Interested in a sneak preview of some of the new energy-saving technologies on the horizon for commercial buildings? Thanks to a new government-funded initiative, we’re all privy to a number of innovations currently on the drawing table and ready for development.
The U.S. Department of Energy (D.O.E.) recently announced that it is making a $19 million investment in a variety of projects focused on improving the energy efficiency of buildings across the United States. From schools and offices, to restaurants, hospitals and stores, the aim of this latest initiative is to develop new building technologies that will help home and building owners save money on their utility bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They expect that the project will also have a positive impact on creating new jobs.
According to the D.O.E., buildings are the largest user of energy – about 40% of the total amount of energy used in the U.S. each year. The utility bill for that energy is about $430 billion annually; $80 billion of which could be saved if these programs are successful in helping reduce energy consumption by 20 percent. The D.O.E. estimates that nearly a third of the current energy used by buildings is wasted through less-than-optimal building practices, HVAC duct leakage and other addressable issues.
The 18 new research projects are aimed at developing smarter more efficient buildings. This includes the development of sensors and energy modeling tools that make buildings smarter, improving HVAC&R performance, developing a higher efficiency heat pump and reducing refrigerant leaks. The project will also address issues related to building envelope sealing, the use of natural sunlight in building design, and improved energy storage strategies.
“Improving the efficiency of our nation’s buildings presents one of our best opportunities for cutting Americans’ energy bills and slashing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz. “These innovative technologies will make our buildings smarter, healthier, and more efficient, driving us toward our goal of reducing the energy use intensity of the U.S. buildings sector by 30 percent by 2030.”
The projects earmarked for this new program address the development of new solutions in four areas: HVAC-related technologies, sensors and controls, windows and the building envelope, and energy modeling. Here is a sample of some of the specific projects being funded.
Optimized Thermal Systems (Beltsville, Maryland) will develop a manufacturing procedure for a serpentine heat exchanger for HVAC&R systems that has 90 percent fewer joints than current heat exchangers; joint leaks can release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and reduce system efficiency.
Ingersoll Rand (La Crosse, Wisconsin) will reduce refrigerant leaks and enhance HVAC&R systems’ efficiency by improving the strength and quality of brazed joints.
ORNL (Oakridge National Laboratory) will develop adhesive chemistries for bonding aluminum and copper during heat exchanger manufacture, resulting in enhanced bonding and significant energy savings.
ORNL will integrate its Ground-Level Integrated Diverse Energy Storage (GLIDES) system with HVAC systems to provide efficient, building-integrated electrical and thermal energy storage.
ORNL will develop a residential, gas-fired split heat pump that will use an ammonia refrigerant, which is not a greenhouse gas and can convert chemical energy to heating and cooling without using any moving seals.
Sensors and Controls:
LBLN (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) will develop a platform for design and specification of HVAC control sequences that inter-operates with both whole-building energy simulation and automated control implementation. OpenBuildingControl will eliminate the manual translation steps currently associated with HVAC control design, reducing both effort and error.
Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) will develop a sensing and control system that can save significant energy by accurately estimating the number of occupants in an area, and then adjusting HVAC operations accordingly. Current HVAC systems waste energy by assuming maximum occupancy in each room.
PARC will develop a wireless system of peel-and-stick sensor nodes that are powered by radio frequency hubs, relaying data to building management systems that can significantly reduce energy use.
Clemson University will develop low-cost, digital, plug-and-play, passive radio-frequency identification sensors for measuring indoor and outdoor temperature. These sensors will improve building operations and cut energy costs.
University of California-Berkeley will create a low-cost, open-source, wireless sensor system, which will be integrated with building management systems, their components, and smartphones to enable installation of secure and easily deployed building energy efficiency applications, such as demand response.
ORNL will develop system-level architecture for a plug-and-play multi-sensor platform, which can use peel-and-stick sensors less than a quarter of an inch thick that are powered by indoor, high-performance, flexible photovoltaics.
SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory will develop a toolkit for the Department’s open-source VOLTTRON platform, which supports a wide range of building energy management and grid integration applications. The toolkit adds testing and simulation tools to cut costs by as much as 30 percent for systems integration, distributed energy, and microgrid development projects.
Columbia University will use metering and automated personalized feedback to encourage occupants of multifamily buildings to save electricity by reducing appliance use or shifting use to non-peak hours.
Windows and Building Envelope:
LBNL will develop insulation that is 2 to 4 times more efficient than conventional materials and at a comparable installed cost. The new insulation will make it easier and cost-effective to retrofit existing buildings.
LBNL will also extend its popular detailed envelope heat-transfer model THERM with moisture-transfer modeling capabilities to help industry evaluate and design energy-efficient facades that mitigate moisture and problems, avoiding structural degradation and mold.
Iowa State University will develop an infiltration diagnostics system that uses a laser to locally heat a portion of the building envelope, and then uses an infrared camera to pinpoint air leaks.
Glint Photonics will develop a stationary, roof-mounted concentrating daylighting system that uses internal optics to track the sun in the sky and light guides to transmit the light to the building interior, thereby reducing the energy use for electric lighting by 40-70 percent.
University of Miami will integrate several existing energy modeling packages to create a tool that is customized for the design and operational requirements of data centers and large computer rooms. These account for a significant and growing share of energy consumption in the U.S., reaching 2 percent of all electricity use in 2013.
Note: In 2000, The Department of Energy and its Citizen Judges selected the 100 best scientific and technological accomplishments to come out of the 23 years of DOE’s existence. The citizen judges narrowed down the field to the 23 technologies that have the largest potential to save consumers money and improve their quality of life.
Aeroseal’s duct sealing technology was selected to receive both awards.
Aeroseal is a patented technology process that seals cracks and holes in new and existing air duct systems. The sealing technology was invented by Dr. Mark Modera, a scientist at the University of California, in 1994.
The Aeroseal sealant has been in use for over eighteen years. It is a vinyl material that is suspended in a water solutions. Once atomized, the sealant is air dried and is deposited principally at the leaks without coating the inside of the ducts.
Aeroseal helps commercial clients with:
• Energy consumption
• Indoor air quality
• Building ventilation
• Meeting code and specs for duct leakage
Aspen Air Duct Cleaning is an approved Aeroseal Dealer. Call Aspen Air Duct Cleaning at 1-800-931-6653 for an Air Duct System Inspection and to learn more about how sealing air duct leaks can improve indoor air quality and reduce your energy bills. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org