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Building Technologies

Developing an Inexpensive and Noninvasive Thermal Flow Meter

Company Name: FluxTeq
Program Office: Buildings
Location: Blacksburg, VA
Award Amount: $120,000
Project Term: 12 months
Project Status: Active
Participating Lab(s): Oak Ridge National Laboratory


Thermal flow meters, commonly referred to as BTU meters, are instruments used in central district heating and cooling systems to measure delivered cooling and heating energy and evaluate system efficiency. They are also increasingly being used in renewable energy applications such as solar thermal, geothermal, combined heat and power, biomass metering, and waste heat recovery, to estimate thermal energy and system efficiency. But BTU meters currently on the market are very expensive, and are not economically feasible for widespread use in commercial buildings.

The focus of this project is to develop an inexpensive BTU meter system that can revolutionize the way building HVAC systems are controlled, significantly increasing their efficiency. Using inexpensive and noninvasive thermal sensors, FluxTeq plans to develop the first ever cost-effective BTU meter for widespread use in HVAC control systems.

Although FluxTeq has the resources and knowledge to develop the proposed system, the company lacks the proper facilities to 1) validate the system and determine its accuracy in real-world applications, and 2) enable the incorporation of the device into standard building control systems. This SBV Pilot will enable FluxTeq to partner with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to overcome these obstacles. Gathering the necessary test data provided from ORNL's experimental facilities will help validate the system, offering potential customers proof of its effectiveness. 


Current BTU meters rely either on invasive sensors that have high installation costs, or on expensive and very sophisticated ultrasonic sensors.  With installed costs averaging around $10,000 for a single meter, it is simply not economically feasible to deploy several in multiple zones of a building to get feedback on HVAC system performance.

FluxTeq's proposed BTU meter device takes a novel approach in collecting measurements, using thermal sensors to determine BTU values within an internal flow. The noninvasive nature of the system makes it easy to install by any building manager or technician. Using this innovative measurement approach, FluxTeq's easily installed BTU meters will cost a fraction of systems currently on the market.


To date, FluxTeq's product sales have been limited to heat flux sensors and data acquisition systems of interest to a relatively small market, consisting mostly of researchers and testing facilities. Introducing an accurate, noninvasive, inexpensive BTU meter system will significantly increase FluxTeq's target market and revenue.

FluxTeq's innovative and inexpensive BTU meter has the potential to open up a broad new market for monitoring and improving the efficiency of HVAC systems. In commercial buildings, HVAC is responsible for about 44 percent of a building's energy use; the potential for energy and cost savings is considerable.

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