The Application of the Solar Chimney for Ventilating Buildings

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Virginia Tech

This study sought to demonstrate the potential applications of the solar chimney for the naturally ventilating a building. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) was used to model various room configurations to assess ventilation strategies. A parametric study of the solar chimney system was executed, and three-dimensional simulations were compared and validated with experiments. A new definition for the hydraulic diameter that incorporated the chimney geometry was developed to predict the flow regime in the solar chimney system. To mitigate the cost and effort to use experiments to analyze building energy, a mathematical approach was considered. A relationship between small- and full-scale models was investigated using non-dimensional analysis. Multiple parameters were involved in the mathematical model to predict the air velocity, where the predictions were in good agreement with experimental data as well as the numerical simulations from the present study.

The second part of the study considered building design optimization to improve ventilation using air changes per hour (ACH) as a metric, and air circulation patterns within the building. An upper vent was introduced near the ceiling of the chimney system, which induced better air circulation by removing the warm air in the building. The study pursued to model a realistic scenario for the solar chimney system, where it investigated the effect of the vent sizes, insulation, and a reasonable solar chimney size. It was shown that it is critical to insulate the backside of the absorber and that the ratio of the conditioned area to chimney volume should be at least 10.

Lastly, the application of the solar chimney system for basement ventilation was discussed. Appropriate vent locations in the basement were determined, where the best ventilation was achieved when the duct inlet was located near the ceiling and the exhaust vent was located near the floor of the chimney. Sufficient ventilation was also achieved even for scenarios of a congested building when modeling the presence of multiple people.

Natural ventilation, solar chimney, buoyancy-driven flow, building energy, basement