Frequently Asked Questions

Find the answers to commonly asked questions related to solar shading and Embedia products...

Distributed intelligence is a control strategy pioneered by Embedia that eliminates the reliance on a centralized server or controller for critical system functions. By enabling each motor or control unit to determine the optimal position for its' associated shading element, single points of failure within the system are effectively eliminated leading to a far more robust and reliable control system.

Competing control systems often rely on arrays of sensors or static scheduling tables for basic positioning of shading elements. These methods are reactive and inflexible often resulting in shade positioning that is less than ideal or simply too late. Take a system relying on brightness sensors for shade deployment as an example. When the sun hits a sensor, the shade should already have been deployed, however, it takes some time for the system to react and during that time unwanted solar energy and glare enter the building.

Embedia's Solarai Plus line of controls is different... in a good way! By using proprietary solar angle of incidence algorithms, Solarai Plus controls predict the solar path and calculate the exact position of the sun relative to each individual shading element to ensure they are always in the optimal position. This is done automatically accounting for various factors including time of day/year, a building's geographical coordinates, orientation of shading elements in 3d space, advanced environmental modeling such as overshadowing and reflected glare, glare/thermal protection regions, building performance specifications, and more. Sensors can also be added to enhance the operation under varying environmental conditions such as overcast skies, but with predictive solar control they are not required for optimal positioning.

When comparing Solarai Plus to competing control systems, people often are shocked by the relatively small number of sensors required. They are simply not needed due to the innovative predictive solar control features built into Solarai Plus controllers. Sensors are only used to determine general environmental conditions and not for basic positioning of individual shading elements. With Solarai Plus, a small number of centrally located sensors, often mounted out of sight on the roof, can service an entire building providing configurable overrides to retract shades in overcast conditions, protect the system in windy conditions, and more. Not only does this save money and preserve building aesthetics by eliminating large unsightly facade mounted sensor arrays, but it is simply a better control strategy.

The reality is a large number of sensors often points to a reactive control strategy which is not desirable for the following reasons. First, in a reactive system, when sun becomes incident on a sensor the corresponding shade or group of shades will respond. Unfortunately, this response is not instantaneous so the shades remain in the wrong position until the signal from the sensor is received and the shades have had time to move. Unwanted solar energy and uncomfortable glare have already penetrated the envelope resulting in an under-performing building that is uncomfortable for its' occupants. Second, facade mounted sensor arrays are not only costly to initially install and maintain, but also unsightly, compromising the architectural beauty of a building's design.  Solarai Plus' predictive solar control solves all of these problems ensuring shades are always in the optimal position to maximize building performance while giving architects and designers the flexibility they need make their vision a reality without compromise.

In general, a case can be made that motorized shading is always worth the extra cost. The reality, however, is that this decision is project specific.  It depends on many factors including the type and location of the building, how much value is placed on sustainability, energy efficiency, occupant comfort, aesthetics, environmental certification (LEED, WELL, Zero Energy, etc), as well as the desired level of performance for both the building and its' occupants.

Over the past 20 years, Embedia control systems have enabled architects, developers, and owners alike to construct buildings meeting the highest levels of environmental performance. In large scale commercial installations, independent case studies have shown improvements in energy efficiency greater than 70% over comparable buildings without Solarai controls. One particular study, analyzing a specific building's performance over a 3 year post construction period, concluded that the system contributed to nearly $2 million dollars in annual energy savings by both optimizing solar heat gain and minimizing reliance on artificial lighting. In warmer climates especially, ROI from energy savings alone can be seen in as little as a few months. While it feels good to save money, it's even better when you are also doing something good for the environment!

In addition to cost and sustainability factors, Harvard Business Review recently released a study stating that the #1 office perk is natural light. An efficient solar control strategy using motorized shading systems can maximize natural light without compromising the overall performance of the building or its' occupants. Embedia has worked closely with research firms including LBNL (US) and NRC (Canada), as well as many prominent fortune 500 companies, to develop building environments that maximize the efficiency and enjoyment of those occupying the space. The ROI from happy, healthy, efficient people may be more difficult to quantify, but these factors definitely makes an immediate impact.