Aug. 16 Webinar Looks at a Cooler Way to Achieve Zero Net Energy Homes

The California Energy Commission and the Emerging Technologies Coordinating Council will sponsor an Aug. 16 webinar to highlight an energy saving building process that utilizes the same basic concept that keeps drinks cold at a tailgate party.

Representatives from RMS Energy Consulting and the University of California, Los Angeles will discuss how the use of phase change materials can cut energy consumption in buildings and lower the cost of making them zero-net energy.

Phase change materials – water is a good example – become solid or liquid at certain temperatures. Their ability to change from one phase to another helps them excel at controlling temperatures. When ice is placed in a cooler full of beverages, it absorbs the surrounding heat and melts, lowering the temperature and cooling the drinks. The beverages stay cool because the melting ice absorbs the thermal energy.

But water is a poor phase change material for buildings. It has a fixed melting point of 32 degrees Fahrenheit and would remain a liquid if used in most California homes. Instead, builders use materials that freeze and melt at higher temperatures such as paraffin, biomass, or salt hydrate. Some phase change materials have melting points close to room temperature.

During construction, phase change materials are integrated into the walls and ceilings of buildings. The materials absorb heat throughout the day and stabilize interior temperatures as they melt. At night, the stored heat is released, causing the phase change materials to refreeze and begin the cycle all over again. Some phase change materials work so well, they can reduce or even eliminate the need for heating and cooling systems in buildings.

During the webinar, the results of a three-year study conducted by UCLA will be discussed. Researchers examined and identified phase change materials that would work in California’s 16 climate zones, measured their effectiveness, and developed models to help validate their findings. The study was funded by a Public Interest Energy Research grant from the Energy Commission.

RMS Energy Consulting will discuss its project to measure and verify energy savings at the Easton Archery Center at the United States Olympic training facility in Chula Vista. The two-story concrete facility, which was built in 2015, uses phase change materials in the stud cavities and below the roof sheeting. San Diego Gas & Electric funded the study.

The webinar begins at 10 a.m. Details are on the Energy Commission’s calendar page.

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Energy Efficiency

California Energy Commission

The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency created by the Legislature in 1974.
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