming more important than ever, along with comfort and safety.

Interview with Heinz Lux, CEO of KNX Association

Mr. Lux, what does KNX stand for?

Before we settled on KNK, our association was called EIBA, then briefly Konnex, derived from connexio, which is Latin for connection. KNX is a bus system for buildings control that sets a global standard for smart homes and smart buildings in accordance with ISO 14543. There are currently 8,000 certified KNX devices, representing 80 percent of the devices sold in Europe for home and building automation in Europe. The KNX Association is an association of manufacturers.

When it was founded in 1990, the association wasn’t about smart homes. How did it at all start?

In the beginning, it was about connecting sensors and actuators in industrial buildings, office buildings and other commercial buildings. But in the mid-1990s, the first residential buildings were equipped with KNX. KNX is now established in 185 countries around the world and, according to a recent survey, it is installed in every second smart home and in more than 80 percent of German office buildings.

Can you give some examples of what KNX does?

KNX enables decentralized, intelligent control of lighting, roller shutters, HVAC applications, PV, storage, EV-chargers and other energy management components. This is how KNX is driving sector coupling in building automation: Heating, electricity and mobility are automatically managed in combination.

What’s the advantage of KNX over other solutions?

Unlike other systems, KNX is manufacturer-independent and doesn’t have a central unit. Building users can choose and use the ideal product from a wide range of different manufacturers. KNX then connects everything. The system is offered by every electrical installer, based either on twisted pairs, radio frequency or IP.

Will this help achieve the energy transition?

Yes. For example, you can use systems based on KNX to support on-site consumption of solar power and to optimize consumption according to the energy markets. The more components a system has, the more important it is to have an intelligent KNX controller. For example, if you have a rooftop PV system, home storage, charging stations, a heat pump and domestic appliances that can be used flexibly, and the system can be significantly optimized. External data that is relevant for the processes, such as time-of-use electricity tariffs, which depend on the spot market of the energy exchange, can be also be factored into consumption and storage. The weather forecast can also be taken into account: If a solar installation is expected to provide a good yield, draining your residential storage system doesn’t need to worry you. This dramatically reduces expensive power purchases from external utilities.

Shifting consumption according to supply is one half of achieving the energy transition, saving energy the other. How can KNX contribute to the latter?

It also helps save energy. The simplest example is installing sensors at your windows that tell the thermostat to turn off the heating when the window is open. Energy management based on KNX has saved up to 60 percent of energy in real projects. There is already a wide range of KNX devices on the market for Home Energy Management Systems (HEMS). Many KNX compatible HEMS provide users with a comprehensive visualization of all relevant data, giving them an up-to-date overview of the power balance in their smart home and the ability to adjust their energy management. As interest in this sector is growing, a large number of new KNX solutions and KNX devices have been introduced recently.

Is this system exclusively for single-family homes, or is it also for multi-family dwellings?

Of course, this system also works for houses with several apartments, where it can be used to optimize and bill tenant power models. Combined with existing applications, such as smart meters and timers, KNX allows you to integrate all kinds of energy management applications into the “KNX ecosystem”. You can integrate anything that needs to be metered and controlled, even the water meters of multi-family dwellings.

How widespread is KNX in the world?

KNX is currently the European market leader in building automation – especially in the area of energy management. 60 percent of buildings in Europe that use a bus system are equipped with KNX. We’ve also achieved high shares in Asia, particularly in China, where it’s used in almost 50 percent of buildings. In India, we’ve even reached 70 percent, similar to South America, Japan, the USA and Australia. All the existing buildings in the world – of which there are millions – can easily be retrofitted for energy management. What started as European Installation Bus (EIB) and was once developed in Germany is now a global standard.

Does artificial intelligence play a big role in building communication?

Of course! There are now self-learning KNX modules that recognize user habits and take them into account when creating the energy management algorithms. KNX is an open system consisting of various different modules. You can start with just a few KNX devices and completely customize the system to your needs. The start-up software is also available as an online training tool (eCampus) so that every programmer can customize their system – which is another advantage over proprietary solutions.

Tip: Visit KNX at EM-Power Europe from June 19-21, 2024 in Munich, hall B5, booth 670.

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