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DLCF boiler room

The setup below can be frightening, but this is usually what happens in practice when you deploy different brands of equipment with gateways in all directions to allow data exchange.

Ecosystem map

History and organisation

The boiler room is organized around three deprecated TOTALTUB boilers not insulated but fully working.

The room supplies 6 hot water circuits, each using a a 3-way valve and a pump for regulation.


The building heated by this boiler room dates from the 1970/80s, with no insulation, a large number of metal doors and a roof seal to be reworked.

Around 2005, a Sofrel s500 PLC had been installed as a modbus master for the 3 Sauter EQJ controllers, each one managing 2 hot water circuits.

PLC : Programmable Logic Controller. Industrial digital computer which has been adapted for the control of manufacturing processes.
See wikipedia

Even though there is a specific software named Softools to control the PLC, it can be easily queried and configured in TCPIP, via its ethernet port, using the modbus TCP mode. The Softools software is only necessary to program the device from scratch, and once programming is done, you can network it freely, which is essential for interoperability. This is valid with all modbus TCP hardware.

Production optimization

During the year 2017, a Davis vantage weather station was connected to the Sofrel, as the temperature sensors associated with the Sauter controllers seemed overly optimistic during intense cold spells.

DAVIS weather station

Nota : the outdoor temperature monitored by a sensor fixed on the wall of the building is different from the outdoor temperature that can be monitored by the “open field” sensor of a meteostation. The sensor on the building benefits from the heat of the building. In a meteostation, the sensor is protected and should represent the real outdoor temperature, not a temporary “heat” feeling. It can make sense to control a circuit serving a south wing with an outdoor temperature sensor positioned on the south wall, and to control a circuit serving a north wing with an outdoor temperature sensor positioned on the north wall. Same with east and west…

The Davis vantage weather station is a 868Mhz radio device coming with a modbus RS485 bridge which we decide to translate in modbus IP via a HMS AB7007 Anybus gateway, for easy integration into the Sofrel S500. The Davis vantage was defined as a slave device (or external PLC) within the S500.

As the Sofrel was powerful enough to also regulate the hot water production within the primary collector, a software cascade was implemented at the beginning of the 2017/2018 winter season. In order to achieve this, new modulating burners were installed on the boilers, that can be controlled by a 0/10V or 4/20 mA analog signal.

SOFREL configuration

With a new PID onboard, the Sofrel was now able to supervise the production of hot water, the global energy efficiency of the boiler room being really enhanced.

PID in action

2018 was the first year in which we actually saved Kwh and money. It was a great improvment for us. Anyway, the functioning of the circuits was far from optimal and it is still very hard to heat the building properly…

Circuits supply optimization

Tipically, the water temperature in each circuit is defined by the Sauter controllers using a linear function of the outdoor temperature, measured by wired sensors.

Ext T Start Tcell Start Tnord Start Tsud Start Tsshall Start Test Start Touest
20 30 30 30 20 25 25
-10 85 75 85 55 72 72

All temperature are expressed in °C.

The cell circuit (in green on the following map) is the most difficult to regulate, being too long, not insulated and supplying prefabricated offices from the 80s that were quickly added to the laboratory building.

heating network view

The circuits regulation was traditionally achieved with night and weekend “reductions”, which is a very common practise in the world of heating engineers….This requires to connect indoor temperature sensors to the controllers operating the “reductions”. Thus, a setpoint for the indoor temperature can be defined and during nigths or weekends, the “reduction” mode is activated as long as the indoor temperature is above this setpoint…

But most of the time, indoor temperature sensors are not implemented !

We decided in 2018 to test the Batisense solution, a prediction solution developed by the Probayes company, that schematizes the building as a set of electrical/thermal circuits in order to model its behavior.


Patents registered on this subject can be found on epo.org : EP3291033A1 and EP2781976A1

The implementation of Batisense with its long-range indoor comfort sensors (169 Mhz) was a very exciting experience, even if, from an operational point of view, using a model from the cloud to manage distribution on the field is not that pragmatic: it has to be recalibrated constantly.

Collecting datasets…

By the end of 2019, we decided to install a complete monitoring separate from Batisense, which is patented and not really designed to exchange data in a ‘opensource’ manner. The purpose of this second monitoring is to collect a full dataset to train a neural network in a reinforcement-learning manner.

Using a specially modified themis machine, we decided to duplicate the instrumentation for the extra sensors installed by the Probayes (indoor temperature, return temperature in the circuits)…

Themis is basically a TCPIP network organized around a nanocomputer, using a 4G router for remote maintenance. The routeur has got a full DHCP server managing all connected TCPIP devices. It was therefore very easy to interface a Sofrel PLC to Themis. To record in real time the circuits temperature, as we had a spare HIOKI datalogger, not mobilized in the field, we just drop some thermocouples, easy to deploy….

themis DLCF

For indoor temperature monitoring, Themis is using the same kind of sensors as Batisense, i.e. Enless 169 Mhz wireless Mbus sensors

The structure of the building being very unfavourable to the propagation of radio waves (many walls and metal beams), a repeater was installed in order to guarantee a correct quality (RSSI close to -70 dBm almost everywhere).


For each circuit, the monitoring provides the following data :

  • water temperature at injection point
  • water temperature after heating
  • indoor temperature in the zone heated by the circuit
  • outside temperature
  • 3-way valve status (opened/closed)
  • pump status (on/off)

circuit monitoring

The water flow rates (in m3/h) are constant for each circuit and have been measured with an ultrasonic flowmeter

Cellules Nord Sous-sol Sud Est Ouest
5.19 6.5 4.2 2.6 1.38 1.1

Anybus AB7007

Anybus Communicator Manager (ACM)

in order to get the mac address of the module, once connected to a network with as IP address, open a telnet session telnet and issue the command version

HMS AnyBus-S Ethernet module
Admin mode, no login required

\> version
HMS AnyBus-S Ethernet module

Software version:   3.03.01
Bootloader version: 2.00.02
Serial number:      0xA0340CD9
MAC address:        00-30-11-1D-C9-2E
FB type:            0x0083


9600 bit/s , 8 databits , Parity : none , stopbits : 1 , RS232

Anybus IPconf for operation with smartflex

Anybus IPconf for operation with smartflex

Anybus node configuration for VANTAGE interrogation

Anybus node configuration for VANTAGE interrogation

Anybus configuration files

cfg+cfx files for Anybus 7007 - operation on themis machine DLCF boiler room - 10/12/2019

Anybus download upload conf files

Sofrel S500

SOFREL planning chauffe

switching SAUTER controllers to autopilot from SOFREL

SOFREL backup file to recreate the configuration

SOFREL registers list