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CHAPTER 5

NATURAL AIR-CONDITIONING
SYSTEMS

Mehdi N. Bahadori

5.1 Abstract

Recent research in summer air conditioning utilizing natural sources of cool-


ness* are discussed. These systems are classified according to the sources of coolness,
the modes of heat transfer and airflow, and the types of material employed for the
storage of coolness.
The sources of coolness are the ambient water vapor, ambient air, and the
upper atmosphere or the sky. The modes of heat transfer are evaporation, convection,
and thermal radiation. The modes of airflow are natural, by wind and buoyancy
effects, and forced, by fans.

* The word coolness is used in this article to mean internal energy at low tempera-
tures. This is similar to the common use of the word, "the source of heat", which is used to
mean internal energy at higher temperatures. A more thermodynamically acceptable term
would be the use of "heat sinks". However, the use of "sources of coolness" rather than
"heat sinks" is preferred here.

283

K. W. Böer (ed.), Advances in Solar Energy


© Plenum Press, New York 1986
284 CHAPTER 5

The systems considered are classified according to the climate - that is,
systems employed mostly in hot/arid and in hot/humid climates. In each region,
review of the research is made first of the syst.ems which do not use any auxiliary
energy to augment heat transfer or fluid flow, i.e., completely passive systems,
followed by a discussion of the research activities which use fans or pumps to
provide air conditioning, i.e., low-energy systems. The energy-saving potentials of
these systems are also discussed.
It is concluded that through natural air-conditioning systems, thermal com-
fort can be maintained for buildings' occupants with substantial savings in the total
energy consumption, and a significant reduction in the peak electric power require-
ments. The percentages of savings are higher in hot/arid regions than they are III
moderate and hot/humid climates.

5.2 Introduction
A well-designed indoor space has to account for and satisfy several fact.ors
which relate to the well being of its human occupants. In addition to security and
privacy (which are different in different societies), the architect. has to create a serene
living environment.. That is a building which creates a good perception of the space
such as the dimensions, proportions, textures and colors of the surfaces, and which
meets the following needs of the occupants:
1. The auditory requirements, such as the absence of irritable noise from inside
and outside of the building, and provision of a pleasant level of reverberation.
2. The air quality requirements, such as the supply of sufficient amount of fresh
air (filtered outside air) to prevent cumulation of odors and objectionable
gases in the space.
3. The visual requirements, such as maintaining an adequate level of lighting,
visual contact. with the outdoor, and the quality of the outdoor scenes.
4. The thermal requirements, such as maintaining the indoor air and the surfaces
surrounding the occupants at thermal conditions so that the body loses
sufficient amount of heat and is thermally comfortable.
In this article we are concerned only with those building designs and systems
which can maintain thermal comfort for the occupants, with no or little expenditure
of an auxiliary source of energy such as electricity.

5.2.1 The Scope of This Article

The purpose of this paper is to review the recent advances made in science and
engineering of natural air-conditioning systems. The term natural air conditioning,
as compared with passive or natural cooling, is employed for the following reasons:
1. The term cooling often implies transfer of heat from the building to a heat
sink. Although there are many natural systems which do just that, there are
other systems which do not. For example, wind-driven flow of air through