Message from the Director
The Texas Allergy, Indoor Environment, and Energy (TxAIRE) Institute
The past year has been a very productive one for TxAIRE. During 2013, more than four hundred visitors toured the TxAIRE Research houses. These individuals included industry representatives, visiting researchers, builders from as far away as Dallas, perspective home buyers, government officials, professional societies, middle school, high school, and university instructors, as well as a larger number of their students from across East Texas. Despite all this "traffic", we were nevertheless able to initiate a large number of research projects as well as technology development, product demonstration, and test projects utilizing the now fully-operational TxAIRE research houses. Several of those projects will continue during 2014. For many of the research houses tests, we have already been able to analyze and compare key aspects of the functionality of the various mechanical and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems installed in the houses and operated during the course of our first full year of house operations. These projects included the involvement of several companies, a significant number of University faculty, and more than 100 semesters of TxAIRE sponsored student research activities. Funding for these projects included Federal, State, and private industry sponsors.
Projects performed during 2013 included:
- Analysis of roof shingle solar reflectivity performance, as it relates to the reduction in attic temperatures and HVAC energy usage;
- Analyses and comparison of the energy efficiencies associated with two commercially available in-attic and in-closet heat pump domestic hot water heaters;
- Analyses and comparison of night-time heating setback strategies for a residential heat pump HVAC system for optimization of both energy savings and comfort;
- Analyses and comparison of day-time cooling setback strategies for residential HVAC systems for optimization of comfort, energy savings and peak (electricity) demand;
- Comparison of various in-home ventilation strategies for optimum air exchanges and indoor air contaminant removal utilizing various HVAC system and dwelling exhaust fan strategies;
- Comparison between ducted and ductless HVAC performance;
- Field testing of lead acid and AGM battery powered residential air conditioning systems;
- Potential reductions in residential electricity peak load demand utilizing a zero peak power air conditioning system.
In addition to our "in-house" field tests, several "in-lab" test projects were performed that investigated elements of high performance building design features. Perhaps the most interesting of these was the work done by UT Tyler civil/construction management program faculty and students to test and evaluate a wide range of "advanced framing" fasteners and construction techniques to quantify their strength and recommend new structural element designs. We also assisted in developing several student senior design projects associated with the design and demonstration of passive solar water heaters, battery powered air conditioners, and perhaps the most popular senior project, a solar powered hot tub!
During 2013, significant emphasis was also placed upon developing several technologies that can help to address the growing concern over peak load electricity demand in Texas. While most of the sustainable building community focuses upon "net zero" building designs, TxAIRE is promoting a more focused "zero peak power" (ZPP) technology thrust. TxAIRE's ZPP Technology Projects are developing new products that reduce building electricity consumption during critical peak demand summer hours (noon to 8 pm) by more than 50%. This is achieved via a combination of both electrical and thermal storage technology devices. The most significant of these projects essentially eliminates the need to run the air conditioning system compressor, resulting in approximately a 70% reduction in electricity demand. The commercial success of these products can spawn new jobs and new companies in East Texas while helping Texas to meet the challenges of our growing population.
The coming year will see an expansion of TxAIRE collaborations with industry as well as with several of our academic partners. For our many (more than 80) industry partners, the completion of our first round of product development and test activities will allow the installation and testing of a new wave of commercial products acquired via an expanded set of industry collaborations with TxAIRE.
An expansion of our projects with UT Austin, UT Dallas, local community colleges and even local high schools will increase the research activities with our TxAIRE houses. Numerous proposals to federal, state, and private foundations are also planned that will range from focus upon indoor air quality and human health concerns; to water conservation, capture, reuse, and quality. In summary, the past year has been a year of significant progress and growth. We continue to strengthen our mission of improving the health and efficiency of built environments. We continue to establish a firm research foundation upon which a TxAIRE products "GreenHouse" will grow. The research and technology seeds that have been planted during the past four years are now beginning to mature and develop into new high performance building products and methods. The growth and harvesting of those technologies will result in healthier, more energy and water efficient living, while creating new and meaningful jobs in Texas.
John J. Vasselli