Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction


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A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Architectural Engineering, Under the Supervision of Professor Haorong Li. Lincoln, Nebraska: July, 2010
Copyright 2010 Michel E. Shafik


In the United States the peak electrical use occurs during the summer. In addition, the building sector consumes a major portion of the annual electrical energy consumption. One of the main energy consuming components in the building sector is the Heating, Ventilation, and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) systems. This research studies the feasibility of implementing a solar driven underground cooling system that could contribute to reducing building cooling loads. The developed system consists of an Earth-to-Air Heat Exchanger (EAHE) coupled with a solar chimney that provides a natural cool draft to the test facility building at the Solar Energy Research Test Facility in Omaha, Nebraska. Two sets of tests have been conducted: a natural passively driven airflow test and a forced fan assisted airflow test. The resulting data of the tests has been analyzed to study the thermal performance of the implemented system. Results show that: The underground soil proved to be a good heat sink at a depth of 9.5ft, where its temperature fluctuates yearly in the range of (46.5°F-58.2°F). Furthermore, the coupled system during the natural airflow modes can provide good thermal comfort conditions that comply with ASHRAE standard 55-2004. It provided 0.63 tons of cooling, which almost covered the building design cooling load (0.8 tons, extreme condition). On the other hand, although the coupled system during the forced airflow mode could not comply with ASHRAE standard 55-2004, it provided 1.27 tons of cooling which is even more than the building load requirements. Moreover, the underground soil experienced thermal saturation during the forced airflow mode due to the oversized fan, which extracted much more airflow than the EAHE ability for heat dissipation and the underground soil for heat absorption. In conclusion, the coupled system proved to be a feasible cooling system, which could be further improved with a few design recommendations.