Field Notes Research Updates: Spring 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!
Announcement of New CARD Grants
The Minnesota Department of Commerce has granted $1.5 million in conservation research funding for nine projects in which CEE will either participate or lead. The newly awarded funds will support research to advance the energy efficiency field and help utilities bring enhanced energy savings to Minnesota consumers, often in partnership with like-minded organizations that complement our efforts to provide practical energy solutions for homes, businesses, and communities.
This announcement follows a competitive review process through the department’s Conservation Applied Research and Development (CARD) grantmaking program. By design, CARD projects quantify the savings, cost effectiveness and field performance of advanced technologies; characterize market potential of products and technologies in the State; and investigate and pilot innovative program strategies. Completed CARD projects provide utilities with informative and timely information to enhance energy efficiency program designs within their Conservation Improvement Program portfolios.
The 2017 cycle of general topic CARD grants was announced by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources, and at CEE.
A survey was completed by 220 Minnesota homeowners to get basic information about dehumidifier systems and their operation, including moisture control, humidity levels, and comfort.
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 choices.
Research update: The project is off to a quick start in preparation for Minnesota’s dehumidification season. A dehumidification survey was completed by 220 homeowners throughout the state to get basic information about dehumidifier systems, their operation, and occupant perspectives on moisture control, humidity levels, and comfort. Researchers are analyzing homeowner survey data to inform the focus of the study. Site visits are beginning to validate this data, and the team is collecting more information about the homes surveyed. All data gathered will be used to develop site selection criteria to be used by research staff for long-term study and monitoring. The team is also developing and testing an instrumentation package to measure dehumidifier system performance and ambient conditions.
Project findings indicate that demand control systems lower energy consumption and reduce recirculation pump energy, resulting in substantial savings.
Background: Aquastat and time clock recirculation loop controls are often used to reduce costs related to pumping and heating. (An aquastat is a device used in hydronic heating systems to control water temperature.) However, controls operate on a pre-set schedule and hot water can become unavailable during low-use periods.
In addition to offering a solution to this problem, hot water recirculation controls hold potential to provide significant savings on central domestic hot water systems in hotels and other commercial properties, such as a 10% reduction in water consumption and 90% reduction in recirculation pump energy. Reduced pump operation supports the longevity of water heating and distribution systems.
Research update: The research team is currently conducting some secondary analysis on hot water usage and performance data at the study site. Beyond that, field monitoring has concluded and the project webinar is available for download. The project’s final report will be published this summer.
This project recently received a CARD grant from the State of Minnesota, in addition to previous funding awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Office. Two sites will serve as demonstration sites, including an office remodel and a school classroom renovation.
Background: Power over Ethernet (PoE) technologies can be integrated into many of today’s building systems to support energy efficiency, such as lighting, plug loads, and HVAC controls. These devices are connected to network switches, which generally fall under IT services, and may allow energy management at sites without building automation systems. Stakeholders need assistance to overcome technical and economic barriers related to implementation, including standard design/construction practices and existing commercial codes. This project will:
- Assess the receptiveness of commercial and institutional markets to these new technologies.
- Demonstrate the feasibility of PoE technologies within standard design/construction practices and commercial codes.
- Assess the energy and cost savings opportunities of these technologies.
- Provide energy management opportunities where they typically are not available.
- Formulate approaches to spur adoption of these technologies in the marketplace.
Research Update: The project team has recruited two sites — one office and one classroom — to install and demonstrate available technologies. Researchers are also reaching out to broad stakeholders to identify current state of the art Power over Ethernet devices and related practices. Construction began in April to remodel both sites and incorporate PoE. The project’s Technical Advisory Group consists of representatives from the business community, utilities, and public agencies, as well as researchers who will provide input and feedback on this project; the group held its first meeting in April.
One in four hot water boilers used for heating in commercial buildings is a condensing boiler. Interviews with local boiler industry professionals indicate that the boiler temperature and staging control optimization service developed through the project would be valued.
Background: Although condensing boilers are more efficient than traditional boilers, their efficiency varies based on operating conditions, and can operate well below their rated efficiency. However, a previous CEE CARD grant study, which sampled the operation of more than a dozen commercial condensing boiler systems, found that savings could be achieved cost effectively through changes to control settings for temperature, and staging and/or part-load modulation. This approach to achieving savings in the growing commercial condensing boiler market is becoming more important as utilities start to recognize that traditional burner tune-ups typically don’t achieve as much savings in condensing boilers. The project will develop a standard protocol for providers to use while optimizing the controls of condensing boilers. The team will also measure savings from the application of this protocol in 20 buildings.
Research Update: In February the project team began assessing the boiler control optimization service market while planning for field monitoring. The first assessment reflected discussions with utilities, manufacturers’ representatives, boiler distributors and service contractors, building automation contractors, recommissioning providers, and building owners and operators; the team held meetings and structured phone interviews with professionals from 13 local organizations. Interviewees stated that delivery of this service was expected to be valuable, with differing perspectives on level of service, technician qualifications, and number of visits needed.
The team has also started analyzing data on commercial boiler systems in the state from the State of Minnesota, Department of Labor and Industry and one of the largest gas utilities in Minnesota (while investigating approaches to monitor gas savings at 20 test sites), as well as changes in system temperature and boiling cycling behavior. Market review and planning will conclude in May. The team will soon recruit service delivery contractors and test sites to begin field monitoring before the next heating season.
Projects are funded by grants from the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources through the Conservation Applied Research and Development (CARD) program, or from the U.S. Department of Energy's Building America program. Co-funding is provided by CEE in support of its nonprofit mission to advance research, program design, and knowledge dissemination in the field of energy efficiency.