Smart Vent Tech Improves IAQ and Saves Money, Energy

By Jennifer Josey
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
February 22, 2018

How many times have you completed a system upgrade for a device only to find that it’s glitchy? No one wants to “upgrade” to downgrade, and we don’t like being inconvenienced as things get “smarter.” This is just as true for our homes. Reducing energy consumption (thereby saving money) is a key driver for smart, integrated tech (think smart thermostats); however, adoption is lower if an upgrade risks compromising resident comfort.

Whole-house, smart ventilation is one such up-and-coming “smart” technology. But before it takes off, there are a couple of hurdles to jump: integration with standard heating and cooling systems, and proving the risks are limited and the benefits are many. Researchers with the University of Central Florida’s Florida Solar Energy Center® (FSEC®), in partnership with Washington State University, are tackling smart ventilation systems head on.

UCF/FSEC researchers Chuck Withers and Dave Chasar installing a mechanical ventilation control unit on a flexible duct.
UCF/FSEC researchers Chuck Withers and Dave Chasar installing a fan on a flexible duct to test an energy-efficient mechanical ventilation control design.

In a first-of-its-kind report, “Field and Laboratory Testing of Approaches to Smart Whole-House Mechanical Ventilation Control,” FSEC documented research on lab and field testing of smart ventilation control (SVC) systems. The report explains that whole-house mechanical ventilation is a critical component to a comprehensive indoor air quality (IAQ) strategy. In addition, these systems can help the residential sector more reliably design, install, and operate mechanical ventilation systems to achieve best-practice IAQ while saving energy and improving comfort, moisture, and peak load impacts.

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UCF 1 of 6 Nationwide Teams Selected to Lead Research Partnerships for High-Performance Housing

Interior of townhouse with staircase by front door. Return air grill under on side of staircase with mini-split ac unti above front door.
This mini-split air conditioning unit is located as close as possible to the central return grille of the existing system to help with room-to-room air distribution.

By Sherri Shields

COCOA, Fla., July 11, 2017—The University of Central Florida (UCF) is one of six nationwide teams selected by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to receive $3.7 million to study how to improve energy efficiency and indoor air quality (IAQ) in homes.

The selected projects are expected to lead to improved home energy efficiency and smarter home operation for millions of American families, saving money on their energy bills while improving health and comfort.

UCF will get more than $870,000 for two, two-year projects, which will be led by the university’s Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) in Cocoa, Fla. The center is a leader in energy research, with three decades of energy and buildings research, technical assistance, and training experience. It’s expertise has led to it being named a DOE Building America Program’s Industry Partnerships recipient.

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Building Science Experts Offer Green Building Courses

The Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC), a research institute of the University of Central Florida, is offering a series of five courses on “Designing and Maintaining the High Performance Green Building” for architects, engineers, mechanical contractors, building inspectors, facility managers and indoor air quality specialists. Initial course offerings will be held at FSEC in Cocoa starting Feb. 4.

This series of courses will demonstrate:

  • How to design and maintain a green building that has good indoor air quality
  • How to make a building durable, comfortable and energy efficient
  • How to protect buildings from mold
  • What types of air-conditioning systems will cause mold problems
  • What advanced dehumidification technologies are available for use in buildings.

“A recent study finds about 25 percent of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified green buildings use more energy than expected and about 12 percent use more energy than allowed by the building code. Our courses will provide the knowledge to address these issues,” said Rob Vieira, director of buildings research at FSEC.

The courses will focus on problems in commercial buildings, although the principles discussed will be applicable to all buildings. The FSEC buildings researchers will discuss such areas as ventilation requirements, humidity control, building envelope design, pressure imbalances, HVAC systems, window selection, vapor barriers and related issues.

Students who attend all five courses in the series and pass the exam in Courses one, two and three will earn an FSEC Green Commercial Building Design and Maintenance Certificate.

The courses and schedules are:

Course 1: “Designing Building Envelopes to Control Air and Moisture in High Performance Green Buildings,” Feb. 4

Course 2: “Designing and Maintaining Building Air Flows in High Performance Green Buildings,” Feb. 5

Course 3: “Designing and Maintaining HVAC Systems for High Performance Green Buildings,” Feb. 18

Course 4: “Design Charrette — Practice Design of a High Performance Green Building,” Feb. 19

Course 5: “Commercial Energy Code and Green Building Modeling Using EnergyGauge Summit,” Feb. 26

The cost of each course is $269. For more information about the courses or to register, visit: www.floridaenergycenter.org/go/courseschedule.

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