Field Notes Research Project Updates: Fall 2018
This blog post complements our Field Notes newsletter which features quarterly updates on CEE's research projects. Sign up for Field Notes to get this information in your inbox.
Operation and Control of Power over Ethernet Technologies
Background: To support energy efficiency, power over ethernet (PoE) technologies are integrated into many of today’s building systems, such as lighting, plug loads, and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning controls.
PoE devices are connected to network switches, which fall under current IT services and function as an energy management tool in sites without building automation systems. However, stakeholders need assistance to overcome many of the technical and economic barriers related to their implementation, including standard design/construction practices and existing commercial codes.
The goal of this project is to provide guidance to architects and engineers about effective ways to deliver these systems to their clients and to enable utilities to offer programs that facilitate their adoption.
Research update: After an office remodel, nine cubicles are being lit by four-inch suspended PoE LED lights, while an adjoining row of eight cubicles are lit by a row of 13 2x4-inch suspended T8 fixtures.
Energy monitoring began over the summer to compare energy use of the two lighting systems. Seven air conditioner-powered thin clients (a computer optimized for establishing a remote connection with a server-based computing environment) were replaced by the same number of PoE thin clients at the office site. Data was collected for the AC-powered units and continues to be collected for the PoE units.
The remodel of the two classrooms at the middle school was completed over the summer. Instrumentation of the PoE treatment classroom and the AC-powered LED control classroom will be completed later this fall. Thin clients are also being tested at the middle school. The survey of IT staff was completed and findings were submitted to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Aerosol Envelope Sealing in New Home Construction
Background: A project funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Building America program is working directly with builders to identify the best stages for incorporating aerosol sealing — related to cost, performance, and seamless integration with the construction process.
The cost of aerosol sealing and resulting house tightness is being documented and compared to a similar group of houses using conventional sealing methods. In addition to producing tighter houses, conventional sealing methods are being evaluated to determine if they can be eliminated or reduced to improve cost effectiveness. An iterative process is being used with builders in Minnesota and California so that information obtained from the first houses can be applied to later ones.
Research update: The field work for the project is nearly complete. In Minnesota, the team sealed 15 houses for six builders, and testing will be complete after the end of construction tests.
For 13 of the 15 houses, AeroBarrier sealant was applied before drywall and a polypropylene sheet air barrier were in place. Almost all of the houses had spray foam on the rim joists and electric/plumbing penetrations to the attic sealed with can foam. The AeroBarrier sealing has reduced house leakage by an average of 75% and produced an average tightness of 0.75 ACH50. For 40% of the houses, the tightness is less than the passive house requirement of 0.6 ACH50. The results show that poly sheeting is not required as an air barrier when houses are sealed with AeroBarrier; house leakage tests conducted at the end of construction indicate little change in the house leakage, versus when they were simply AeroBarrier-sealed.
The sealing of California houses will be completed by the end of the year and those results will be described in a future article.
Pay-for-performance: A Tool to Incentivize Ongoing Building Performance
Background: The current incentive models for utility energy efficiency and demand response programs and rebates are based on estimated savings that will result from equipment upgrades and building design. Under this model, incentives are not dependent upon actual or verified energy savings.
The purpose of this study is to look more closely at a model known broadly as “pay-for-performance,” which uses actual energy performance as a basis for incentives. With pay-for-performance, incentives are provided over time instead of up front at the time of equipment purchase or energy performance improvement. This study characterizes and assesses Minnesota commercial customer interest in this incentive model, capturing the barriers, benefits, and risks for both customers and utilities.
Research update: The literature review is nearing completion and there are a variety of key observations.
One observation that continues to stand out is how much variation there is in pay-for-performance offerings across the country. Program design, eligibility, and desired outcomes rarely are consistent from utility to utility or state to state. This may be an indicator that we are still in the infancy of pay-for-performance and in search of best practices. It could also be indicative of how diverse the drivers are for different utilities to provide such an offering, and/or how much target markets do and should vary from one service territory to the next.
Another key observation is the opportunity for pay-for-performance to not just be an offering provided in tandem with existing conservation programs (like a building operator program or recommissioning service), but one with standalone benefits triggered by increased performance transparency and incremental incentive payments (rewards) for “good behavior” (improved performance).
The team has also noted that most of the utilities that are providing pay-for-performance offerings are doing so without advanced metering technology (i.e., smart meters) in place. While that technology would open up the doors to more real-time analysis and benefits, utilities and customers across the country are seeing a benefit in greater performance transparency and being compensated accordingly.
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 project partners and by CEE in support of its nonprofit mission to advance research, program design, and knowledge dissemination in the field of energy efficiency.