How to Cool Your Home Without Warming the Planet
The Heating Ventilation and Air-Conditioning sector is a massive contributor to global warming, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one heavily air-conditioned nation. (Below Photo Credit: WAM)
The government has placed itself at the fore of the Climate Action agenda today and, as part of its commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement and embed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) within policy frameworks, the UAE Energy Plan for 2050 aims to increase the contribution of clean energy in the total energy mix to 50% by relying on solar photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP) technologies, and to improve energy efficiency by 40%.
Solar Alone Just Isn't enough
But current advances in energy efficiency technologies and rates of renewable energy deployment are not quite fast enough to bend the emission curve of the amount of energy we consume.(2) As temperatures rise uncontrolled, we are forced to produce even more energy to keep our indoor climates cooled and well ventilated. Disruptive and cost-effective energy efficiency measures are needed to meet building occupant demands without also placing immense stress on the macro environment.
Last year, the Emirates Wildlife Society in association with the World Wildlife Federation released a report sponsored by Farnek entitled UAE Climate Change Risks & Resilience.(3) Its findings, among other things, lay out in detail the extent of the challenge that our air-conditioned buildings present, including the fact that air conditioning in buildings contributes the highest proportion of electricity loads in the UAE.
The report highlights that energy demands for cooling and dehumidification in the UAE are climbing steadily directly owing to climate change:
For office buildings, demand is expected to increase by more than 10% by 2020 and 20% by 2050
For residential villas, cooling demand is expected to increase between 10% - 35% by 2050 (depending on future emissions scenarios).
Increased electricity costs will either be absorbed by national and municipal budgets in the form of subsidies or billed to the end-user to encourage demand-side management.
The good news is that there is a technology available today in the UAE, Thermal Energy Storage (TES), that when applied can result in a 45-50% reduction in required cooling capacity and a reduction of peak cooling demand of 70-90% in the Middle East, with 25-35% lower energy consumption for cooling.
Storing Power in Buildings Can Meet Energy Needs
TES, although not commonly applied in the UAE to building fabrics, is not new. It is a mature technology applied successfully in commercial and institutional building applications that helps make renewable energy resources more viable, distributing energy to buildings at night when loads are lower and generation efficiencies are higher. TES coupled with renewables evens out demand side requirements compared to supply side provision of peak electricity. It is a useful strategy that can dually provide energy for HVAC consumption and produce optimal indoor air quality, creating benefits at both micro and macro levels.
TermoDeck is the commercial trade name of a proven airborne TES system consisting of concrete prefabricated ventilated slabs with hollow cores that air circulates through. The slabs absorb heat during the day and cool air flowing within the concrete efficiently purges that heat at night. TermoDeck’s TES system is integrated into the design and construction of buildings and reduces the cooling peak load through a passive/active discharge.
This low-cost solution reduces peak load consumption and overall energy consumption while still providing ventilated, dehumidified and comfortable indoor air. Available energy is efficiently exploited, waste is reduced and access to energy storage and generation becomes affordable. Low electricity costs resulting from off-peak use and lower capacity requirements also reduce AC-related bills for tenants and owners by ~60%. The resulting reduced GHG and CO2 emissions also improve the quality of the outdoor environment. Electricity is produced and delivered more efficiently during off-peak hours and the corresponding reduction in source fuel and energy-savings cuts emissions of CO2, the main greenhouse gas.
In fact, in buildings constructed using the TermoDeck TES system, annual emissions from building services are predicted to be less than 22KgCO2/m2, a reduction of over 80% compared to typical conventionally air conditioned structures. Combined with new and emerging low carbon or even next-generational technologies, emissions can be even lower.
Structures Built to Cool Us (Not Structures We Build and Cool)
Achieving all of this, it’s no wonder that the World Wildlife Federation appointed TermoDeck as a Climate Solver.
Cooling Solutions Must Be Design-Centric
Given the impact that AC has on energy and power generation, as well as on the climate, HVAC should stop being viewed as independent from building design if maximum efficiency is to be achieved, and architects, engineers and builders need specific practices and detailed guidance in order to create truly effective thermal fabric designs.
It costs far more to correct an inefficient building than to simply build better from the outset. Building the HVAC system into the structure itself is not only more efficient in terms of energy, and healthier in terms of air flow and ventilation, its also cheaper than conventional HVAC systems with all the moldy metal ductworks, materials and false ceilings that conceal them.
Establishing regulatory requirements and construction best practices that mandate the incorporation of TermoDeck into the design of new buildings is an ideal and low cost HVAC industry innovation, optimizing demand side management of energy savings, emissions reductions and health co-benefits, and allowing the UAE to meet SDG and Energy Plan for 2050 targets.
Using TermoDeck to store the energy for cooling our buildings is plain and simply the easiest and cheapest way to reduce energy demands and to increase energy efficiency right now, cooling our indoor climate today without raising the temperature of our planet tomorrow.