College Teams Prototype Energy Efficient HVAC Devices

by | Mar 28, 2013

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Energy Efficiency Standards Group is hosting a competition for college teams to come up with innovative ideas for appliance and equipment efficiency.

The Max Tech and Beyond Appliance Design Competition for Ultra-Low-Energy-Use Appliances and Equipment supports faculty-led student design teams at universities and colleges across the United States as they compete to create the most cost-effective ultra-efficient prototypes. The competition is in its second year, and is managed by Berkeley Lab’s Energy Efficiency Standards Group with support from the Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Emerging Technology Program. The chosen teams receive up to $20,000 to implement their proposals over the course of the 2012/2013 academic year.

A panel of Berkeley Lab and DOE sector experts selected eight teams following a solicitation at more than 90 universities. The eight teams are from the University of Maryland, Cal Poly Pomona, Tufts, Ohio State, Santa Clara University, the University of Nevada, Stony Brook University, and the University of California, Berkeley.

The teams, consisting of undergraduate or graduate students, or a combination of both, are prototyping an ultra-efficient hybrid air conditioning and water heating system, a thermosiphon-based refrigerator, and automated space-conditioning window shades, among other devices.

The student teams have completed their design and procurement phase and are working on adapting and applying their technologies and building prototypes. They will be entering into the testing phase soon. The competition culminates in a national webinar on May 23, 2013, in which the student teams will demonstrate their prototypes. The event is open to the public. The achievements of all of the teams will be reported on the Max Tech Design Competition website, with the winners announced in August 2013.

The winner of the 2011-2012 competition, a team from the University of Maryland, devised a way to improve the efficiency of an air conditioning system substantially by separating latent and sensible cooling, using a desiccant wheel to provide the latent cooling. Compared with best-on-market wall-mounted air conditioners, tests of the prototype in a climate chamber showed a reduction in energy use by 30 percent.

The University of Maryland is making a name for itself in energy-efficiency competitions. In 2012, the University hosted a regional competition leading up to the DOE’s National Clean Energy Business Plan contest, which awards a grand prize of $100,000.

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