What Types of Climates Does Phase Change Material Work In?
Phase change material is one of the most exciting new tools for facility managers to improve a building’s efficiency. Using natural materials like sand, salt, and clay, phase change products can stabilize a building’s temperature, slowing down temperature change and leaving HVAC and heating systems with less work to do.
While phase change materials can improve building efficiency in any type of climate, they have the most impact in places with big temperature swings or where outdoor temperatures sit well outside the comfort zone for people working in a building.
How Phase Change Material Works
Phase change material is designed to reduce temperature extremes by absorbing and releasing heat at certain temperatures. The material works similarly to a giant ice pack. At low temperatures, the phase change material freezes and hardens, absorbing the cold temperatures around it. When the building begins to heat up, the phase change material melts, absorbing the heat.
Phase change material can help regulate temperature in any building where there are temperature fluctuations. This includes buildings with machinery that generates heat or buildings in regions with extreme outdoor temperatures.
Temperate or Hot Climates
In areas with extremely hot summers, phase change material can drop peak temperatures by as much as 20 degrees, without using any air conditioning. In these climates, phase change material freezes overnight when temperatures are low. When the sun comes out and begins heating the building, the phase change material starts to melt, absorbing the sun’s heat and keeping the building cool.
In temperate areas where the temperature rarely dips below freezing in the winter, buildings can retain heat in attics, crawl spaces or gaps between the ceiling and the roof. These hot spaces can transfer heat into the inhabited part of a building, increasing cooling costs. Phase change material helps regulate the temperature in these spaces, pushing them closer to the desired temperature inside.
Phase Change Material in Cold Climates
Phase change material works best in cold climates when placed in buildings with high internal heat loads. This includes buildings with heat-generating machinery or places like offices and schools where computer equipment and lights run during the day. During the day, the phase change material absorbs heat inside the building by melting. At night , the phase change material starts to freeze again, releasing heat when the thermostat is turned down. This heat serves to warm the building in the morning instead of pumping an HVAC system.
Load Shifting for Every Climate
While phase change material works passively in places with extreme temperature shifts, it can work to shift energy loads in any type of climate. Electricity rates are lower at night, and building owners can pay less by running their HVAC systems overnight. As this system changes the building’s temperature, it will either freeze or melt the phase change material, storing energy for the morning. During the day, when electricity rates go up, the phase change material will work to regulate the temperature, relying less on a building’s HVAC unit.
To hear more about how phase change material will work in your building’s climate, contact us today.