The Impact of Solar Radiation on the Heating and Cooling of Buildings

Open Access
Witmer, Lucas Turner
Graduate Program:
Energy and Mineral Engineering
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
June 25, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Jeffrey Brownson, Committee Chair
  • Seth Adam Blumsack, Committee Member
  • Mort D Webster, Committee Member
  • Stephen James Treado, Committee Member
  • Solar
  • Building
  • Energy
  • Modeling
  • Solar Energy
  • Radiation
  • Irradiance
  • Irradiation
  • Energy Modeling
  • Thermal Comfort
This work focuses on the impact of solar energy on the heating and cooling of buildings. The sun can be the primary driver for building cooling loads as well as a significant source of heat in the winter. Methods are presented for the calculation of solar energy incident on tilted surfaces and the irradiance data source options. A key deficiency in current building energy modeling softwares is reviewed with a demonstration of the impact of calculating for shade on opaque surfaces. Several tools include methods for calculating shade incident on windows, while none do so automatically for opaque surfaces. The resulting calculations for fully irradiated wall surfaces underestimate building energy consumption in the winter and overestimate in the summer by significant margins. A method has been developed for processing and filtering solar irradiance data based on local shading. This method is used to compare situations where a model predictive control system can make poor decisions for building comfort control. An MPC system informed by poor quality solar data will negatively impact comfort in perimeter building zones during the cooling season. The direct component of irradiance is necessary for the calculation of irradiance on a tilted surface. Using graphical analysis and conditional probability distributions, this work demonstrates a proof of concept for estimating direct normal irradiance from a multi-pyranometer array by leveraging inter-surface relationships without directly inverting a sky model.