Home is where … we consume a lot of energy. Residential buildings account for nearly 17 percent of energy consumption in Canada, says Ian Beausoleil-Morrison, a mechanical engineering professor at Carleton University. Lights, appliances, heaters and air conditioners produce 80 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually. Energy is also wasted in the form of heat released into the air.
Dr. Beausoleil-Morrison, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Modelling and Simulation of Innovative Energy Systems for Residential Buildings, is hoping to make homes more energy efficient. In the home of the future, for example, electricity might be made on site with small devices that convert natural gas to electricity and heat.
“Instead of throwing the heat away, it can be used to heat hot water or provide space heating,” he says. In the summer, it could be fed into thermal cooling systems – air conditioner-like devices that use heat instead of electricity to generate a cool breeze.
When Dr. Beausoleil-Morrison was head of building simulation research at the CANMET Energy Technology Centre at Natural Resources Canada, he launched a five-year international study of these residential co-generation systems to see whether they could reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Energy-use patterns and electricity production varied from country to country, so the devices didn’t always have the same impact. Canadians, for example, are electricity hogs: we live in large houses and use a lot of energy to heat them.
Dr. Beausoleil-Morrison also helped form the Solar Building Research Network, involving 11 Canadian universities and a number of organizations. The group aims to produce results that are appropriate for Canadian buildings, from window orientation to innovative facades and roofs to harness solar energy. “Most of the information is not specific to the Canadian climate, it comes from the U.S. or Europe where the climate is different,” he says.
The First International Conference and Workshop on Micro-Cogeneration Technologies and Applications, where Dr. Beausoleil-Morrison will present some of his recent findings, runs from April 29 to May 1 in Ottawa.