Energy Department Invests $19 Million to Improve Efficiency of Nation’s Buildings

WASHINGTON — (RealEstateRama) — The Energy Department announced today it is investing $19 million to improve the efficiency of our nation’s homes, offices, schools, hospitals, restaurants and stores. These projects will develop advanced building technologies that will help American consumers and businesses save money on their utility bills, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and create jobs.

Buildings are the largest energy consumer in the nation—accounting for more than 40 percent of the nation’s total energy demand and greenhouse emissions, and resulting in an annual energy bill totaling $430 billion. On average, nearly a third of this energy is wasted. It’s estimated that if the U.S. reduced energy use in buildings by 20 percent, the nation could save nearly $80 billion annually on energy bills.

Today’s 18 innovative projects will develop sensors and energy modeling tools to make our buildings smarter, reduce refrigerant leaks and improve the efficiency of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC&R) systems, and produce a low-impact, gas-powered heat pump that can operate efficiently in colder climates. The projects will also support renewable energy market penetration through energy storage, pinpoint air leaks and reduce energy losses through the building envelope, and cut electricity use by transmitting sunlight to building interiors.

“Improving the efficiency of our nation’s buildings presents one of our best opportunities for cutting Americans’ energy bills and slashing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz. “These innovative technologies will make our buildings smarter, healthier, and more efficient, driving us toward our goal of reducing the energy use intensity of the U.S. buildings sector by 30 percent by 2030.”

The 18 selected projects span multiple technology areas, targeting a variety of building efficiency improvements:

Sensors and Controls

  • Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) (Berkeley, California) will develop a platform for design and specification of HVAC control sequences that inter-operates with both whole-building energy simulation and automated control implementation. OpenBuildingControl will eliminate the manual translation steps currently associated with HVAC control design, reducing both effort and error.
  • Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) will develop a sensing and control system that can save significant energy by accurately estimating the number of occupants in an area, and then adjusting HVAC operations accordingly. Current HVAC systems waste energy by assuming maximum occupancy in each room.
  • PARC (Palo Alto, California) will develop a wireless system of peel-and-stick sensor nodes that are powered by radio frequency hubs, relaying data to building management systems that can significantly reduce energy use.
  • Clemson University (Clemson, South Carolina) will develop low-cost, digital, plug-and-play, passive radio-frequency identification sensors for measuring indoor and outdoor temperature. These sensors will improve building operations and cut energy costs.
  • The University of California-Berkeley (Berkeley, California) will create a low-cost, open-source, wireless sensor system, which will be integrated with building management systems, their components, and smartphones to enable installation of secure and easily deployed building energy efficiency applications, such as demand response.
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) (Oak Ridge, Tennessee) will develop system-level architecture for a plug-and-play multi-sensor platform, which can use peel-and-stick sensors less than a quarter of an inch thick that are powered by indoor, high-performance, flexible photovoltaics.
  • SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (Menlo Park, California) will develop a toolkit for the Department’s open-source VOLTTRON platform, which supports a wide range of building energy management and grid integration applications. The toolkit adds testing and simulation tools to cut costs by as much as 30 percent for systems integration, distributed energy, and microgrid development projects.
  • Columbia University (New York, New York) will use metering and automated personalized feedback to encourage occupants of multifamily buildings to save electricity by reducing appliance use or shifting use to non-peak hours.

HVAC&R and Joining Technologies

  • Optimized Thermal Systems (Beltsville, Maryland) will develop a manufacturing procedure for a serpentine heat exchanger for HVAC&R systems that has 90 percent fewer joints than current heat exchangers; joint leaks can release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and reduce system efficiency.
  • Ingersoll Rand (La Crosse, Wisconsin) will reduce refrigerant leaks and enhance HVAC&R systems’ efficiency by improving the strength and quality of brazed joints.
  • ORNL will develop adhesive chemistries for bonding aluminum and copper during heat exchanger manufacture, resulting in enhanced bonding and significant energy savings.
  • ORNL will integrate its Ground-Level Integrated Diverse Energy Storage (GLIDES) system with HVAC systems to provide efficient, building-integrated electrical and thermal energy storage.
  • ORNL will develop a residential, gas-fired split heat pump that will use an ammonia refrigerant, which is not a greenhouse gas and can convert chemical energy to heating and cooling without using any moving seals.

Windows and Building Envelope

  • LBNL will develop insulation that is 2 to 4 times more efficient than conventional materials and at a comparable installed cost. The new insulation will make it easier and cost-effective to retrofit existing buildings.
  • LBNL will also extend its popular detailed envelope heat-transfer model THERM with moisture-transfer modeling capabilities to help industry evaluate and design energy-efficient facades that mitigate moisture and problems, avoiding structural degradation and mold.
  • Iowa State University (Ames, Iowa) will develop an infiltration diagnostics system that uses a laser to locally heat a portion of the building envelope, and then uses an infrared camera to pinpoint air leaks.
  • Glint Photonics (Burlingame, California) will develop a stationary, roof-mounted concentrating daylighting system that uses internal optics to track the sun in the sky and light guides to transmit the light to the building interior, thereby reducing the energy use for electric lighting by 40-70 percent.

Energy Modeling

  • The University of Miami (Miami, Florida) will integrate several existing energy modeling packages to create a tool that is customized for the design and operational requirements of data centers and large computer rooms. These account for a significant and growing share of energy consumption in the U.S., reaching 2 percent of all electricity use in 2013.

The Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) accelerates development and facilitates deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and market-based solutions that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality. EERE supports innovative technologies that reduce both risk and costs of bringing energy efficient building technologies online. Learn more about the Department’s efforts to help homes and buildings save energy at Energy.gov.

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