Status (updated 6/10/2011): Ongoing
Funding sources: CBE Industry Consortium, California Energy Commission PIER Buildings Program
The purpose of this research is to optimize the efficiency and demonstrate the practical applicability of Personal Comfort Systems (PCS) for local thermal comfort and energy savings in office environments.This research seeks to remove barriers to industry adoption of low-energy thermal ergonomics through product design, laboratory testing and field research.
Significance to Industry
Major advances in office design and furniture have drastically improved workplace ergonomics. However, less attention has been directed at the thermal aspects of the workspace. Surveys show that most workers find their thermal environment uncomfortable, even though commercial buildings expend enormous amounts of energy on heating, cooling and ventilation.
Providing occupants with low-power devices to control their local thermal environment allows them to remain comfortable over a wider range of ambient temperatures. Building simulations show that allowing the indoor ambient temperature to vary by even a few degrees can result in large energy savings because the building is conditioned less intensely and less often, and can more often use outside air for conditioning (economizer mode). While savings vary by climate, widening the dead-band by one degree Celsius can reduce building-energy consumption
Previous findings show that cooling of the head and "breathing zone," and providing warmth to the occupant's feet are two of the most effective ways to provide individualized thermal comfort. This background informs the design, construction and laboratory testing of prototype APECS to optimize performance. Iterative testing guides the detailed industrial design, fabrication and manufacture of approximately one hundred units, each of which incorporates research sensors and instrumentation. With the help of our industry partners, these units are field-tested in actual office spaces for demonstration and evaluation of performance.
Laboratory testing includes the use of our thermal manikin for calibrated measurements of cooling fan efficiency. The field-study portion of the project combines user surveys with measurements of occupancy, occupant use, energy consumption and ambient conditions collected by the APECS units and forwarded to our research database.
Zhang, H., E. Arens, D. Kim, E. Buchberger, F. Bauman, and C. Huizenga, 2010. Comfort, perceived air quality, and work performance in a low-power task-ambient conditioning system. Building and Environment, 45(1), pp. 29-39.
Hoyt, T., H. L. Kwang, H. Zhang, E. Arens, and T. Webster, 2009. Energy savings from extended air temperature setpoints and reductions in room air mixing. International Conference on Environmental Ergonomics, Boston, July.
Bauman, F., A. Baughman, G. Carter, and E. Arens, 1998. A field study of PEM (Personal Environmental Module) performance in Bank of America's San Francisco office buildings. CEDR-01-07.