ARCHIVED - High-tech houses benefit Canadians

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April 08, 2008— Ottawa, Ontario

When today's homeowners opt for a high-performance heating and cooling system or the best in energy-efficient windows, they might be buying a product assessed at the Canadian Centre for Housing Technology (CCHT). Since 1998, the CCHT has conducted research on a wide range of innovative technologies designed to significantly reduce home energy consumption.

CCHT is a partnership among NRC, Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), and Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC). It operates on the Montreal Road campus of NRC in Ottawa. "Since we opened ten years ago, we've assessed more than 30 housing-related technologies," says Mike Swinton, CCHT's research manager. "Many of these technologies are making their way into the marketplace or increasing their market share."

A solar concentrator system being evaluated at the CCHT test house.
A solar concentrator system being evaluated at the CCHT test house.

The Centre has assessed various heating and cooling systems, including systems that combine heat and power generation and technologies that use alternative energy. The Centre has also assessed various energy-efficient window technologies and devices. It conducts research in twin R-2000 houses, each endowed with more than 300 sensors and 23 utility and water meters. These houses are set up to simulate the conditions of a family of four taking showers, cooking, washing dishes and generating body heat. Simulated occupancy helps provide a detailed assessment of how various technologies would perform in an inhabited R-2000 home.

CCHT provides the authoritative findings that manufacturers need to back up their products on the market. "We've been able to provide top-quality technology assessments partly because we have access to world-class research labs and computer modeling specialists," says Swinton. CCHT results have contributed to model benchmarking, which is used to predict residential energy performance for different locations across Canada.

Combined heat and power generation

CCHT researchers have examined residential technologies — called micro Combined Heat and Power technologies, or microCHP units — that generate both heat and energy. One unit, assessed in 2005, was the first-ever fuel cell installed for home heat and power. Fuel cell core technology could become a viable alternative to grid electricity for homes through small, distributed micro CHP plants.

CCHT researchers have also assessed two generations of a Stirling engine that produces electricity for home use, and an internal combustion engine coupled to ground storage. These experiments examined not only performance but also connectivity issues that arise between microCHP technologies and the house.

Alternative energy

The CCHT InfoCentre and FlexHouse — a showcase for flexible house design — both have rooftop solar panels, which generate electricity during daylight hours. A solar concentrator system connected to a storage tank in the basement of the FlexHouse provides heat for water and space heating.

Heating systems

The first systems assessed in the CCHT twin houses were gas-fired combined space and water heating systems. CCHT researchers have also examined a two-stage natural gas furnace, a high-efficiency condensing gas furnace, and electric furnaces with innovative controls and fan motors. In a novel heating project, a hydrogen electrolyzer produced hydrogen from water and electricity, which was added to the natural gas stream of a high-efficiency condensing gas furnace.

High-performance windows

In 2007, the CCHT compared the performance of high and low solar gain windows in both the heating and cooling seasons. Based on the results, models were created for different locations across Canada, which showed that higher energy savings were achieved with high solar gain windows for all the cities considered.

Energy-efficient devices

To assess products such as compact fluorescent lights and furnace motors, the staff at CCHT has measured both the electrical savings and their impact on space heating and cooling loads. CCHT researchers have also evaluated shower water heat recovery systems, which resulted in an online calculator to determine savings and payback periods.

"Saving energy in our homes is one of the best ways to contribute to a sustainable future," says Swinton. "With every passing year, we'll see more and more new housing built to run on the technologies we've assessed."

Enquiries: Media relations
National Research Council of Canada
613-991-1431
media@nrc-cnrc.gc.ca

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