Field Notes Research Project Updates: Summer 2018
This blog post is taken from our Field Notes newsletter which features updates on CEE's research projects. Sign up for Field Notes to get this information in your inbox!
Background: A recent characterization of the rental multifamily market showed that more than two-thirds of Minnesota housing units are served by large storage-based commercial gas water heaters or dedicated boilers tied to an indirect storage tank (a tank with a heating coil inside) that provides ample amounts of hot water at a low operating cost. These systems, however, are inefficient due to non-condensing operation and high standby losses. This project evaluated central condensing tankless water heating systems whose high turndown, controls, and modular design result in more consistent operation in a condensing mode and reduce system standby losses by minimizing or eliminating thermal storage.
Research Update: The research team is currently recruiting buildings to participate in the project. Two multifamily buildings will be selected and an assessment of the existing equipment will take place in late summer. Researchers are also working on developing an instrumentation package to help quantify baseline system performance. Baseline monitoring will last eight months and installation of the new central condensing tankless water heating system will take place in March 2019.
Background: Industry professionals are enthusiastic about the potential for expanding boiler tune-ups beyond safety and burner adjustments, to temperature and staging controls for condensing boilers. Researchers are currently addressing the challenge of optimizing staging controls and boiler system temperature controls that are often set through a centralized building automation system. A previous CEE CARD study of 12 commercial condensing boiler systems in Minnesota found that correcting suboptimal staging and temperature control settings can provide additional savings in nearly every system. This project is developing a standard protocol for providers to optimize the controls of condensing boilers, and will measure savings from its application in approximately 20 buildings.
Research Update: The team analyzed four data sets on boiler systems in Minnesota. Analysis of these data sets will help ensure that representative research test sites are selected, and will be invaluable in projecting the potential impact of large-scale implementation of the control optimization service. The team is recruiting contractors and two test site groups. The boiler systems at the first of these sites will be monitored extensively throughout the coming heating season. CEE will also develop a detailed protocol with local industry professionals, so contractors can perform boiler control optimization this winter.
Background: Standalone dehumidification systems are commonplace in Minnesota homes, but more information is needed about when, how, and why they’re used. There is also an insufficient amount of data regarding energy consumption, energy efficiency, and basic efficacy as it relates to these systems. The goal of this study is to determine if dehumidification is an effective strategy for solving moisture problems and improving operational efficiency. The team will evaluate and compare real-life performance with rated performance to help consumers and utilities make more informed or alternative choices about dehumidification.
Research update: Researchers visited 63 sites to identify the typical characteristics of dehumidifier users in Minnesota. Twenty sites representative of characteristics identified in prior survey work were recruited for detailed study. Participant homes are outfitted with instrumentation to measure dehumidifier power, condensate production, and outlet conditions. Sensors in the living space and dehumidified space measure relative humidity and temperature. Data is gathered remotely by researchers to monitor dehumidifier operation, system performance, and energy efficiency over the current summer season. At the end of the dehumidification season, researchers will analyze these data to quantify performance, effectiveness, and costs of the as-operated units, and use these data to define interventions that will improve dehumidification outcomes.
Background: The Conservation Improvement Program was created to help Minnesota homeowners and businesses save energy while lowering demand for utility infrastructure. However, increasing codes and standards have reduced the opportunity for utility-attributed savings. The potential for electric, gas, and carbon savings on the demand-side must be quantified to determine the availability of efficiency and to enable Minnesota utilities to continue to bring energy savings to consumers.
Research update: The project team is in the final stages of modeling Minnesota's statewide energy efficiency potential and will be seeking feedback from Advisory Committee members during the final committee meeting on August 29. When completed, stakeholders will be able to more fully examine Minnesota's utility-driven energy efficiency potential from 2020 thru 2029. In addition to the potential estimates, the report will also include practical, data-driven program and policy recommendations to ensure that the Conservation Improvement Program continues to help Minnesota consumers and businesses save energy, cut energy bills, and reduce air pollution. The project team will present the draft report to Advisory Committee members at the Minnesota Power headquarters in Duluth.