Tuning radiative heat flows between interior surfaces and human occupants to improve heating and cooling efficiency
preprintposted on 20.03.2020, 15:50 by Jin Xu, Aaswath Raman
Space heating and cooling in buildings account for nearly 20% of energy use globally. In most buildings this energy is used to maintain the thermal comfort of the building’s human occupants by maintaining the interior air temperature at a particular set point. However, if one could maintain the human occupant’s thermal comfort while decreasing the heating or increasing the cooling set point, dramatic energy savings are possible. Here, we propose and evaluate an untapped degree of freedom in improving building efficiency: dynamically tuning the thermal emissivity of interior building surfaces at long-wave infrared wavelengths to maintain thermal comfort. We show that in cold weather conditions tuning the emissivity of interior walls, floors and ceilings to a low value (0.1) can decrease the set point temperature as much as 7°C, corresponding to an energy saving of nearly 67.7% relative to high emissivity materials (0.9). Conversely, in warm weather, high emissivity interior surfaces result in a 38.5% energy savings relative to low emissivity surfaces, highlighting the need for tunability for maximal year-round efficiency. Our results reveal the remarkable energy savings potential possible by better controlling the ubiquitous flows of heat that surround us in the form of thermal radiation.