Improving Ventilation and Saving Energy: Laboratory Study in a Modular Classroom Test Bed

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The primary goals of this research effort were to develop, evaluate, and demonstrate a practical HVAC system for classrooms that consistently provides classrooms with the quantity of ventilation in current minimum standards, while saving energy, and reducing HVAC-related noise levels. This research was motivated by several factors, including the public benefits of energy efficiency, evidence that many classrooms are under-ventilated, and public concerns about indoor environmental quality in classrooms. This project involved the installation and verification of the performance of an Improved Heat Pump Air Conditioning (IHPAC) system, and its comparison, a standard HVAC system having an efficiency of 10 SEER. The project included the verification of the physical characteristics suitable for direct replacement of existing 10 SEER systems, quantitative demonstration of improved energy efficiency, reduced acoustic noise levels, quantitative demonstration of improved ventilation control, and verification that the system would meet temperature control demands necessary for the thermal comfort of the occupants. Results showed that the IHPAC met these goals. The IHPAC was found to be a direct bolt-on replacement for the 10 SEER system. Calculated energy efficiency improvements based on many days of classroom cooling or heating showed that the IHPAC system is about 44% more efficient during cooling and 38% more efficient during heating than the 10 SEER system. Noise reduction was dramatic, with measured A-weighed sound level for fan only operation conditions of 34.3 dB(A), a reduction of 19 dB(A) compared to the 10 SEER system. Similarly, the IHPAC stage-1 and stage-2 compressor plus fan sound levels were 40.8 dB(A) and 42.7 dB(A), reductions of 14 and 13 dB(A), respectively. Thus, the IHPAC is 20 to 35 times quieter than the 10 SEER systems depending upon the operation mode. The IHPAC system met the ventilation requirements and was able to provide consistent outside air supply throughout the study. Indoor CO2 levels with simulated occupancy were maintained below 1000 ppm. Finally temperature settings were met and controlled accurately. The goals of the laboratory testing phase were met and this system is ready for further study in a field test of occupied classrooms.

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