Did you get all the ‘energy stars’ you paid for? CSIRO’s helping to make sure.

We’re all familiar with the energy rating stickers that come on household appliances nowadays – the more stars, the more energy efficient the device. But how can you be sure that your new air conditioner lives up to the promises on its label?

This morning CSIRO officially opened the new National Heating Ventilation & Air Conditioning (HVAC) Performance Test Facility, which is one of just a few facilities in Australia that are able to test and verify the performance of air conditioners and heaters. It’s a balanced ambient calorimeter in the form of a two-roomed, climate-controlled building at our Newcastle site, which uses one room to simulate a given outdoor climate and the other room to control and monitor conditions indoors. With this configuration, the facility can test the performance of heating and cooling devices under conditions from 2 to 45 degrees Celcius.

Dr Alex Wonhas, CSIRO Energy Transformed Flagship Director, opens the HVAC facility.

In addition to testing products and validating performance ratings, the facility will be used by CSIRO’s solar cooling group in the further development of their technology, which has been covered previously in this blog. On the roof are 16 square metres of flat-plate solar collectors for this purpose, and different types will also be added in the future.

Flat-plate solar collectors on the roof of the HVAC facility are part of a solar cooling system that will be tested under different climate conditions.

One feature of the facility that makes it perfect for testing solar heating and cooling is that the ‘outdoor’ conditions can be changed throughout the day to mirror real weather variations. The control system can choose temperature and humidity patterns that are typical of any given location in Australia.

When you consider that air conditioning and heating accounts for 22% of all electricity use in Australia (and 7% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions), you can see why it’s important to ensure that our current systems are performing efficiently – and to develop new technologies that use the emissions-free energy from the sun.

Guests at the opening inspect the facility.

For more information on the National HVAC Performance Test Facility, click here or here.

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