First Advisor

David Sailor

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Mechanical Engineering


Mechanical and Materials Engineering




BioPCM, High Performance Home, Phase Change Materials, Passive House, Solar thermal energy, Buildings -- Thermal properties, Heat storage devices, Architecture, Domestic -- Environmental aspects



Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 68 pages)


This study describes a simulation-based approach for informing the incorporation of Phase Change Materials (PCMs) in buildings designed to the "Passive House" standard. PCMs provide a minimally invasive method of adding thermal mass to a building, thus mitigating overheating events. Phase change transition temperature, quantity, and location of PCM were all considered while incrementally adding PCM to Passive House simulation models in multiple climate zones across the United States. Whole building energy simulations were performed using EnergyPlus from the US Department of Energy. A prototypical Passive House with a 1500 Watt electric heater and no mechanical cooling was modeled. The effectiveness of the PCM was determined by comparing the zone-hours and zone-degree-hours outside the ASHRAE defined comfort zone for all PCM cases against a control simulation without PCM. Results show that adding PCM to Passive Houses can significantly increase thermal comfort so long as the house is in a dry or marine climate. The addition of PCM in moist climates will not significantly increase occupant comfort because the majority of discomfort in these climates arises due to latent load. For dry or marine climates, PCM has the most significant impact in climates with lower cooling degree-days, reducing by 93% the number of zone-hours outside of thermal comfort and by 98% the number of zone-degree-hours uncomfortable in Portland, Oregon. However, the application of PCM is not as well suited for very hot climates because the PCM becomes overcharged. Only single digit reductions in discomfort were realized when modeling PCM in a Passive House in Phoenix, Arizona. It was found that regardless of the climate PCM should be placed in the top floor, focusing on zones with large southern glazing areas. Also, selecting PCM with a melt temperature of 25°C resulted in the most significant increases in thermal comfort for the majority of climates studied.


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