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Building Technologies

Modeling a Natural Gas-Powered HVAC System for Commercial and Residential Buildings

Company Name: Be Power Tech, Inc.
Program Office: Buildings
Location: Deerfield Beach, FL
Email: Daniel A. Betts, CEO/CTO;
Award Amount: $300,000
Project Term: 12 months
Project Status: Active
Participating Lab(s): Oak Ridge National Laboratory


Most heating and cooling systems rely on grid-derived electricity. Applications that allow homes and businesses to control indoor temperature by converting on-site natural gas to electricity can lead to cost reductions and lower strain on the grid. To that end, Be Power Tech (BPT) plans to bring a 10-ton rooftop fuel cell-based HVAC unit to market, which would produce 5 kilowatts of continuous electrical power.

Successfully designing such systems requires running detailed models for predicting fuel cell-based HVAC performance under various weather and loading conditions. This project will allow BPT to work with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to approximate real-world use cases by obtaining operational performance measurements that compare various system configurations, characterize system performance across weather and load conditions, and observe system reaction to transient conditions.

The proposed assistance will help validate the improved efficiency of the system and focus improvements in the application's heat and mass transfer design.


BPT is targeted to provide high, on-site conversion efficiency of natural gas to electricity, satisfy space cooling loads, and provide dehumidification. The HVAC system results from the integration of salt-based heat-driven air conditioning and fuel cell technology. The company’s technology is scalable and future products can provide between one ton and 20 tons of coverage, making it suitable for residential and commercial markets. The fuel cell-based HVAC unit could allow building owners to reduce their heating and cooling costs by 70 to 90 percent and achieve system-level thermal efficiency in the 75 to 85 percent range while lowering primary energy consumption.


On-site electricity generation can produce cost savings for building operators and homeowners. Reducing grid-wide electricity demand also produces savings for utilities, primarily through deferred distribution investments and general decongestion of the grid.

Efficient, on-site natural gas use can reduce demand for fossil energy from the grid, leading to overall reductions in pollutants, including greenhouse gases. Such units can also forgo the use of refrigerants that have high global warming potential.

The technology creates the opportunity to provide sophisticated ancillary grid services, such as back-up power, which can increase overall grid resiliency.

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