This discusses recent technology advancements in first responder seat systems. The next paragraphs will discuss the integration of an occupant heating and cooling system to be available in the Valor seat family, and the improvements in occupant comfort afforded by such technology integration.
In the past several decades, automakers have offered inseat heating systems for enhanced occupant comfort. The benefits of such systems are readily apparent in cold climates and temperate climates in winter time. However, much like a heating pad for soreness, benefit can also be realized during warm
In just the past several years, luxury automakers have begun offering inseat cooling systems for enhanced comfort of vehicle occupants in warm environments. While inherently more complicated system than a heatonly system (since removing heat is always more difficult than creating heat), the enhanced comfort as reported by users has been significant; perhaps even surprising to many first time users. Additionally, for applications in hybrid and electric only vehicles, the benefit of reduced total power draw when used in conjunction or instead of the vehicle air conditioning system can be significant when compared to the traditional vehicle AC system alone.
With a driving goal of continually bringing new technology and enhanced comfort to the first responder market, USSC will begin offering cooling only and dual cooling/heating systems in its Valor seats in 2016. With heated seats already available in 2015, these new cooling products will further increase the comfort levels in Valor seat systems.
In terms of the occupant experience of in seat cooling, as with heated seats, the sensation of cooling will be felt within the first few moments of system activation, but maximum benefit will be experienced by longer durations in the seat. In fire and rescue equipment, the most significant cooling and fatigue reduction will be felt by first responder occupants of vehicles on longer runs to emergency situations, as well as drivers, officers, and command center occupants who are required to stay seated in the vehicle during rescue operations to monitor vehicle systems and manage communications. Much like the feeling of fatigue in one’s legs and back after a long road trip in a car, such long trips to emergency scenes or long required durations in stationary vehicles can leave a rescuer fatigued and illprepared to take action when the moment requires. Studies of the technology used in Valor seat systems has shown that by lowering the temperature of the occupant seat interface to just below normal human skin temperatures, blood circulation is dramatically increased and the sensation of fatigue and stiffness dramatically decreased. This specifically designed temperature range accomplishes this fatigue and stiffness reduction without imparting an overly cold sensation to the occupant.
Finally, in terms of seat integration and maintenance impact, by virtue of the advanced heating and cooling technology used in Valor seat systems, there is no need for perforations in the seat system, through which cold air is blown. The method of heat extraction in Valor seats is by conduction through the seat surface, rather than by convection, or the blowing of air as in consumer automotive cooling systems. There is a twofold benefit to this conductive cooling method in the first responder market.
First, the cooling system continues to work at full efficiency even when the occupant is in the seat. In forced air cooling systems, when an occupant covers the perforations in the seat cushion surface, cooling efficiency is dramatically reduced. This is not the case with the Valor seat cooling system. Additionally, since there are no perforations in the seat because of the cooling system, there is no degradation to the inherent ease of maintenance and “cleanabilty” of Valor seat systems. Whether it be a Type III Cordura or a vinyl upholstery set on the seat, the ability to easily wipe down the seat for cleaning purposes is retained. If perforations were present in the cushion surfaces, as is required with other cooling systems, this ease of cleaning would necessarily be compromised.
By integrating and developing this technology for the first responder market, USSC and its partners have introduced yet another novel technology for the purposes of enhancing the comfort and preparedness of first responder occupants using Valor seat systems.
The next paragraph discuss the integration of an occupant heating and cooling system in more technical detail.
The cooling and heating system in Valor seats uses Tempronics’s Contact Climate System to provide thermal comfort performance compared with what is currently being used in luxury automotive vehicles. This seat system is able to provide thermal comfort performance through the uniquely engineered and patented “Climate Ribbon” used in Tempronics’s Contact Climate Thermal Comfort System.
The Climate Ribbon is the engine behind the system performance. This braided wire ribbon is a thermoelectric system, but instead of being small and compact like traditional thermoelectric systems used for forced air cooling and heating, the Climate Ribbon uses “distributed” thermoelectric nodes along the entire length of the braided wire ribbon. The Climate Ribbon is integrated into the seat just under the seat system upholstery such that it interfaces directly with the occupant across the occupant seat surface interface. Each of the thermoelectric nodes acts as a small heat pump, pumping heat into or out of the ribbon that is in contact with the occupant seated surface. This direct contact cooling and heating is called “Contact Climate.”
There are several differences between this seat cooling and heating system and
traditional forcedair thermal comfort systems:
- Having consistent, even and direct contact between the Climate Ribbon and the occupant seated surface allows the thermal effect to be felt much faster and more intensely.
- Even in severe environmental conditions we achieve thermal comfort quickly. Since the ribbon is in direct contact with the occupant, the system doesn’t have to cool or heat the entire seat structure before the occupant feels cool. With traditional forcedair systems, the air has to flow through the seat structure and takes time to cool or heat the seat structure before it can start cooling or heating the occupant.
- This system provides full and even coverage across the occupant seated surface interface to provide thermal management where it is needed most. Conversely, the perforations in the seat cover gets blocked by the occupant with a forcedair system, so thermal management is uneven and not effective at the occupant seated surface.
- Muscle tissue under pressure from sitting for extended periods experiences oxygen deprivation, resulting in aches and fatigue. The even contact cooling provides maximum cooling where it is needed most and restores oxygenation to the muscle tissues, reducing achiness and fatigue.
The Tempronics Contact Climate technology used in Valor seat systems also consumes less power than other systems. How do we provide all this performance at reduced energy consumption? Department of Energy studies show it takes less energy to keep the occupant comfortable with the Tempronics Contact Climate system than it does by using the traditional vehicle HVAC alone. This system uses about half the energy consumed by a traditional forced air seat climate system. The same Climate Ribbon both heats and cools the occupant directly. Most forced air systems must use a resistive wire heating pad in addition to the forced air heat because the forced air heat is so ineffective.
Faster, more intense, and thorough even coverage define Valor seat systems’ thermal comfort performance. This allows first responders to feel their best and perform at their best—not just to and from, but at the scene. This thermal comfort seat can also be used to help manage core body temperature and keep firefighters on task at the scene when managing and working from the rescue equipment.
For more information, visit http://www.usscgroup.com/firstresponders.