DOE Invests $8M in Next-Gen HVAC Systems

April 23, 2015 By Karen Henry

DOE-logo-energy-manageThe US Department of Energy (DOE) is investing $8 million to advance research and development of next-generation HVAC technologies in the areas of advanced vapor compression technology and non-vapor compression technology.

Advanced vapor compression systems projects will use highly efficient versions of the technologies that currently drive HVAC systems but with refrigerants that have a minimal effect on the environment:

  • United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) will receive $975,000 to demonstrate a high-efficiency centrifugal compressor design that will enable high efficiency small commercial rooftop systems in the 1.5- to 10-ton range. These systems could provide 30 percent annual energy savings with less than two years payback by 2020.
  • Mechanical Solutions (MSI) and Lennox Industries will receive $1 million to develop an HVAC system featuring a small, highly efficient centrifugal compressor. This project will initially focus on 4–5 ton residential HVAC systems but could eventually be scaled up to commercial systems as large as 20 tons.

Non-vapor compression systems will employ new technologies that use refrigerants that do not effect the environment.

  • Dais Analytic will receive $1.2 million to advance membrane HVAC technology that will allow the system to condition air while improving energy efficiency and eliminating fluorocarbon refrigerants.
  • Maryland Energy and Sensor Technologies (MEST) will receive $600,000 to develop a high-efficiency, compact thermoelastic cooling (TEC) system. TECs perform the same task as a heat pump compressor but work by stretching and relaxing metal rods.
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) will receive $1.4 million to develop a novel magnetocaloric air conditioner with the potential for efficiency improvements of up to 25 percent over conventional vapor compression systems.
  • UTRC will also receive $1 million to demonstrate an electrocaloric heat pump that will be 50 percent smaller than current models. The heat pump could result in annual energy savings of more than 1.5 BTUs.
  • Xergy will receive $1.4 million to develop electrochemical compression (ECC) technology in combination with an energy recovery module to replace a solid-state compressor for use in heat pumps. ECC uses fuel cell technology to enable heat pumps to use water as the refrigerant. Modeling shows efficiency improvements of 30–56 percent are attainable in a commercial system.

HVAC systems account for nearly 30 percent of the total energy use in US commercial and residential buildings. Non-vapor-compression HVAC systems have the potential to use as much as 40 percent less energy than current systems.

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