Air movement in residential buildings: an energy efficient approach to thermal comfort



Within the project 4RinEU we are studying the use of air movement to promote thermal comfort in residential buildings.

Several studies proved that it is much more efficient to increase the convection coefficient than the delta of temperature when it comes to cool down humans. Results from research show that using air movement, it is possible to provide comfortable conditions up to 29°C using a very limited amount of energy for the fan. Despite this, ceiling fan are not largely used yet – even in buildings where the other option would be installing nothing at all –  being considered a second-class technology.

The scope of the project will be the development of an algorithm to automatically control ceiling fans based on indoor temperature, relative humidity and outdoor temperature. The automatic control will convert an old-fashion solution, the ceiling fan, into a technological device that will reduce the need of mechanical cooling in summer seasons, or provide relief in building without conditioning device.

The research activities will be performed both in Eurac Research lab in Bolzano and in the Spanish Demo-Case. In the lab the air speed generated by three different fans, selected for their size and energy efficiency, will be carefully measured at different power setting and at different heights. The results from the tests, together with the outcomes of a literature review on the topic of air movement and thermal comfort, will be used to develop the first algorithm for the automatic control of the fan. The algorithm will be further developed based on the results coming from its implementation in the Spanish demo case. During the field study, a surveying campaign will be implemented to collect feedbacks from the building users on thermal comfort and fan operation.

The final result will be a device that automatically will provide relief in hot summers, without the need of continuous adjustments by the users.