The University of Central Florida’s Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) will lead two projects that aim to improve energy efficiency and comfort in homes, and help enhance energy efficiency construction standards for industry.

The awards are part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Office initiative to invest in projects to drive innovation and early-stage research and development that will improve the energy performance of building envelopes and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in American homes. Projects will also address key challenges impacting building industry design and construction practices.

One project will focus on how proper installation practices can improve air conditioner/heat pump performance in homes by as much as 30 percent. The other project will focus on improving building industry standards when it comes to new construction.

The Department of Energy selected FSEC for the two projects because of its research expertise and experience working with industry in the area of energy. The Florida Legislature created FSEC in 1975 to test and certify solar systems and since then has grown its expertise in energy research.

“Our side-by-side, full scale residential test homes at FSEC provide an ideal environment to evaluate HVAC installation faults and make recommendations for optimum performance,” says Eric Martin, program director of Building America at FSEC.

Proctor Engineering Group, Ltd, a leading energy efficiency industry expert with regard to HVAC project implementation and research, is a partner for the $1.2 million project.

The second project will evaluate the international residential model energy code methods and procedures from a technical and economical perspective. The team will then recommend market-based best practices for the future.

“Our goal is to determine better methods to achieve higher performance buildings through cost-effective energy codes,” says Philip Fairey, principal investigator of the project and deputy director at FSEC.

Partnering with the International Code Council (ICC) and the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET), researchers will be looking at a variety of residential code compliance pathways and associated costs. Of particular interest is whole-building energy performance compliance compared to individual, prescriptive compliance methods.

“We are excited to partner with FSEC and RESNET on this innovative project,” says Michelle Britt, Director of the ICC Energy Program. “This research will provide code users and building owners with the information and tools they need to fully implement the International Energy Conservation Code and realize the significant energy savings, carbon reduction, and life safety benefits it has to offer.”

The team will also assess the impact of new home labeling programs and create specifications for electronic tools that meet the needs of jurisdictions wishing to improve energy code permitting and compliance verification process. The $1.1 million project will span three years.