IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change

6.4.5 Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems

The term HVAC is generally used in reference to commercial buildings. HVAC systems include filtration and, where required by the climate, humidification and dehumidification as well as heating and cooling. However, energy-efficient houses in climates with seasonal heating are almost airtight, so mechanical ventilation has to be provided (during seasons when windows will be closed), often in combination with the heating and/or cooling system, as in commercial buildings. Principles of energy-efficient HVAC design

In the simplest HVAC systems, heating or cooling is provided by circulating a fixed amount of air at a sufficiently warm or cold temperature to maintain the desired room temperature. The rate at which air is circulated in this case is normally much greater than that needed for ventilation to remove contaminants. During the cooling season, the air is supplied at the coldest temperature needed in any zone and reheated as necessary just before entering other zones. There are a number of changes in the design of HVAC systems that can achieve dramatic savings in the energy use for heating, cooling and ventilation. These include (i) using variable-air volume systems so as to minimize simultaneous heating and cooling of air; (ii) using heat exchangers to recover heat or coldness from ventilation exhaust air; (iii) minimizing fan and pump energy consumption by controlling rotation speed; (iv) separating the ventilation from the heating and cooling functions by using chilled or hot water for temperature control and circulating only the volume of air needed for ventilation; (v) separating cooling from dehumidification functions through the use of desiccant dehumidification; (vi) implementing a demand-controlled ventilation system in which ventilation airflow changes with changing building occupancy which alone can save 20 to 30% of total HVAC energy use (Brandemuehl and Braun, 1999); (vii) correctly sizing all components; and (viii) allowing the temperature maintained by the HVAC system to vary seasonally with outdoor conditions (a large body of evidence indicates that the temperature and humidity set-points commonly encountered in air-conditioned buildings are significantly lower than necessary (de Dear and Brager, 1998; Fountain et al., 1999), while computer simulations by Jaboyedoff et al. (2004) and by Jakob et al. (2006) indicate that increasing the thermostat by 2°C to 4°C will reduce annual cooling energy use by more than a factor of three for a typical office building in Zurich, and by a factor of two to three if the thermostat setting is increased from 23°C to 27°C for night-time air conditioning of bedrooms in apartments in Hong Kong (Lin and Deng, 2004).

Additional savings can be obtained in ‘mixed-mode’ buildings, in which natural ventilation is used whenever possible, making use of the extended comfort range associated with operable windows, and mechanical cooling is used only when necessary during periods of very warm weather or high building occupancy.