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Performance assessment of active insulation systems in residential buildings for energy savings and peak demand reduction

by Niraj Kunwar, Harri M Salonvaara, Emishaw D Iffa, Som S Shrestha, Diana E Hun
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Journal Name
Applied Energy
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Active insulation systems (AISs) in buildings are envelopes that integrate thermal insulation, thermal energy storage, and controls. Although different designs for AISs have been proposed in the literature, a comprehensive analysis of feasible AISs is lacking. This paper discusses the energy performance, peak demand reduction potential, and performance characteristics of an AIS that uses a concrete wall as thermal mass sandwiched between two solid-state thermal switches (STSs). These STSs change their thermal conductivity using an on/off metal switch to create or break a thermal bridge across the STS. This paper first describes the experimental setup, used to determine the ratio of thermal resistance during R-high (low thermal conductivity) and R-low (high thermal conductivity) states of the STSs. This ratio was then used in whole-building energy simulations to evaluate the performance of AIS walls across different climate zones with/without a freeze timer of 60 min. The timer was added to reduce the number of switches of STSs from one state to another, and hence the energy needed for these switches. Analysis of the switching frequency and interval of STSs, thermal conductivity of walls, impact of wall orientation, and heat transfer through the wall from the use of AIS at different climate zones/locations were performed. The simulation results show that the AIS can achieve energy savings ranging from ∼ 980 to 2,290 kWh in a single-family home with a floor area of ∼ 220 m2 compared with an IECC 2018 baseline. The energy savings was higher in dry climate zones which represent 17% of residential buildings in the United States, compared to humid or marine climate.