Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Stop hyperventilating, say energy efficiency researchers

18.06.2013
Customizing fan speed to actual need would slash energy demand 18 percent

A single advanced building control now in development could slash 18 percent – tens of thousands of dollars – off the overall annual energy bill of the average large office building, with no loss of comfort, according to a report by researchers at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

"An 18-percent boost in building energy efficiency by modifying a single factor is very, very good," said team leader Michael Brambley. "The savings were much greater than we expected."

The report is based on extensive simulations of the impact of one type of advanced building control now in the offing in the building industry. The device is capable of customizing the level of ventilation by sensing the number of people in different areas or zones of a building and then adjusting fan speed and air movement accordingly.

That's a big change from the way most sensor-based ventilation systems operate now: Currently, if there is even a single person in a room, ventilation runs full blast, as if the room is full.

But a room with just a few people doesn't need nearly as much ventilation as a crowded room. Why have a fan pushing around air for ventilation for 100 people if there's only one individual in the room? It's like airing out your house completely because there's one small whiff of bacon still in the kitchen.

"This is the reason you often feel cold when you're in a big space like a conference room or cafeteria without a lot of people," said engineer Guopeng Liu, the lead author of the report. "Technology available today doesn't detect how many people are in a room, and so air flow is at maximum capacity nearly constantly. That creates a big demand to re-heat the air before it enters the rooms. It takes a lot of energy to keep you comfortable under those circumstances."

Current occupancy sensors have helped the nation save significant amounts of energy by automatically turning off lights when they're not needed. But the team estimates that the more advanced versions still to come – which count the number of people in rooms – will save approximately 28 times as much energy, when used both for lighting and ventilation, compared to current sensors.

The project began three years ago when Liu began exploring the idea of adjusting air flow to different zones of a building based on the precise number of people in a room. That "decision" of how much air to move takes place in a piece of equipment known as a variable air volume terminal box. The new sensors that count people are likely to become available within the next few years. While they are currently very expensive, the technology is improving rapidly and the cost is expected to come down, Brambley noted.

"We undertook this study to try to determine if this is a technology worth pursuing vigorously. The answer, clearly, is yes. Using the number of people in a room as a factor in determining the level of air flow offers great promise for saving energy and money," said Brambley.

To do its study, the team focused on a prototypical large commercial office building whose footprint is 160 feet by 240 feet – about 80 percent the size of a football field. The model building is 12 stories and also has a basement, giving it a total of about 500,000 square feet. Such buildings in the United States take up more than 4.4 billion square feet. To visualize the size, think of the land area covered by Seattle – and a little bit of its suburbs – as a giant one-story building.

Brambley's team programmed the simulation to heat a building if temperatures dipped below 70 degrees Fahrenheit and to provide cooling at temperatures beginning at 75 degrees. Numbers were set back 10 degrees on the evenings and weekends. Occupancy patterns were estimated based on past studies.

In 13 of the nation's 15 climate regions, the PNNL team estimates that the advanced controls would save at least $40,000 annually for each building similar in size to the one modeled in the study. In two cities, Duluth and Fairbanks, the savings stretch to more than $100,000 each year, because of the greatly reduced need to heat new air being pumped in from the cold outdoors. Even in the two cities where the savings would be the least, El Paso and Miami, estimated savings come to $33,400 and $23,500, respectively.

"While buildings have gotten much more efficient in the last two decades, there are still huge gains to be had," noted Brambley.

Since just a small percentage of office buildings in any given year are newly built, Brambley and Liu say a prime target for these advanced controls is retrofitting existing buildings. Liu notes that technology has leaped forward since 1989 – the year the average large office building was built – offering huge energy gains even with the expense of retrofitting.

Since heating and cooling and related equipment usually draw much more energy than lighting, those systems offer a greater opportunity for savings. The team found that advanced controls for ventilation offer about eight times as much savings as advanced controls for lighting, where lights are turned off more quickly than is now common after everyone leaves a room. When the HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system alone is considered, the advanced controls cut energy usage by nearly 40 percent.

A stumbling block to the new technology is that certain advanced controls might require modification to some building codes. For instance, current codes require some ventilation at all times no matter how many people are present. Brambley thinks the options are worth considering, given the energy savings at stake.

In addition to Brambley and Liu, mechanical engineer Jian Zhang and engineer Robert Lutes contributed to the project. The work was support by DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Tom Rickey | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.pnnl.gov

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Scientists create biodegradable, paper-based biobatteries
08.08.2018 | Binghamton University

nachricht Ricocheting radio waves monitor the tiniest movements in a room
07.08.2018 | Duke University

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

Im Focus: The “TRiC” to folding actin

Proteins must be folded correctly to fulfill their molecular functions in cells. Molecular assistants called chaperones help proteins exploit their inbuilt folding potential and reach the correct three-dimensional structure. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry (MPIB) have demonstrated that actin, the most abundant protein in higher developed cells, does not have the inbuilt potential to fold and instead requires special assistance to fold into its active state. The chaperone TRiC uses a previously undescribed mechanism to perform actin folding. The study was recently published in the journal Cell.

Actin is the most abundant protein in highly developed cells and has diverse functions in processes like cell stabilization, cell division and muscle...

Im Focus: Lining up surprising behaviors of superconductor with one of the world's strongest magnets

Scientists have discovered that the electrical resistance of a copper-oxide compound depends on the magnetic field in a very unusual way -- a finding that could help direct the search for materials that can perfectly conduct electricity at room temperatur

What happens when really powerful magnets--capable of producing magnetic fields nearly two million times stronger than Earth's--are applied to materials that...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

2018 Work Research Conference

25.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Staying in Shape

16.08.2018 | Life Sciences

Diving robots find Antarctic seas exhale surprising amounts of carbon dioxide in winter

16.08.2018 | Earth Sciences

Protein droplets keep neurons at the ready and immune system in balance

16.08.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>