Practices with greatest impact on energy conservation are under study
Adjusting the thermostat during the winter, turning off lights when not needed, using blinds and opening windows are some of the well-known practices to save energy at home, but which of them are the most effective? Associate professors Gabriel Kamiel (University of Ontario), Wei Yang and Yaolin Lin (Wuhan University of Technology in China) are trying to find out. They developed a holistic and integrated model which considered the building enclosure, the mechanical systems, the external environment, the proportion of window opening and the shading factor based on data collected from 270 households (single and multiple units) using different heating methods. All houses were located in the city of Oshawa, Ontario, 55 km east of Toronto, Canada. To calculate the buildings’ energy consumption, the researchers simulated the occupants' possible activities on different days for various types of housing while utilizing a number of heating and cooling methods. These activities included turning on lights, using electrical appliances and the continuous adjustment of the thermostat.
"I was interested to find the trends of energy use in typical households and to understand the consumer behavior and the reasons behind high and low energy consumption. I have a strong belief that, if society boosts energy conservation (as well as other resources), we will have less of a challenge meeting future demands," explained Dr. Kamiel. "The study is a first of its kind in that it related actual energy usage in typical households to the consumer's actual trends and habits in consuming energy. The latter was obtained through surveying the inhabitants of the homes we monitored," he continued.
The results, which were published in Frontiers in Built Environment, show that window opening had the greatest impact on the energy consumption during the winter (when the heater was turned on), and using windows shades was the most important factor in reducing the energy consumed to cool the houses during the summer.
To ensure a high level of reliability in future studies though, factors such as climatic zones, occupants' attitudes, as well as financial, social and cultural behaviors will be integrated into the existing building performance simulation. The researchers believe this model could be used for creating efficient building design and for retrofit analysis as it takes into account factors such as building orientation, building envelop material, shading and control on heating and cooling.