Lessons Learned in Energy Efficiency of Mini-Split HVAC Systems in Affordable Housing
Ebrahim, Fatemah Mohammad
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The road to energy-efficient housing is not without cracks and potholes. Many building stakeholders have pointed to the discrepancies that exist between simulated and measured efficiency results, where some have called it a post-occupancy gap, others have called it an energy efficiency information gap. The research presented in this thesis addresses that gap by detailing the results of two exploratory case studies of affordable housing projects in Virginia across three manuscripts. The data utilized in the first manuscript includes measured data collected at the second level through the NEXI energy monitoring and feedback device, wherein we used descriptive statistics to investigate the impact of temperature on energy use over different timeframes. We had anticipated our findings may not all be consistent with previously existing studies. We found this to be true in many cases, but we also discovered interesting contradictions to our assumptions. This study thereby investigates the gap in energy performance within net-zero buildings and contributes to the existing body of literature by presenting the findings of this unique study. The data utilized in Manuscript 2 and Manuscript 3 was utility data, which was reported as end-of-use monthly consumption values. We were able to investigate the impact of 3 different HVAC systems energy use by evaluating the energy and cost performance before and after the installation of newer, more efficient systems. We found that although all systems were performing below anticipated standards, the one-stage system outperformed in terms of efficiency, and the second-stage system outperformed in terms of cost. The findings in these studies emphasize the importance of energy education for residents to achieve greater efficiency gains.
General Audience Abstract
Humans are complex beings; hence the buildings they inhabit are complex systems. While breakthroughs in simulating, designing, and constructing high-performance buildings as well as advanced energy use technologies have been promising, many have fallen short of their ambitious goals primarily due to the complexity of building occupant behavior. Achieving energy efficiency requires thorough research before design and construction, the use of advanced technologies, and the incorporation of behavior-driven energy use dynamics. Furthermore, with the breadth of literature to support the delivery of individualized energy information in real-time to residents comes the opportunity to investigate further the impact of advanced technologies in high performing buildings that have fallen short of their optimistic design goals. This thesis consists of three manuscripts, which describe two exploratory case studies of high-performance residential homes in Virginia's affordable housing sector. The first manuscript, a journal paper, investigates the individual HVAC energy use of six senior residents, wherein we explore the interplay between temperature, energy use, and age across different timeframes. We find that, across different timeframes, energy use for senior citizens remains relatively consistent in high-performance homes. The second and third manuscripts are conference papers, which have been presented on and published in the respective conference proceedings. We quantitively investigated the energy performance of energy-efficient HVAC systems and compared predicted results and measured results. In conclusion, we hope to contribute to the body of literature, which investigates shortcomings in achieving energy-efficiency within high-performance homes.
- Masters Theses