Energy and Indoor air quality implications of alternative minimum ventilation rates in California offices
The energy and IAQ implications of varying prescribed minimum outdoor air ventilation rates (VRs) in California office buildings were estimated using the EnergyPlus building simulation software tool. Weighting factors were used to scale these model predictions to state wide estimates. Energy use predictions were then verified using surveyed California building energy end use data.
Models predicted state wide office electricity use that was within 15% of reported electricity consumption from power utilities. The HVAC energy penalty of providing the current Title-24 VRs was approximately 6%, of the total HVAC energy use. Having economizers installed reduced average indoor formaldehyde exposure by 38% and lowered HVAC EUI by 20%. For California offices with economizers, 50% and 100% increases in Title-24 prescribed minimum VRs increased heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) modeled energy use by 7.6% and 21.6%, respectively, while decreasing the annual average workplace formaldehyde exposure by 8.6% and 14.4%, respectively. Economizers increased VRs above the minimum 79% of the time lowering annual average concentrations of formaldehyde. Decreasing minimum VRs below the Title-24 rate would have smaller predicted effects on energy use and comparatively larger effects on formaldehyde concentrations. In buildings without economizers in many climate zones, increasing VRs up to 150% of the current Title-24 minimum would save HVAC energy and significantly reduce formaldehyde.
A key conclusion is that raising future minimum VRs in California offices is unlikely to significantly improve time-averaged IAQ in buildings with economizers. Lowering future minimum VRs would be unlikely to deliver substantive energy savings.