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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Efficacy of occupancy-based smart ventilation control strategies in energy efficient homes in the United States


Proper ventilation of residences is essential for occupant health and comfort, and is responsible for a significant portion of energy consumption in homes. This study examines a method for providing adequate ventilation in homes while reducing energy consumption and peak demand: “smart” control of ventilation through sensing of occupancy and modulation of ventilation fans. We first conducted a detailed simulation study of advanced California homes with several occupancy-based ventilation control strategies. We then look at how general these results are nationally through a second simulation campaign in 15 ASHRAE climate zones. All simulations compared equivalent indoor air quality situations and assessed energy savings benefits. A key difference from previous demand-controlled ventilation strategies is that our study includes the effects of building related contaminants that are continuously emitted, irrespective of occupancy status, consistent with the requirements in ASHRAE Standard 62.2-2016. Under this new assumption, it is very difficult to extract substantial energy savings using only occupancy sensing. For the baseline strategy, savings were less than 10% of ventilation energy and sometimes negative in all cases analyzed other than leakier 2-story homes. Addition of a pre-occupancy flush period increases savings somewhat, but savings are still less than 15% other than in 2-story leakier homes.

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