This study evaluated the building cooling capacity of sky radiation, which was previously identified to have the greatest cooling potential among common ambient sources for climates across the US. [Robinson, et al. 2013b]. A heat pipe augmented sky radiator system was simulated by a thermal network with nine nodes, representing a thin polyethylene cover, white (ZnO) painted radiator plate [Duffie & Beckman 2013], condenser and evaporator ends of the heat pipe, thermal storage fluid (water), tank wall, room, sky and ambient air. Heat transfer between nodes included solar flux and sky radiation to cover and plate, wind convection and radiation from cover to ambient, radiation from plate to ambient, natural convection and radiation from plate to cover, conduction from plate to condenser or, two-phase heat transfer from evaporator to condenser, natural convection from evaporator to water and from water to tank wall, natural convection and radiation from tank wall to room, and overall heat loss from room to ambient. Nodal temperatures were simultaneously solved as functions of time using Typical Meteorological Year (TMY3) weather data. Auxiliary cooling was applied as needed to limit room temperature to a maximum of 23.9°C. For this initial investigation, a moderate climate (Louisville, KY) was used to evaluate the effects of radiator orientation, thermal storage capacity and cooling load to radiator area ratio, LRR. Louisville and two challenging climates (Miami, FL and New Orleans, LA) were then used to evaluate five cover configurations — zero, one and two covers with unconstrained temperature, and zero and one cover with temperature limited to the dew point of ambient air to simulate condensation on the cover. Results were compared to a Louisville baseline with LRR = 10 W/m2K, horizontal radiator and one cover with constrained temperature, which provided an annual sky fraction (fraction of cooling load provided by sky radiation) of 0.861. A decrease to 0.857 was found for an increase in radiator slope to 20°, and a drop to 0.833 for 53° slope (latitude + 15°, a typical slope for solar heating). These drops were associated with increases in average radiator temperature by 0.2°C for 20° and 1.5°C for 53°. A 25% decrease in storage capacity caused a decrease in sky fraction to 0.854. Sky fractions were 0.727 and 0.963 for LRR of 20 and 5, respectively. Sky fractions for the baseline system in Miami and New Orleans were 0.505 and 0.603, respectively. In all three climates, performance was little affected by constraining the cover temperature and by adding a second cover. These results confirm the potential for passive cooling of buildings by radiation to the sky. Climate, LRR and thermal storage capacity had strong effects on performance, while the cover configuration did not. Radiator slope had a surprisingly small impact, considering that the view factor to the sky at 53° tilt is less than 0.5.

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