The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced it is investing $8M in next generation heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) technologies.
According to a recent article in Energy Manager Today, HVAC systems today account for nearly 30% of the total energy used in U.S. commercial and residential buildings, and also are contributors to carbon emissions. The DOE is looking to improve the efficiency and reduce the emissions of HVAC systems by furthering the research and development of advanced vapor compression and non-vapor compression technologies.
Vapor compression technology has served HVAC needs very effectively for the last 100 years. This technology moves heat through a closed-loop cycle by compressing, condensing, expanding, and evaporating a refrigerant fluid. Having replaced absorption and other cooling systems, vapor compression has become the dominant HVAC technology because of its scalability, relatively compact size, high reliability, and other attributes.
However, times have changed and we are now much more aware and concerned with energy conservation and global climate change. And unfortunately, the conventional refrigerants used in most vapor compression equipment have detrimental effects on the global environment when released in the atmosphere.
With this latest investment, the DOE wants to help the industry identify long-term alternatives to vapor-compression technology in commercial and residential HVAC applications.
Advanced vapor compression systems promise to use highly-efficient versions of the technologies that currently drive HVAC systems but use refrigerants that have minimal effect on the environment:
- United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) will receive $975,000 to demonstrate a high-efficiency centrifugal compressor design that will enable 1.5- to 10-ton range commercial rooftop systems that could provide 30% annual energy savings with less than two years payback by 2020
- Mechanical Solutions (MSI) and Lennox Industries will receive $1M to develop a 4- to 5-ton residential HVAC system featuring a small, high-efficient centrifugal compressor — a system that could be scaled up to commercial systems as large as 20 tons
Non-vapor compression systems will employ new technologies that use refrigerants that do not affect the environment and have the potential to use as much as 40% less energy than current systems:
- Dais Analytic will receive $1.2M to advance membrane HVAC technology that will allow the system to condition air while improving energy efficiency and eliminating fluorocarbon refrigerants
- Maryland Energy and Sensor Technologies (MEST) will receive $600,000 to develop a high-efficiency, compact thermoelastic cooling (TEC) system
- Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) will receive $1.4M to develop a novel magnetocaloric air conditioner with the potential for efficiency improvements of up to 25% over conventional vapor compression systems
- UTRC will also receive $1M to demonstrate an electrocaloric heat pump that will be 50% smaller than current models and could result in annual energy savings of more than 1.5 BTUs
- Xergy will receive $1.4M to develop electrochemical compression (ECC) technology in combination with an energy recovery module to replace a solid-state compressor for use in heat pumps that could provide efficiency improvements of up to 56% in a commercial system
These new technologies also have the potential of improving the efficiencies of other building equipment that rely on heat-pumping technologies (e.g. water heaters, refrigerators), in addition to HVAC equipment.
Read the complete article in Energy Manager Today for more details. For more information on advanced and non-vapor compression HVAC technologies check out this interesting DOE report.