Findings of a new study released by Princeton University reveal that the design of heating and cooling systems in buildings may have relied on inaccurate comfort measurements, leading to inefficiencies in energy consumption.
According to the research published in Scientific Reports, this flaw is caused by the globe thermometer, the standard instrument used to measure the temperature effects of radiant heating and cooling, and calculate comfort based on the sensor's readings.
However, failure to factor in free convection during measurement could have led to temperature errors of more than two degrees Celsius.
One of the lead researchers working on the study, Forrest Meggers says they discovered the flaw when building an outdoor exhibit in Singapore.
Though the team, using standing measurement techniques, was able to ensure comfort for the audience using a radiant cooling system, they found it difficult to demonstrate these cooling effects.
Meggers, who is an assistant professor at Princeton University's Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, and also an assistant professor of architecture, explains that designers typically use the globe thermometer to take basic measurements and then determine the impact of the radiant system on occupant comfort in various environments. In this instance, though the team was able to ensure cooling comfort for the audience, the calculations revealed otherwise – that the system was not working and the environment was uncomfortable.
While air-conditioning systems continue to be the primary choice for ensuring occupant comfort in buildings, using radiative heat exchange for cooling or heating surfaces is a proven energy efficient technique.
However, there is a perception that radiant systems are ineffective; this, according to the researchers, is due to the flawed measurements. If designers of building heating and cooling systems can understand and capture the impact of radiant systems on the interior environment, it will help reduce energy consumption while ensuring occupant comfort.
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