Smart Ventilation for Advanced California Homes

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This project investigated smart ventilation approaches to minimize energy use for providing indoor air quality (IAQ) in high performance new California homes. Evaluation criteria included annual ventilation-related energy, peak energy and time-of-use
savings, and the indoor air quality relative to a minimally code-compliant ventilation system. The simulations used CONTAM’s air flow and contaminant transport model, combined with the EnergyPlus building loads model. House types representing the
default California Energy Code compliance homes were investigated for four California climate zones, covering a wide range of climate types. Both single and multi-zone smart ventilation controls were investigated. Contaminant sources included contaminants emitted continuously and varying with time, temperature and relative humidity, episodic emissions from occupant activities and outdoor particles. Single-zone ventilation controls that varied ventilation depending on outdoor temperatures were able to consistently save half of ventilation-related energy without compromising long-term IAQ. Ventilation strategies that tracked occupancy were less successful, because this work included generic contaminants with constant background emission rates. Energy performance for occupancy controls improved with a one-hour pre-occupancy flush out strategy. The addition of zoning ventilation controls did not offer significant IAQ to energy improvements compared to non-zonal versions of the same ventilation system type. The best controls had HVAC energy savings of 10-20%, with individual cases reaching up to 40% savings. However, these savings cannot be achieved without worsening personal exposures for at least one contaminant. A metric is needed to assess the competing changes in exposure to different contaminants in order to determine the net-health impacts of a control strategy. Controls that directly sensed contaminants and controlled them to acceptable levels showed that the California OEHHA limit for formaldehyde completely dominates system performance, with homes not able to meet the limit even with continuous operation of a fan sized to twice the current code minimum.

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