The International District Energy Association claims that district energy: improve energy efficiency, enhanced environmental protection, fuel flexibility, ease of operation and maintenance, reliability, comfort and convenience for customers, decreased life-cycle costs, decreased building capital costs, and improved architectural design flexibility. In the U.S.A. most of the installed district energy systems are found in buildings such as colleges and universities, healthcare installations, government installations, airports and community utilities, as well as industry. All these applications have proved the advantages of district energy. However, for typical neighborhoods in small cities in the U.S.A., the dispersion of the dwelling imposes additional challenges to the economic feasibility of district energy for residential applications. This paper presents results from the analysis of comparing single homes with standard HVAC systems (air conditioning and furnace) with the same homes connected to a hypothetical residential district energy system. In order to obtain the energy consumption of the standard HVAC and of cooling and heating loads for the simulation of the district energy, the software Building Energy Optimization (BEopt) was used to simulate a hypothetical home. The analysis is based on a variable number of residences coupled to the district energy system in order to determine the operating costs and capital costs as a function of the number of homes. Results show that the capital cost associated to the central utility plant decrease with the number of homes and the payback period is somewhat favorable. However, the cost of the 4 pipes hydronic system imposes a large cost to the district energy system that compromises its economic feasibility. In order to investigate the impact of the piping system on the overall capital cost of the district energy system, a hypothetical layout is considered and used as a reference to estimate the needed piping cost per home to meet a payback period.


This paper is based on a presentation from the ASHRAE Annual Conference in Seattle, WA, on June 28-July 2, 2014.


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Nelson Fumo, Vicente Bortone, and Juan Zambrano. (2014). “Investigating the Potential of Residential District Energy. ASHRAE 2014 Annual Conference, June 28 - July 02, 2014, Seattle, WA, USA.