Improving Ventilation and Saving Energy: Final Report on Indoor Environmental Quality and Energy Monitoring in Sixteen Relocatable Classrooms

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An improved HVAC system for portable classrooms was specified to address key problems in existing units. These included low energy efficiency, poor control of and provision for adequate ventilation, and excessive acoustic noise. Working with industry, a prototype improved heat pump air conditioner was developed to meet the specification. A one-year measurement intensive field-test of ten of these IHPAC systems was conducted in occupied classrooms in two distinct California climates. These measurements are compared to those made in parallel in side by side portable classrooms equipped with standard 10 SEER heat pump air conditioner equipment. The IHPAC units were found to work as designed, providing predicted annual energy efficiency improvements of about 36% to 42% across California's climate zones, relative to 10 SEER units. Classroom ventilation was vastly improved as evidenced by far lower indoor minus outdoor CO2 concentrations. The IHPAC units were found to provide ventilation that meets both California State energy and occupational codes and the ASHRAE minimum ventilation requirements; the classrooms equipped with the 10 SEER equipment universally did not meet these targets. The IHPAC system provided a major improvement in indoor acoustic conditions. HVAC system generated background noise was reduced in fan-only and fan and compressor modes, reducing the nose levels to better than the design objective of 45 dB(A), and acceptable for additional design points by the Collaborative on High Performance Schools. The IHPAC provided superior ventilation, with indoor minus outdoor CO2 concentrations that showed that the Title 24 minimum ventilation requirement of 15 CFM per occupant was nearly always being met. The opposite was found in the classrooms utilizing the 10 SEER system,where the indoor minus outdoor CO2 concentrations frequently exceeded levels that reflect inadequate ventilation. Improved ventilation conditions in the IHPAC lead to effective removal of volatile organic compounds and aldehydes, on average lowering the concentrations by 57% relative to the levels in the 10 SEER classrooms. The average IHPAC to 10 SEER formaldehyde ratio was about 67%, indicating only a 33% reduction of this compound in indoor air. The IHPAC thermal control system provided less variability in occupied classroom temperature than the 10 SEER thermostats. The average room temperatures in all seasons tended to be slightly lower in the IHPAC classrooms, often below the lower limit of the ASHRAE 55 thermal comfort band. State-wide and national energy modeling provided conservative estimates of potential energy savings by use of the IHPAC system that would provide payback a the range of time far lower than the lifetime of the equipment. Assuming electricity costs of $0.15/kWh, the per classroom range of savings is from about $85 to $195 per year in California, and about $89 to $250 per year in the U.S., depending upon the city. These models did not include the non-energy benefits to the classrooms including better air quality and acoustic conditions that could lead to improved health and learning in school. Market connection efforts that were part of the study give all indication that this has been a very successful project. The successes include the specification of the IHPAC equipment in the CHPS portable classroom standards, the release of a commercial product based on the standards that is now being installed in schools around the U.S., and the fact that a public utility company is currently considering the addition of the technology to its customer incentive program. These successes indicate that the IHPAC may reach its potential to improve ventilation and save energy in classrooms

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