Energy Performance of Water-based and Air-based Cooling Systems in Plus-energy Housing

Mads E. Andersen, Jacob Schøtt, Ongun Berk Kazanci, Bjarne W. Olesen

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    Energy use in buildings accounts for a large part of the energy use globally and as a result of this, international building energy performance directives are becoming stricter. This trend has led to the development of zero-energy and plus-energy buildings. Some of these developments have led to certain issues regarding thermal indoor environments, such as overheating.
    Thermal comfort of occupants should not be sacrificed for energy efficiency but rather, these should be achieved simultaneously. Although the priority should be to minimize the cooling demand during the design, this is not always achieved and cooling might be needed even in residential buildings.
    This paper focuses on the cooling operation of a detached, single-family house, which was designed as a plus-energy house in Denmark. The simulation model of the house was created in IDA ICE and it was validated with measurement data in a previous study. The effects of the cooling demand (internal vs. external solar shading), the space cooling method (floor cooling vs. air-cooling with ventilation system), and the availability of a nearby natural heat sink (intake air for the ventilation system being outdoor air vs. air from the crawl-space, and air-to-water heat pump vs. ground heat exchanger as cooling source) on the system energy performance were investigated while achieving the same thermal indoor conditions.
    The results show that the water-based floor cooling system performed better than the air-based cooling system in terms of energy performance and also regarding the energy use of auxiliary components such as pumps and fans. The total reduction in primary energy used was 31% compared to the air-based systems with intake air from outdoors.
    The integration of natural heat sinks into the cooling system of the house results in significant energy use reductions. The coupling of radiant floor with the ground enables to obtain “free” cooling, although the brine pump power should be kept to a minimum to fully take advantage of this solution. By implementing a ground heat exchanger instead of the heat pump and use the crawl-space air as intake air an improvement of 37% was achieved.
    The cooling demand should be minimized in the design phase as a priority and then the resulting cooling load should be addressed with the most energy efficient cooling strategy. The floor cooling coupled with a ground heat exchanger was shown to be an effective means to minimize the energy use for cooling purposes, and this can contribute to achieving zero-energy or plus-energy targets in future buildings.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationCLIMA 2016 - Proceedings of the 12th REHVA World Congress
    EditorsPer Kvols Heiselberg
    Number of pages10
    Publication date2016
    ISBN (Print)87-91606-36-5
    Publication statusPublished - 2016
    Event12th REHVA World Congress - Aalborg, Denmark
    Duration: 22 May 201625 May 2016


    Conference12th REHVA World Congress
    Internet address


    • Radiant floor cooling
    • Air-cooling
    • Ground heat exchanger
    • Crawl-space


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