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Enabling better global research outcomes in soil, plant & environmental monitoring.

Examining thermal efficiency in housing.

Many people are working on carbon neutral or low carbon living through the intelligent design of new buildings; but how do we improve existing buildings? ICT International have been working in collaboration with Z-NET Uralla to examine the efficiency by which houses of varying design eras, compared to those that are thermally improved, utilise energy inputs to achieve and maintain thermal comfort.

Study Houses: 1915 Federation style, weatherboard cladding / Post WWII, cement sheet / Modern (Post 2000) brick/cement sheet.

Study houses have been equipped with sensors to monitor the following: Energy use: electricity, wood and gas / Internal temperature gradients and thermal comfort of living area / Heat loss through structural elements within high-use living areas. This data is collected via a series of loggers for transmission to the Cloud (ICT International’s Combined Instrument Software) for later analysis.

Preliminary results show how effectively energy inputs are being used by the house to maintain heat within the thermal comfort zone. In a thermally unimproved 1915 Federation style weatherboard clad dwelling, energy inputs are rapidly dispersed through external walls and ceilings; temperature gradients of above 20°C are observed between floor and ceiling zones. With further monitoring it is hoped that the best insulation strategies can be identified; thus enhancing measures employed to enhance the efficiency of energy inputs. The following chart shows the internal temperature changes against gas usage as the residents have been coming and going through the day; as can be seen there are a number of spikes in temperature change, and an associated change in the amount of gas in the cylinder (measured by the load cell under the cylinder). The sensors have been installed since June, so we are waiting for more data as the year progresses – keep an eye out for updates throughout the duration of the project.

About the sensors: ICT International have installed the following sensors:

  • HFP01 Heat Flux Plates
  • Thermistors for temperature
  • Load cells for fire wood and gas cylinders
  • VP3 to measure the internal temperature and relative humidity
  • VP4 to measure the external temperature, humidity and barometric pressure.

These are all connected to a Logger that then sends the data to the Cloud for analysis.

House Sketch

About Z-Net: The purpose of the Zero Net Energy Town (Z-NET) project is to support towns and villages throughout Australia to satisfy their own energy needs from renewable energy sources in a way which is competitive with its current system of energy (in terms of price, quality, reliability, security of supply and so on). This is achieved firstly by reducing energy use and then importing or locally producing enough energy to meet or exceed the community’s demand.

About the test town: Uralla is located 25km south of ICT International’s head office in Armidale NSW. Situated on the Northern Tablelands of NSW, at an elevation of 1012m above sea level, the area endures some of the cooler temperatures in the state. With a mean minimum temperature of below 3.0°C from June to September, temperatures regularly fall below zero. Uralla’s current stationary energy needs comprise electricity (49%), firewood (45%) and LPG gas (6%), with the majority of imported electrical power coming from non-renewable resources.

Air conditioner power draw and room temperature/external temperature.

Top: Air Conditioner power draw. Bottom: Room temperatures and External temperatures.