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Quantification of HVAC Energy Savings

University of Alabama

Quantification of HVAC Energy Savings for Occupancy Sensing in Buildings Through an Innovative Testing Methodology

Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$1,496,655
Location: 
Tuscaloosa, AL
Project Term: 
08/16/2018 to 08/15/2021
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 

Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) consumes a significant portion of the energy used in buildings. Much of this is wasted energy, used when buildings are either not occupied at all, or occupied well under their maximum design conditions. Traditional motion sensors are often used in buildings to adjust lighting levels, but they cannot provide advanced quantitative information about the environment. New classes of sensor systems used to enable advanced control of HVAC levels can include human presence sensors, people counting sensors, and low-cost CO2 sensors. Their improved accuracy and reliability can reduce energy consumption for homes and commercial environments.

Project Innovation + Advantages: 

The University of Alabama and their partners will develop a new testing and validation protocol for advanced occupancy sensor technologies. A barrier to wide adoption of new occupancy sensors is the lack of rigorous and widely accepted methodologies for evaluating the energy savings and reliability of these systems. To address this need, the Alabama team will develop a testing protocol and simulation suite for these advanced sensors. The protocol and simulation suite will take into account eight levels of diversity: 1) occupant profile, 2) building type and floor plan, 3) sensor type, 4) HVAC controls and modes (e.g., temperature and/or ventilation setback), 5) functional testing diversity, 6) deployment diversity (e.g., sensor location), 7) software diversity (e.g., computation at local vs. hub), and 8) diagnostic diversity (e.g., interpret missing data). The regime's simulation tools will take advantage of data analytics with built-in machine learning algorithms to accurately determine energy savings. Technical results from the testing and validation work will support technology to market efforts, including codes and standards updates.

Potential Impact: 

If successful, SENSOR projects will dramatically reduce the amount of energy needed to effectively heat, cool, and ventilate buildings without sacrificing occupant comfort.

Security: 

Lower electricity consumption by buildings eases strain on the grid, helping to improve resilience and reduce demand during peak hours, when the threat of blackouts is greatest.

Environment: 

Using significantly less energy could help reduce emissions attributed to power generation. In addition, improved interior air quality could help prevent negative effects on human health.

Economy: 

Buildings will require less energy to operate, reducing heating, cooling, and ventilation costs for businesses and families. In addition, better controlled ventilation may lead to improved indoor air quality (ensured by an accurate occupant count, and validated via widespread CO2 detection) may lead to improved worker productivity and academic performance.

Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Marina Sofos
Project Contact: 
Dr. Zheng O'Neill
Partners
University of Texas, San Antonio
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Release Date: 
11/16/2017