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Stop hyperventilating, say energy efficiency researchers

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Posted June 19, 2013

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.”

Read more at: Phys.org

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