Building technology has moved in two major trends in recent years. First, with increasing energy costs
and a better understanding of the impact of energy consumption on the environment, many resources
have been diverted to building green. These designs are built with respect to keeping the loads on HVAC
systems minimal and reducing the overall consumption of energy. Another movement formed in
reaction to this trend, however. Designers realized that even though their ultimate aim was a “Net Zero
Building” (in which the buildings achieved zero net energy consumption and zero net carbon emissions),
the comfort of the occupants had to remain a strong priority. Even if a building achieved Net Zero, it
would have to be considered a design failure if it was rejected by occupants. Certain HVAC strategies
have been trending to work towards both comfort and efficiency goals simultaneously.
One of the most effective ways of achieving both energy efficiency and occupant comfort is to put
control over the system into the hands of the user. More and more controls are turning wireless, and
users are starting to operate their air conditioning and heating systems through hand-held devices, the
Internet, and even smartphone apps. These controls allow for advanced scheduling, so that users can
program their thermostats to adjust to seasonal changes.
DEVap Air Conditioning
Desiccant-enhanced evaporative air conditioners were developed in 2011, and they are estimated to be
able to reduce air conditioning energy usage by 40-90%. The system pulls in air, which is then split into
two streams. One stream is dried with a desiccant, and the other is humidified. When the two streams
are again combined, they create cool, dry air without the need for any coolant. The design is especially
apt at eliminating stuffiness, stale air, and high-humidity. While DEVap air conditioners are primarily
being used in commercial buildings for now, the technology promises to be further developed to
encompass greater applications.
Improved Air Delivery
HVAC can account for 40-60% of a building’s energy consumption, so it becomes an obvious place to
start when it comes to improving energy efficiency. One of the persistent issues of HVAC systems is air
delivery. Traditional metal ducts are heavy and can damage support beams, incur high installation costs,
create resounding noises, require insulation to prevent condensation and mold, necessitate expensive
cleaning, and limit the air’s ability to mix well (which creates both patches of near-stagnant air and
drafts). Alternative duct materials, particularly fabric, have been found to resolve many of these issues
and improve the HVAC system’s overall efficiency. In fact, a study conducted by the Iowa State
University Mechanical Engineering Department found that using fabric ducts instead of conventional
metal ducts delivers air almost 25% more effectively. These improved efficiencies can also reduce
building HVAC costs significantly by reducing energy consumption.
For more information about emerging HVAC technologies and for HVAC training, contact Tulsa Welding
School. Through the Electro-Mechanical Technologies program, you can enroll in an HVAC training
program and gain the skills to start a career in HVAC/R.
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