User-Oriented Modeling Tools for Advanced Hybrid and Climate-Appropriate Rooftop Air Conditioners

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Hybrid unitary air conditioning systems offer a pathway to substantially reduce energy use and peak electrical demand for cooling, heating, and ventilation in commercial buildings. Hybrid air conditioners incorporate multiple subsystems that are carefully orchestrated to provide climate- and application-specific efficiency advantages. There are a multitude of hybrid system architectures, but common subsystems include: heat recovery ventilation, indirect evaporative cooling, desiccant dehumidification, variable speed fans, modulating dampers, and multi-stage or variable-speed vapor compression cooling. Categorically, hybrid systems can operate in numerous discrete modes. For example: indirect evaporative cooling may operate for periods when the subsystem provides adequate sensible cooling, then vapor compression cooling will be included when more cooling or dehumidification is necessary. Laboratory assessments, field studies, and simulations have demonstrated that hybrid unitary air conditioners could reduce energy use for cooling and ventilation by 30-90% depending on climate and application. Heretofore, it has been challenging - if not impossible - for practitioners to model hybrid air conditioners as part of building energy simulations; and the limitation has severely obstructed broader adoption of technologies in this class. In this project, we developed a new feature for EnergyPlus that enables modeling hybrid unitary air conditioning equipment for building energy simulations.

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