Buildings, particularly older ones, are energy hogs. They account for 40 per cent of all energy consumption in Europe. But Leanheat believes new digital technologies can bring this number down drastically without any compromise on our living conditions. The company is behind a new artificial intelligence (AI) powered management system which optimises indoor climate and energy efficiency in apartment buildings.
“We make buildings smarter,” says Jukka Aho, CEO at Leanheat. “In particular, we focus on the control and maintenance of heating and ventilation in centrally heated properties.”
Leanheat’s system (also called Leanheat) is fuelled by data. All flats covered by the system are equipped with sensors to monitor changes in temperature and humidity. Leanheat combines this data with peaks and lows in energy demand across the building, takes into account potential weather changes and automatically adjusts the heating to maintain an amiable indoor climate with minimal energy usage.
“All the data is gathered in the cloud and our software calculates millions of different paths for heating control and sends instructions back to the central heating,” Aho explains. “Residents don’t have to do anything, but they should notice more stable living conditions while building owners receive smaller heating bills and district heating companies will see a cut in peak power demand.”
Dare to be different
Smart heating is a competitive industry today, but Leanheat has some aces up its sleeve. The company targets entire buildings and building clusters, instead of individual flats, and collaborates with district heating companies. In addition to savings in energy costs and consumption, Leanheat also promises benefits for building maintenance.
“Our system constantly monitors a building,” Aho explains. “We can detect if the heating system starts to work even slightly inefficiently and intervene before any major faults occur.”
Aho first had the idea for Leanheat in 2011. Back then, he was working at another Finnish company, Pandia, a specialist in financial software for real estate companies.
“Our customers were complaining that when they invest in, for example, better insulation they know how it affects energy consumption but not the indoor climate,” Aho recalls. “We started to ask why don’t they measure living conditions inside an apartment.”
This question formed the core of Leanheat’s first version. Pandia piloted it in 2014 with 4 000 flats in Finland and, as demand grew, Leanheat was spun off into a separate company in 2016.
The one million milestone
Today Leanheat is installed in a total of 100 000 flats across Europe and China. While the company is looking to grow into new markets, China represents a huge opportunity for the company and is already its second biggest market.
“There are maybe a million apartments in Finland suitable for our system, but in China already our first pilot customer heats over two million apartments,” Aho enthuses. “Currently we work with six district heating companies in China and have nine ongoing commercial pilot projects.”
Customers like these are crucial for Leanheat’s ambitious goal: over one million installations by the end of 2022.
But numbers aren’t all that drive Leanheat. The company believes AI and data will revolutionise the way properties are maintained in future, and it wants to play a vital role in this development. So far, the signs are promising.
“In 2014 we sat staring at heating charts with our Finnish key customers and now we are contributing to cleaner air in Beijing,” Aho says. “It feels unbelievable.”