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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Comparison of software models for energy savings from cool roofs


A web-based Roof Savings Calculator (RSC) has been deployed for the United States Department of Energy as an industry-consensus tool to help building owners, manufacturers, distributors, contractors and researchers easily run complex roof and attic simulations. RSC simulates multiple roof and attic technologies for side-by-side comparison including reflective roofs, different roof slopes, above sheathing ventilation, radiant barriers, low-emittance roof surfaces, duct location, duct leakage rates, multiple substrate types, and insulation levels. Annual simulations of hour-by-hour, whole-building performance are used to provide estimated annual energy and cost savings from reduced HVAC use. While RSC reported similar cooling savings to other simulation engines, heating penalty varied significantly. RSC results show reduced cool roofing cost-effectiveness, thus mitigating expected economic incentives for this countermeasure to the urban heat island effect. This paper consolidates comparison of RSC's projected energy savings to other simulation engines including DOE-2.1E, AtticSim, Micropas, and EnergyPlus. Also included are comparisons to previous simulation-based studies, analysis of RSC cooling savings and heating penalties, the role of radiative heat exchange in an attic assembly, and changes made for increased accuracy of the duct model. Radiant heat transfer and duct interaction not previously modeled is considered a major contributor to heating penalties.

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