A research team from Missouri University of Science and Technology has been awarded $15,000 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop “smart” ventilation systems that could result in a 40 percent reduction in the cost of cooling your house.
The EPA distributes the so-called P3 (people, prosperity, planet) awards on a competitive basis. Dr. Joon-Ho Choi, an assistant professor of civil, architectural and environmental engineering, is leading the Missouri S&T group.
“We can predict indoor conditions based on outdoor climate conditions,” Choi says.
The team plans to install a small weather station – complete with wind turbine – outside one of the houses at Missouri S&T’s Solar Village, where four solar homes built by S&T students are located. According to Choi, the weather station will measure the four main factors that impact indoor climate: solar radiation, air temperature, humidity and wind.
The weather station will communicate information to a computer located inside the solar house. Small sensors will also be located throughout the house to monitor conditions.
The data will allow the house to control its own temperatures and conserve significant amounts of energy. “It takes out the human factor,” says Choi, who predicts that houses of the future will be equipped with windows that open and close on their own, depending on weather conditions. “It will enhance human comfort while saving energy without additional cooling.”
Choi also envisions an iPhone application that allows residents to check on conditions in their house when they’re not at home, in addition to sharing information — and even energy — with others in the community.
The test equipment will be installed at the Solar Village, which is located on Missouri S&T property, this fall. Choi’s group will travel to Washington D.C. next spring to share their results and compete for an additional grant of $90,000, which would enable them to “take the design to real world applications.”
Members of the team also include a total of six students, both undergraduates and graduate students, and other staff researchers.
While studying for his Ph.D. at Carnegie Mellon University, Choi conducted related research. He wanted to see if human bio-signals – heart rate, skin temperature, movement and sweat – could be used to trigger adjustments in room temperatures. Choi believes that sensors placed on hospital patients, for instance, could effectively allow their bodies to control the temperatures in a given room. The idea could also provide more comfort to those in places like nursing facilities, offices and homes.