LBNL Report Number
Duct losses have a significant effect on the efficiency of delivering space cooling to U.S. homes. This effect is especially dramatic during peak demand periods where half of the cooling equipment's output can be wasted. Improving the efficiency of a duct system can save energy, but can also allow for downsizing of cooling equipment without sacrificing comfort conditions. Comfort, and hence occupant acceptability, is determined not only by steady-state temperatures, but by how long it takes to pull down the temperature during cooling start-up, such as when the occupants come home on a hot summer afternoon. Thus the delivered tons of cooling at the register during start-up conditions are critical to customer acceptance of equipment downsizing strategies. We have developed a simulation technique which takes into account such things as weather, heat-transfer (including hot attic conditions), airflow, duct tightness, duct location and insulation, and cooling equipment performance to determine the net tons of cooling delivered to occupied space. Capacity at the register has been developed as an improvement over equipment tonnage as a system sizing measure. We use this concept to demonstrate that improved ducts and better system installation is as important as equipment size, with analysis of pull-down capability as a proxy for comfort. The simulations indicate that an improved system installation including tight ducts can eliminate the need for almost a ton of rated equipment capacity in a typical new 2,000 square foot house in Sacramento, California. Our results have also shown that a good duct system can reduce capacity requirements and still provide equivalent cooling at start-up and at peak conditions.