Buildings account for a significant portion of the total energy consumption in the US, especially the energy-inefficient commercial building sector. As part of the future path towards realizing net zero energy buildings, innovative energy-efficient technologies must be developed. In this study, the potential of phase change material (PCM)-enhanced constructions to lower HVAC energy consumption in a commercial building was investigated.

A commercially available fatty acid-based PCM product was selected due promising thermal and chemical properties. Differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) was used in isothermal step mode to accurately measure the latent heat energy storage of the PCM. A US DOE commercial reference building model with a PCM-enhanced ceiling was simulated using a finite-difference conduction heat transfer algorithm in EnergyPlus to determine the effects of the PCM on the building energy performance.

It was found that, although the PCM-enhanced ceiling had a beneficial stabilizing effect on the interior surface temperature of the ceiling, the zone mean air temperatures were not significantly altered. As such, minimal HVAC energy savings were seen. Future work should focus on the potential of active PCM constructions, which could successfully remove stored thermal energy from the PCM without increasing the space cooling energy consumption.

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