An Examination of Metal Hydrides and Phase-Change Materials for Year-Round Variable-Temperature Energy Storage in Building Heating and Cooling Systems
Thermal energy storage (TES) is used to reduce the operating costs of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems by shifting loads away from on-peak periods, to reduce the maximum heating or cooling capacity needed from the HVAC system, and to store excess energy generated by on-site solar power. The most commonly-used form of TES is ice storage with air conditioning (A/C) systems in commercial buildings. There has been extensive research into many other forms of TES for use with HVAC systems, both in commercial and residential buildings. However, this research is often limited to use with either heating or cooling systems.
Year-round, high-density storage for both heating and cooling would yield significantly larger cost savings than existing TES systems, particularly for residential buildings, where heating loads are often larger than cooling loads. This dissertation examines the feasibility of using metal hydrides for year-round storage, as well as analyzing the potential of variable-temperature energy storage for optimizing system performance beyond allowing for year-round use.
Metal hydrides are metals that exothermically absorb and endothermically desorb hydrogen. Since the temperature this reaction occurs at depends on the hydrogen pressure, hydrides can be used for energy storage at varying temperatures. System architecture for using metal hydrides with an HVAC system is developed. A thermodynamic model which combines a dynamic model of the hydride reactors with a static model of the HVAC system is used to calculate operating costs, compared to a conventional HVAC system, for different utility rates and locations. The payback period of the system is unacceptably high, due to the high initial cost of metal hydrides and the operating costs of compressing hydrogen to move it between hydride reactors.
In addition to the metal hydride system model, a generalized model of a variable-temperature TES system is used to determine the potential cost savings from dynamically altering the storage temperature to achieve optimal cost savings. Dynamic tuning does result in cost savings but is most effective for storage tank sizes significantly smaller than the optimal tank size. An alternate system design where the storage tank is charged with the outlet flow from the house achieves larger cost savings even for the optimally-sized tanks. Payback periods calculated for optimal sizing show that year-round storage has a lower payback period than separate cold and heat storage if the year-round storage system is not more expensive than two separate storage tanks.