Modular building facade heats and cools rooms with solar power
Heating and cooling buildings is a major consumer of energy, especially older ones that weren’t built with modern energy efficiencies in mind. Now, engineers at Fraunhofer Institute have developed a modular facade powered by solar panels that can heat or cool rooms.
Each unit of the modular facade measures 125 cm wide and 30 cm deep (49.2 x 11.8 in), and can service a room measuring up to 24 m2 (258 ft2). It contains a photovoltaic panel that generates enough power to run a mini heat pump, which produces three to four units of heat per unit of electricity.
To heat a room, the system uses fan coils to pump heat from the outside air indoors, while cooling is achieved by extracting heat from indoors and blowing it outside. A decentralized ventilation system regulates this air exchange and allows the room to “breathe.” The units can be connected to mainline power as well, for times when the solar cells aren’t generating enough.
This modular facade is designed to be retrofitted onto older buildings, particularly those built between the 1950s and 1970s, the team says. The idea is that they can be used to bring existing buildings up to modern standards of environmentally friendliness, far more quickly, easily and at lower cost.
Rather than renovating entire buildings, the original facades can be removed and replaced with these new modules within a few hours, the team claims. People in adjoining rooms may not even need to be moved during the works. And later, as technology advances, the modules could be easily swapped out for better ones.
As an example, the team estimates that up to 30 percent of the office buildings built in Germany between 1950 and 1990 were constructed using the ideal method for these modules. All up, these buildings consume some 3,200 GWh of electricity each year, but the team says that the modular facades could reduce that to just 600 GWh.
There’s still some optimization to be done, but the team says the modules could soon be used to improve the energy efficiency of new and old buildings alike.
Source: Fraunhofer Institute