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This article discusses ways to monitor the energy flows in a passive solar home, and suggestions for building energy use monitoring, electricity usage, heating and cooling fuel usage, and other sources of energy consumption.
Monitoring building energy use allows building owners/occupants to focus on where the most energy cost savings may be found. Monitoring building energy use also allows evaluation of the effectiveness of individual energy savings steps or alternative energy sources such as passive solar energy systems, active solar energy systems, or wind power energy systems.
Sketch at page top and accompanying text are reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss.
Tracking Building Energy Usage: Passive Solar Energy Monitors
Passive Solar Home Energy Flow Monitoring Suggestions
I would like to know where I can obtain information regarding the monitoring of a passive solar residence, including equations, type and location of passive solar energy monitors, or energy use monitors, and analysis of passive solar energy data.
A lot of information appears about predicting solar energy performance, but I can't seem to locate solar energy flow monitoring descriptions. -- George Buffaloe, Broomfield CO
There are many ways to monitor the energy flows in a building, ranging from a utility bill audit at one end of the spectrum to a fully instrumented analysis at the other.
Which route you should choose depends on your need for accuracy and your budget. To do sophisticated solar energy performance and building energy use monitoring requires experience with instrumentation and a large investment in money and time.
If you wish to go this route, try contacting the engineering department of your local university for assistance. If you are unable to beg or borrow the energy monitoring equipment, low-cost ($1400 - $2000) monitoring hardware has been available since the fall of 1984. [September 1984 - solar energy instrumentation choices and costs have dropped by 2010 - DF].
For information contact Richard Sydlowski, Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. Information on low-tech energy auditing should be available from your local utility. A good summary of the technical issues in monitoring including general equations appeared in "How to Get the Facts", Solar Age, 7/82.
Current & Developing Energy Monitoring Devices for Homes
For an up-to-date discussion of home energy use monitoring, see "Energy Scoreboards, Designed for the Home", by Anne Eisenberg and appearing in the New York Times, 2/28/2010. That article describes Intel's prototype wall-mounted energy monitor designed to collect energy usage data from a building's appliances and potentially (and in our view more importantly) the building's heating and cooling mechanical systems.
Intel's Energy Monitor
In the article's description, the Intel energy monitor collects appliance data usage by wireless communication with sensor units through which each building appliance is plugged into a wall electrical outlet. We hope that the final design will include a similar energy monitoring application for the big energy consumers such as heating and air conditioning equipment. For example, installing similar circuitry in an individual circuit breaker could track electrical use of an air conditioning system or heat pump.
Tenrehte Technology's Picowatt Energy Monitor
The article also discusses the Picowatt, a device that communicates with smart phones or laptop computers to permit controlling building lighting or appliances. As we speculated above, the Picowatt communicates wirelessly to a control device through which individual appliances are connected to an electrical receptacle. Device usage data can be collected and posted on individual web pages for further analysis.
G.E. Technology Energy Monitoring
The Times article cited Kevin Nolan, GE Vice President of technology in Louisville as describing a "low cost communication module that will hook into the heater and communicate with whatever smart meter you have in your home."
Sam Six Energy Monitoring
The Times article also cited Steve McMaster, CEO of Sam Six, a developer of software for utility companies intended to make electricity transmission more efficient by permitting a homeowner's energy monitoring system to communicate with utility companies.
The question-and-answer article about building energy usage monitoring equipment and methods, quotes-from, updates, and comments an original article from Solar Age Magazine and written by Steven Bliss.
The link to the original Q&A article in PDF form immediately below is preceded by an expanded/updated online version of this article.
House Monitoring - Q&A on monitoring of a passive solar residence - in passive solar energy design - PDF version, use your browser's back button to return to this page
The question-and-answer article below paraphrases, quotes-from, updates, and comments an original article from Solar Age Magazine and written by Steven Bliss or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
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Solar Age Magazine was the official publication of the American Solar Energy Society. The contemporary solar energy magazine associated with the Society is Solar Today. "Established in 1954, the nonprofit American Solar Energy Society (ASES) is the nation's leading association of solar professionals & advocates. Our mission is to inspire an era of energy innovation and speed the transition to a sustainable energy economy. We advance education, research and policy. Leading for more than 50 years.
ASES leads national efforts to increase the use of solar energy, energy efficiency and other sustainable technologies in the U.S. We publish the award-winning SOLAR TODAY magazine, organize and present the ASES National Solar Conference and lead the ASES National Solar Tour – the largest grassroots solar event in the world."
Steve Bliss's Building Advisor at buildingadvisor.com helps homeowners & contractors plan & complete successful building & remodeling projects: buying land, site work, building design, cost estimating, materials & components, & project management through complete construction. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Steven Bliss served as editorial director and co-publisher of The Journal of Light Construction for 16 years and previously as building technology editor for Progressive Builder and Solar Age magazines. He worked in the building trades as a carpenter and design/build contractor for more than ten years and holds a masters degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Excerpts from his recent book, Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, Wiley (November 18, 2005) ISBN-10: 0471648361, ISBN-13: 978-0471648369, appear throughout this website, with permission and courtesy of Wiley & Sons. Best Practices Guide is available from the publisher, J. Wiley & Sons, and also at Amazon.com
"Energy Scoreboards, Designed for the Home", Anne Eisenberg, the New York Times, Bright Ideas, 2/28/2010
Picowatt energy monitor devices, described by the above NY Times article are expected to be available on Amazon.com by 22 April 2010 - Earth Day. Roughly $80. per device.
Passive Solar Design Handbook Volume I, the Passive Solar Handbook Introduction to Passive Solar Concepts, in a version used by the U.S. Air Force - online version available at this link and from the USAF also at wbdg.org/ccb/AF/AFH/pshbk_v1.pdf
Passive Solar Design Handbook Volume II, the Passive Solar Handbook Comprehensive Planning Guide, in a version used by the U.S. Air Force - online version available at this link and from the USAF also at wbdg.org/ccb/AF/AFH/pshbk_v2.pdf [This is a large PDF file that can take a while to load]
Passive Solar Handbook Volume III, the Passive Solar Handbook Programming Guide, in a version used by the U.S. Air Force - online version available at this link and from the USAF also at wbdg.org/ccb/AF/AFH/pshbk_v3.pdf
"Passive Solar Home Design", U.S. Department of Energy, describes using a home's windows, walls, and floors to collect and store solar energy for winter heating and also rejecting solar heat in warm weather.
"Solar Water Heaters", U.S. Department of Energy article on solar domestic water heaters to generate domestic hot water in buildings, explains how solar water heaters work. Solar heat for swimming pools is also discussed.
"Heat-Transfer Fluids for Solar Water Heating Systems", U.S. DOE, describes the types of fluids selected to transfer heat between the solar collector and the hot water in storage tanks in a building. These include air, water, water with glycol antifreeze mixtures (needed when using solar hot water systems in freezing climates), hydrocarbon oils, and refrigerants or silicones for heat transfer.
"Solar Water Heating System Freeze Protection", U.S. DOE,using antifreeze mixture in solar water heaters (or other freeze-resistant heat transfer fluids), as well as piping to permit draining the solar collector and piping system.
"Solar Air Heating" U.S. DOE also referred to as "Ventilation Preheating" in which solar systems use air for absorbing and transferring solar energy or heat to a building
"Solar Liquid Heating" U.S. DOE, systems using liquid (typically water) in flat plate solar collectors to collect solar energy in the form of heat for transfer into a building for space heating or hot water heating. The term "solar liquid" is used for accuracy, rather than "solar water" because the water may contain an antifreeze or other chemicals.
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Or choose the The Home Reference eBook for PCs, Macs, Kindle, iPad, iPhone, or Android Smart Phones. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference eBook purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAEHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.