Building technology opens the door to increased ventilation, lower energy costs globally

Written by
Molly Seltzer
Molly Seltzer, Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment
April 15, 2021

In a study published in a COVID-19 edition of the journal Applied Energy, Princeton University researchers showed that an often overlooked cooling technology can enable more ventilation in buildings around the world while substantially decreasing energy costs. Radiant systems are an alternative to air conditioning and work by controlling the temperature of surfaces around people instead of the air. Radiant cooling panels have been around for over a century, but the Princeton researchers made them effectively condensation-proof using a special membrane to encapsulate the panels. The study found that with this upgrade, the technology could be used in every major climate zone, at least for part of the year, and could slash energy costs up to 25%. While the technology itself does not directly control ventilation rates, it allows for windows to be opened and more fresh air to flow in because occupants feel comfortable from the radiant systems, regardless of the air temperature around them. All the air brought into a space can be fresh and used for breathing, rather than thermal comfort, which is particularly relevant today as the world continues battling COVID-19, an airborne virus easily transmitted in indoor spaces.

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