Solar, Wind and Energy- Efficiency Measurement Experimenter Toolkit
Description: Basic Zero Energy Design® Energy Auditor and Beginner- Physics Intuition Quantification Toolkit
The following are required elements of a Natural Science Toolkit:
(1) An accurate point-and-shoot Infrared Digital Surface-Temperature Thermometer or Thermograph
(2) Indoor / Outdoor Temperature and Humidity Weather Monitor (Enthalpy and Human Comfort)
(5) Device for measuring the Wattage Consumption of various electrical devices (Energy Efficiency)
(6) Solar Tracking Camera (iPhone, etc.) to Plot the Path of the Sun throughout each day and season
(7) Radon (and other radioactive) Health Hazard Detection, Mitigation, and Construction Avoidance
(8) General purpose programmable computer (PC, laptop, tablet) for data logging, analysis, charting and graphical visualization
Also various experimentation materials, such as high-and-low-emissivity glass, films, Mylar, reflectors, insulation, paints, etc.
Zero Energy Design® often uses the above and many other essential tools to enhance our understanding of design patterns and energy-efficiency building retrofits. We do NOT sell any of the above, so our opinions are not biased by marketing goals.
No one can conduct an energy audit or design zero-energy solutions without a good intuitive-and-quantitative understanding of the underlying Physics of Heat Transfer by: Conduction, Convection, and Radiation. Very-few Architects, builders, building-code developers, inspectors, and building owner / operators understand the fundamentals of high-school Physics and beyond.
They cannot do their job without at-least the above toolkit training, which can easily be taught to inquisitive 15-year-olds. University-level Math-and-Physics skills are NOT required, just to get started. Zero Energy Design® and Emerald Eco-City TM will teach the basics of Healthy, Safe, Clean-Living in Harmony with the Universal Laws of Natural Science to our children.
(1) Infrared Thermometer: Basically it is an inexpensive infrared detector with a calibrated digital temperature readout - usually has a laser pointer. The farther you are from the surface, the larger the area averaged for the temperature reading.
A more expensive version is an Infrared Thermographic Imager, which gives you a real-time picture or movie of multiple surface temperatures in a single image all at once.
Point it at many different surfaces and record the digital temperature readings of interior: walls, tap water, hot water, refrigerator, freezer, ice, dry ice, stoves, cooked food, various types of heaters, air coming out of ductwork near-and-far-from a central air conditioner / heater, air going into the A/C, walls next to electric-and-plumbing outlets, lighting devices (some generate a lot of infrared heat), electronic devices, computers (laptop versus desktop), video displays, AC / DC power supplies, transformers, attic access doors, interior of roof, attic, basement, crawl space, etc.
On a hot summer day, measure the temperature of exterior walls, ceilings, recessed light fixtures (while off), floors (carpet-and-hard), surfaces-and-edges around windows-and-doors, and exterior-wall electrical-and-plumbing outlets. Repeat these quantitative temperature measurements on a cold winter day. Compare the differences. Analyze your observations.
On a hot summer day, go outside and measure the roof of cars-and-houses of different light-and-dark colors. Compare the temperature of smooth-versus-rough surfaces of the same-and-different colors. Measure the surface temperature of dark asphalt, lighter concrete, grass and tree leaves. How do these surface characteristics change Solar Radiation Absorption? Under the same sunny conditions, different surfaces are different temperatures. Why is this true?
Things To Observe (chart and graph): How do interior walls “feel” to your hand, versus exterior walls, windows and doors on hot-or-cold days? Walk barefoot on carpet versus nearby hard tile / vinyl / wood floors. They are the same interior temperature, but how do they feel to your 98.2-degree-F skin? (Conduction)
Lessons To Be Learned: Temperature is a measurement of energy content or energy requirement. Changing temperature is one of the most expensive things that most humans do with (potentially expensive) energy. If a surface is cold in the winter, it takes energy to warm the air around it. The warmer we make window glass, the more heat is lost uselessly outdoors. (Delta T)
If the temperature of the air coming out of heater / air-conditioner ducts is different close to the unit and far way, the long ducts are poorly insulated (and probably leaky). You are paying for (expensive) heating / cooling, but not receive the benefit. The measurement toolkit helps you understand where to focus your energy-efficiency-improvement effort (and its economics).
(2) Indoor / Outdoor Temperature and Humidity Weather Monitor: Record, chart and graph data values over a summer and a winter in the same location. Also note the time of day and the general sunny / cloudy condition at the time the readings are recorded.
Things To Observe: On two days when the temperature is the same but the humidity is very different, how does it “feel”? Most heater / air conditioners work entirely on temperature measurements and unintelligently ignore humidity / “enthalpy” human comfort level.
Different people prefer different temperature and humidity, based on metabolism, body fat, activity level, and if they just came in from the outside on a cold or hot day. A temperature + humidity display helps people understand WHY they may feel comfortable or not.
Lessons To Be Learned: Human Comfort is a function of Temperature AND Humidity. Discuss “Enthalpy.” Dry air feels cold. Humid air feels “muggy.” The growth of unhealthy microbes in the air increases significantly when the temperature is in the human comfort zone AND relative humidity is above 50%. Very-low relative humidity dries out our respirator membranes, makes them crack and makes us more susceptible to “catching a cold.”
(3) Precise Solar Radiation Monitor: Measures the potential solar radiation under particular local conditions. A very-simple imprecise version can be built for around $10 with nothing more than a solar cell and a voltmeter / galvanometer. The concept is very similar to a photographic light meter, except the scales are calibrated differently. More expensive models with a digital processor display are precisely calibrated (kilowatts per square meter, BTU' per square foot, etc.). This is essential for solar energy calculations.
Point it directly at the sun. Record the day-of-year, time-of-day, and sunny / cloudy / overcast solar radiation conditions. Record data values over multiple days, seasons, and times. Chart-and-graph sunrise-to-sunset values hourly (once a week or month). Be sure to include December 21, March 21, June 21, and September 21 (summer / winter solstice & equinox).
Note sunrise / sunset location on the horizon (seasonal azimuth – 0 degrees is north, 90 degrees is east, 180 degrees is south, and 270 degrees is west). In the northern hemisphere winter, the sun rises in the southeast and sets in the southwest. It is very different in the summer when it rises in the northeast and sets in the northwest (depending on latitude). The peak altitude of the sun at noon is 47-degrees higher in the summer than in the winter (due to the 23.5-degree tilt of the Earth).
Note the time-of-day in your location when the sun is the highest (i.e., casts the shortest shadow). This varies by where you are (east / west) in your time zone. Note the peak altitude (above the southern horizon) at solar noon (when the sun is the highest).
On a sunny day, compare the solar radiation when you point your monitor directly at the sun. Rotate the monitor away from the sun in 10-degree increments and record the difference. Repeat on a cloudy and on an overcast day. Being perpendicular to the sun is less important when the light is diffuse, but the solar gain is also lower. By how much?
On a clear-blue day, most of the sunlight is "direct" - it casts a sharp shadow. On a light overcast day, almost all of the sunlight is "diffuse" - no sharp shadow. Solar concentrators (like parabolic mirror dishes and parabolic troughs) only work well in direct sunlight, since you cannot "focus" diffuse light.
At noon on a clear winter day, direct solar radiation through an equator-facing (south) side of a house can produce significant solar heat gain. On the opposite (north) side of the house, only lower-intensity diffuse light comes in. Artists like diffuse light, but for photography, diffuse light eliminates some of the shadows that help us see fine surface texture detail. Photographic lighting experts understand how to balance direct and diffuse light for the best possible image detail. Do you?
On a clear day, direct sunlight is intense, for example 1,000 watts per square meter in some locations. You cars or a flat-panel solar air-or-water heater panel may get 135-to-155+ degrees F. On an overcast day, the diffuse sunlight is less intense, perhaps only 300 watts per square meter under some conditions. A flat-panel solar collector may only get slightly above 100-degrees F, depending on outside air temperature, etc. A solar concentrator is much LESS effective on an overcast day, than a sunny one.
When it is raining and the skies are dark, the solar intensity may be only 10 watts per square meter, and no solar collector has much value at all. How many days of direct sunlight does your location have per year? Overcast? Rainy? Good intuition about your location-specific solar-radiation characteristic is a critical first step toward zero-energy solution design.
Put your monitor in a 5-sided box, with one side open to the sun. Measure the solar radiation. Put a piece of inexpensive high-emissivity low-iron common window glass over the box and measure the difference (usually about a 15% reduction). This percentage is called the DOE Solar Heat Gain Coefficient (SHGC), which is now published for consumers on window products. Try two pieces of glass, clear plastic Mylar, Acrylic, various window films, bug screen, and movable partial-sun-shade-screens. Each one alters SHGC. Some may reduce solar gain by as much as 85%, while still letting you see through the window. The "best" SHGC depends on your climatic conditions, and window orientation (HIGH SHGC on the equator-facing side of a solarium, LOW SHGC on west-facing windows, etc.). Computer calculations give precise economic recommendations. It is grossly overly simplistic to suggest that one SHGC is optimal for all sides of a building (or car).
Also measure temperature rise in your box. Try wrapping the back of your box in various insulations (foam board, reflective, etc.). Challenge students to compete to build the hottest solar radiation collection box. Use your toolkit to quantify their results.
What happens when you add one-or-more nearby mirror(s) (on a sunny versus cloudy day). You cannot “focus” diffuse light. (Be careful about starting a fire on a sunny day.)
Huge solar-radiation concentrators can produce temperatures up to 5,000 degrees F (enough to melt structural steel).
Measure the solar energy coming through your house-and-car windows. What is the difference? Tinted car windows often have a low SHGC. How hot does your car get on a sunny summer day (inside and outside) with tinted windows? The surface temperature of a car depends significantly on its color, but the interior temperature depends much more on the orientation of its windows. (Obviously a shaded car is MUCH cooler.)
A vacuum does not reduce radiation. Solar energy travels well through 93 million miles of vacuum on its way from the Sun to the Earth. Convection makes warm air-and-water rise, but, downward radiation is usually the most important Zero Energy Design® issue, especially during hot summers. A poorly-designed roof / attic gets much hotter than the summer peak outside air temperature. A Zero Energy Design® attic never gets as hot as the summer peak outside air temperature. How and Why? Can you figure out the answer with only your intuition, or do you need more ZED education? Was the Architect who designed your 150-degree F attic clueless about Zero Energy Design® ? (Probably)
In a dark room, point a directional spotlight (bright flashlight, torch, etc.) at your radiation light meter. Record the result. Place a piece of ordinary window glass in between, perpendicular to the light beam (should read roughly 15% lower SHGC). Now slowly rotate the glass off of perpendicular. Record the meter change in 10-degree increments. Note that as the glass approaches perpendicular to the light beam, the meter reading is quite low, AND most of the light is being reflected off of the glass instead of going through it (you can only see this in a darkened room).
The optimum transmission angle is perpendicular. The worst transmission angle is nearly parallel with the reflective glass. This is why roof-angled glass is an almost useless solar energy collector when the winter sun is low on the horizon. When the summer sun is nearly overhead, roof-angled glass is a powerful solar furnace. NEVER USE ROOF-ANGLED GLASS.
(4) (Portable) Wind Speed Anemometer: This device is used by competitive sailors for aerodynamic calculations that determine the tactics of boat vectors and sail configuration - Also used for preliminary evaluation of alternative possible locations for wind turbines (plus nearby-airport historical climatic data).
Measure the wind speed in an open field, at the top of a mountain pass, next to a coastline (various times of day), near urban buildings, between two buildings (Venturi effect), and from the observation deck on top of a tall building. High altitude jet streams can be well-over 120 mph.
Most electricity-generating wind turbines need at-least 9 mph prevailing wind speed.
Measure the air velocity coming out of A/C ducts near-and-away-from the central unit. Lower-velocity ducts may be undersized or leaky, uselessly wasting expensive energy. Energy auditors also use calibrated “duct blasters” and “blower doors” to help find leaks. Create a vacuum on the house and use aerosol power to find leaks.
Weatherizing and sealing expensive air leaks, vents, etc. can be one the most cost-effective things you can do to reduce heating-and-cooling energy bills by 30% to 50%. The toolkit can quantify the high value of $2 of weather striping around a door.
The faster that a ceiling fan, etc. moves air over a cold window in the winter, or a hot ceiling in the summer, the more undesirable (expensive) heat transfer (convection) takes place in the room. A ceiling fan usually INCREASES your energy bill, all things considered. (Also consider human comfort enthalpy and evaporative cooling effect.)
Wattage Consumption Meter: Measures the Wattage Consumption of various electric devices: Plug into a wall outlet. Plug an electrical item to be measured into the device. Record the wattage during different phases of the item’s operation. Let it sit for a while. Measure the precise temperature of the item. Inefficient electrical items generate a lot of useless heat, (which unnecessarily increases electrical bills and air conditioning requirement in the summer).
Simple meters only give an instantaneous readout. More-expensive ones have memory that gathers data over a long period of time. For devices that have a thermostat (like refrigerators, plug-in heaters and air conditions), a good meter can help you quantify the cost of setting the thermostat higher or lower. They can measure how important it is to clean cooling coils, etc.
Keep your appliances clean, and replace older inefficient energy-wasting appliances with newer Energy Star PLUS ones.
“Vampires” (like power supplies and remote-control sensors) suck up power 24-hours a day. One clue is those little pilot lights and digital clocks glowing all over your house at night. Your electric-bill meter is turning when nothing else is turned on.
One vampire may seem trivial, but taken as a whole over 24 / 365 they can add up to well-over 10% of your annual electricity bill (hundreds of dollars).
A house can be wired with an inexpensive “green switch” to shut off your many vampires at night and when you are not at home (at work, weekends, and especially vacations).
Antiquated low-voltage AC-to-DC power supply transformers and battery rechargers are VERY wasteful 24 / 365 vampires. They should be eliminated altogether and replaced with low-cost modern solid-state “switcher” chips in every low-voltage and DC thing that you own. Doorbell and A/C thermostat transformers should be replaced with switchers. Business-as-usual traditional electricians and electrical gadget designers are often clueless non-learning entities, when it comes to energy efficiency.
If you want to save hundreds of dollars per year in electricity bills and simplify the complexity of your electronic systems AC / DC power supplies, then consider our newest energy-saving product invention - Click on the following: Zero Energy Design® Electrical Transformer Eliminator, Vampire Power Killer, and Uninterruptable Power Supply
Six thousand years ago, the builders of the Stonehenge Solar Monument had a precise understanding of the seasonal path of the sun (which varies significantly from summer to winter solstice). Since then, all of the children of cultures that used sun dials to tell time also had an excellent intuitive understanding of the daily and seasonal sun path. Most modern Architects do NOT. They do not receive formal education in the Universal Laws of Natural Science, or even Powers of Observation. Most Architects cannot stand in the yard that they grew up in and point to where the sun will rise and set summer and winter - This Is Very Sad. Uninformed, unobservant, non-learning inDUHviduals cannot possibly design passive-solar-energy homes.
Modern portable programmable computers are wonderful general-purpose tools for learning about energy efficiency and free-fuel energy potential. The Apple iPhone is a spectacular popular example. It supports well-over 100,000 flexible instantly-downloadable low-cost computer application programs (Apps).
Sun Seeker App uses the iPhone GPS and magnetometer to find the seasonal sun path for your current location. It provides a flat compass view showing current solar position, solar azimuth, altitude and shadow length ratio. Allows you to take a photo of the site and overlay it with the sun's current position and its path with hour points marked. The camera view also has an optional pointer to guide you towards the current location of the sun. You may choose any future date and view the solar path. Additional details including sunrise, sunset, culmination times and maximum elevation. You may include summer and winter solstice paths on the compass or camera view.
The Sun Seeker augmented-reality photo feature can help you understand seasonal sun shading at a possible solar collector location. You can clearly see the impact of objects like nearby trees, tall buildings, mountains, etc.
One of our favorite iPhone Apps is the more-expensive SolmetricIPV, which calculates the solar energy and the hours of direct sunlight at your location. It integrates solar energy calculation and shade analysis. You can do a full site analysis in 30 seconds, including calculations and e-mailing a comprehensive site evaluation that shows the suitability of the site, with an estimate of the electricity-bill cost savings per month at your site.
The largest contributor to reduced energy generation in a photovoltaic installation is shade. If you do not include shade analysis in your calculations, you will get a distorted view of the energy you can generate at your location. With SolmetricIPV you simply use your iPhone to trace the outline of your local skyline. SolmetricIPV captures your skyline, producing a trace of obstruction elevation angle for each degree of heading and displaying this along with the sun's trajectory. You enter the tilt and position of your planned solar collector, and the program calculates the position and elevation of the sun over a full year.
Using this data, SolmetricIPV determines when the location will be in direct sun and when the sun is shaded by any local obstructions. With a built-in database of weather station data, it uses typical historical data to give a good prediction of the daily solar potential of your site, with average daily kWh of electricity generation per square meter per for each month.
SolmetricIPV includes a large database of representative photovoltaic panels and power Inverters. You simply input your configuration and the App calculates your location's output per-month. The speed and ease of use of SolmetricIPV means that you can quickly evaluate several alternative sites and select the optimum location, tilt and azimuth for your solar array. This could result in significant solar gain net yield improvement when used by a solar-equipment professional.
Photographers and Gardeners: Put the display in time mode, allowing you to observe when the sun will be clear of an object in the skyline. It has an animated feature that allows you to view the sun's trajectory over a full year. It will also show you how many hours of sun are lost due to shading each month.
Solar Installations: Determine the daily kWh per square meter potential of your site, view shade factor by month.
Evaluate a location in 30-seconds and select the best site for solar equipment installation.
Movie / Photo Shoot Location Planning: Determine when a location will be in sun and when it will be in shade, at any time of day, on any day of the year.
Gardening and Horticulture Planning: Evaluate the shading in a garden, golf course or plot. Match plants to the daylight conditions, or manage shading cover.
Real Estate Evaluation: Show a property's sun and shade time in different seasons for different home buyer reasons.
Site Evaluation: Find the optimum position for a pool or play area. Find a camping spot with the most or minimum sun.
Event Planning: Plan your event at the right time of year and time of day to be in or out of the sun.
SolmetricIPV Dual-Axis Solar Tracking System Estimates (No Shade) Location: Latitude 34.277786 N, Longitude 118.605721 Weather Data Reference Station: Los Angeles, CA Photovoltaic Modules: 10 Sharp, Model: NDV230A1 AC Inverter: 1 PowerOne, Model: PVI4.2OUTDUS Installation Peak Power Rating (STC): 2.3 kW Local Electricity Cost: $0.21 / kWh (including taxes & surcharges)
Solar Electricity Generation Estimates:
Solar kWh, DC kWh, AC kWh, $ Value
Jan |2,790.0 - 331.3 - 291.6 - $61.24
Feb | 3,074.7 - 367.4 - 326.6 - $68.59
Mar | 3,545.4 - 421.3 - 374.6 - $78.66
Apr - 3,955.3 - 466.0 - 416.7 - $87.51
May - 4,380.0 - 513.7 - 458.3 - $96.23
Jun - 4,239.6 - 493.8 - 440.0 - $92.39
July - 4,672.7 - 540.5 - 483.5 - $101.54
Aug - 4,506.1 - 517.2 - 463.2 - $97.27
Sep - 3,588.8 - 411.9 - 366.4 - $76.95
Oct - 3,374.1 - 391.9 - 348.3 - $73.15
Nov - 2,955.4 - 346.3 - 306.2 - $64.30
Dec - 2,935.4 - 331.6 - 292.4 - $61.40
Total: 44,017 - 5,133 - 4,568 - $959 per year
When you generate more solar electricity than you use, you can sell it to the local power grid (for use later).
Totally off-the-grid systems need to add the cost of an energy storage system for when the sun is not shining.
Cloudy locations where solar radiation is much lower, and electricity rate is below average, will have a lower ROI.
Compare one-time capital investment minus rebates amortized over the expected life of the system, to the rising cost of electricity from your local utility company. (25-year system warrantee)
How many Architects have you worked with who can generate the above report in only 30 seconds? How many of them have an experienced-based "intuitive" feel for what works, and what does not?
U.S. Green Building Council is trying to reinvent Zero Energy Design , but they lack the necessary intuition. Johnny-come-lately LEED Architects who try to design a solar home often produce ugly buildings where the solar panels look like a bad-after-thought added to an indiscriminate conventional home, instead of a holistic system-engineered Zero Energy Design® building with integrated solarium thermal buffer zone, etc.
Our goal is to significantly improve the intuition of a new generation of young designers who understand WHY and HOW to cost-effectively use clean, safe, free-fuel, Abundant Energy in Harmony with Nature®
When it comes to the Architects who created the worst part of today's energy-and-climate-change crises, innovation usually takes an entire generation: one death or retirement at a time. The U.S. Department Of Energy and Zero Energy Design® have been demonstrating HOW for over 30 years now, but we live in a non-learning nation. Our toolkit is meant to provide a qualitative basis for superior future design decisions.
When business-as-usual intuition has been proven to be unsustainable, scientific quantitative analysis can help re-educate.
Live a meaningful life worthy of praise from your grandchildren.
We sincerely wish all of our readers an Abundant New Life In Harmony With Nature
Lifelong Learning In An Ever-Expanding Universe Of Endless Possibilities TM
We invite constructive suggestions and collaboration with our new friends
E-Mail To: ZEDmaster@ZeroEnergyDesign.com