Exergy Analysis in Buildings : A complementary approach to energy analysis

Abstract: Though mandatory to be pursued, improved energy efficiency is not the only target to reach. The quality of energy has to be assessed as well. Most of the overall energy use in residential building is for low temperature heat, i.e. temperatures relatively close to the outdoor conditions. From a thermodynamic point of view, this is a degraded form of energy with low potential to be converted into work. On the other hand energy demand is mostly met with high quality energy, such as electricity and natural gas. There is a mismatch between supply and demand, which is not clearly shown by the sole energy analysis. Target of this thesis is to analyze the energy use in buildings from the point of view of its quality, to provide effective theoretical and calculation tools to investigate this mismatch, to assess its magnitudo and to propose improvements aiming at a more rational use of the energy. The idea behind the quality is clarified with the concept of exergy. The potential for improvement in space heating is shown. In no heating system the overall exergy efficiency is above 20%, with fossil fuels. Using direct electricity heating results in exergy efficiency below 7%. Most of the household appliances processes have low-exergy factors but still are supplied with electricity. This results in poor exergy efficiencies and large exergy losses. Systems are poorly performing because little consideration is explicitly given to energy quality. Policies to lower the energy demand, though vital as first step towards an improved use of energy, should not neglect the exergy content. The problem is then shifted to find suitable supplies. Electricity can be exploited with low exergy losses with high-COP heat pumps. Use of fossil fuels for heating purposes should be avoided. District heating from cogeneration and geothermal proves to be a suitable solution at the building level. The issues connected to its exploitation forces to shift the boundary layers of the analysis from the building level to the community level. A rational use of energy should address the community level. The system boundaries have to be enlarged to a dimension where both the energy conversion and use take place with reduced energy transportation losses. This is a cost-effective way to avoid the waste of the exergy potential of the sources with exergy cascade and to make it possible the integration of with renewable sources. Exergy efficiency of the buildings is a prerequisite for a better of energy in this field.