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Title: Enhancing the energy storage capability of electric domestic hot water tanks
Author: Armstrong, Peter Michael
ISNI:       0000 0004 6498 2808
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2015
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Electric hot water tanks play a pivotal role as demand response assets within the UK's energy system by storing heat when energy is inexpensive and delivering domestic hot water when it is required. This role will become increasingly important if non-dispatchable renewable energy sources are to play a bigger part in the energy mix. Historically, the design standards relating to hot water tanks have focused primarily on minimising heat losses. However, in addition to preserving energy, a hot water tank should preserve the availability of heat above a useful temperature for as long as possible to avoid energy usage during peak times when it is costly or carbon intensive. To do this, thermal stratification within hot water tanks must be promoted. Unfortunately, thermal stratification leads to conditions that are conducive to bacterial growth due to the hospitable temperatures that arise during operation. For this reason, question marks have arisen over the extent to which more flexible control strategies, designed to allow for increasing penetrations of intermittent renewable energy sources, might lead to the growth of pathogenic bacteria within hot water tanks. The objective of the work discussed in this thesis was to understand the extent to which there is a conflict between thermal stratification and bacterial growth in practice, whether this conflict can be resolved and the potential implications for electric hot water tanks operating on a time of use tariff. A small field study demonstrated that there is prolific bacterial growth within conventional electric cylinders and that this can be attributed to thermal stratification with a confidence of (P<0.01). Fitting a de-stratification pump, to enhance sanitary performance, resulted in a 19% decrease in the recovery of useable hot water above 43°C. Given that the tanks tested during the field study were made of copper, the consequences of alternative material choices on thermal performance were explored. It was found that the rate of useable hot water loss, due to de-stratification associated with thermal diffusion across the thermocline, could be reduced by a factor of 2.7 by making the tank liner wall from stainless steel instead of copper. Further numerical work indicated that this improvement in stratifying performance was most significant for small tanks with high aspect ratios. In addition to de-stratification that arises due to vertical conduction, de-stratification due to inlet mixing was reduced by up to 30% by installing a spiral diffuser into the base of a test cylinder. In addition, by lowering the immersion heating element to ensure there is sufficient heat transfer to the base of the cylinder, sterilising temperatures could be attained throughout the stored volume of water in the tank during heating. This showed that the conflict between thermal and sanitary performance within electric tanks could potentially be resolved. A bespoke tank, made from stainless steel and fitted with a diffuser, was built and subjected to typical draw cycles that reflect real world operation. These tests showed that more useable hot water could be delivered in comparison to a commercial off the shelf copper tank and consequently the utilisation of the Economy 7 time of use tariff would be enhanced.
Supervisor: McCulloch, Malcolm Sponsor: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Heat storage ; demand response ; electrical power systems ; hot water tank ; stratification