Towards a Techno-Economic Analysis of PCM-Integrated Hybrid HVAC Systems
Thermal end uses dominate building energy consumption and are a major driver of peak demand. As heating is electrified, peak electrical power required will surge, prompting a need for innovative HVAC system designs and controls. These designs must incorporate novel technologies at the component level and new integration techniques at the system level. One such possibility involves the addition of thermal energy storage (TES) in heating and cooling equipment using a phase change material (PCM) heat exchanger. Here, thermal energy storage via phase change can be used to shift the HVAC system loads to times of lower electricity cost, reduced carbon intensity, and greater energy efficiency. Most of the current utilization of PCM in buildings involves passive components. By actively controlling when heat is stored and released from PCM, we can optimize the building HVAC system to cost-effectively meet consumer needs with the flexibility to draw on renewable energy resources when they are abundant and available.
While this combination of technologies is promising in theory, simulation-based evaluation of a prototype can be difficult due to the modeling requirements at the component level and the large number of possible configurations and operating modes at the system level. To conduct this evaluation, we use the Modelica language for modeling and simulation because it enables users to represent the important physics of the problem, interchange and rearrange components in an efficient manner, and implement a range of control configurations. In this work, we considered three case studies: a portable building, a large commercial retail store, and a multifamily residential apartment unit. Each of these employs a different system design, ranging from a single package vertical unit incorporating PCM to a central plant with independent heat pump, evaporative cooling, and thermal energy storage components. This paper describes the technologies in question, presents modeling at the component and system levels, and demonstrates building energy and demand charge cost savings with local time-of-use tariffs in a hot-dry climate.