You are on page 1of 6

This article was published in ASHRAE Journal, October 2010.

Copyright 2010 American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning

Engineers, Inc. Posted at This article may not be copied and/or distributed electronically or in paper form without permission

of ASHRAE. For more information about ASHRAE
Journal, visit

What are the Benefits and Pitfalls

Personal Ventilation
By John Dieckmann, Member ASHRAE; Alissa Cooperman; and James Brodrick, Ph.D., Member ASHRAE

P ersonal ventilation (PV) systems are one of a number of microenvi-

ronment approaches to comfort heating/cooling and ventilation that
deliver heating or cooling and/or ventilation air directly to an individual
One tested system1 consists of two desk-
top-mounted diffusers with 360° of rotation
around the vertical and ± 30° adjustment
off the horizontal. Each diffuser is installed
on either back corner of the desk, similarly
or individuals, rather than conditioning an entire space. Air or chilled to the configuration depicted in Figure 1
(Page 72). Additionally, the system includes
water-based personal cooling vests worn under protective clothing by an occupancy sensor and incorporates its
own fan, power source, and ductwork. The
military personnel, firefighters, workers in other hazardous environments, system is able to deliver 9.5 L/s to 71 L/s
(20 cfm to 150 cfm) of personal airflow.
and race car drivers are another example of a PV approach. Another tested system1 has two vari-
In the latter set of examples, the com- To apply PV in an office environment able speed fans mounted under the desk,
bination of a high temperature environ- with a large number of workstations, con- which supply personal airflow. The fans
ment and the high insulation value of the ditioned PV air would be provided at each can rotate ±30° off the horizontal.
protective clothing create significant heat workstation, while the outdoor airflow Other configurations of PV fixtures in-
stress. However, it is costly, impractical, introduced to the overall space on a mixed clude desk, computer, or ceiling-mounted
or impossible to provide general space basis would be reduced. air delivery terminal units. Desk units can
cooling in these environments. When saving energy is an objective, be either desk-mounted diffusers or desk
For example, the cockpit of a racecar heating and cooling temperature setpoints grills that provide the occupant with a
is extremely hot, and a chilled water are raised and lowered, respectively, in personal airflow.2
cooling vest supplied by an ice/chilled favor of relying on the conditioned PV air Yang, et al.,3 tested ceiling-mounted
water reservoir and a small circulating to provide for occupant thermal comfort. units with a downward directed air nozzle
pump provides effective cooling to the The ability of individual occupants to supplied by a ceiling plenum. These
driver, with far less weight, drag, and control their own ventilation air delivery ceiling-mounted units allow flexible
fuel consumption penalties than are and temperature is often cited as a reason furniture arrangement.
imposed by a vehicle air-conditioning why individuals using these systems are As mentioned previously, the goal of
system. more satisfied with the work environment many PV systems has been to supply
The idea behind PV systems for build- and thermal comfort. relatively undiluted fresh outdoor air
ing spaces is the proposition that clean to the occupants, improving breathing
ventilation air and, in some cases, comfort Outdoor Ventilation Air Delivery zone air quality and thermal comfort.
heating and cooling, can be delivered Personal ventilation systems consist of Particularly if the PV system supplies
directly to individual occupants more desk- or ceiling-mounted modules that the relatively low airflow rates required
effectively and with less total outdoor provide fresh (outside) air to the breath- by ASHRAE Standard 62.1 (±7 L/s [±15
ventilation airflow and energy consump- ing zone of the workstation occupant. cfm] per person, depending on the type of
tion than by traditional mixed ventilation Figure 1 depicts one workstation-based activity in the space) the thermal plume
approaches to ventilation and comfort configuration that has been investigated. generated by the workstation occupant
conditioning in commercial spaces, The goal is to deliver fresh outside air to has a significant effect on the mixture
especially office spaces. Mixed ventila- the breathing zone while mixing as little of air that arrives at the breathing zone.3
tion means ventilation by introducing of the general indoor air of the building The temperature difference between the
ventilation supply air into a space through (which has accumulated some level of worker and room creates a free convective
diffusers that cause the supply air to mix additional CO2 and other indoor pollut- flow (the thermal plume) that draws air
with the air in the space. ants) into this airstream. from the surrounding space up and into

70 ASHRAE Journal October 2010

Advertisement formerly in this space.

the breathing zone.4 As the PV 6 L/s (13 cfm) in a room at 20°C

device directs clean air toward the (68°F) or 26°C (79°F).
breathing zone, the thermal plume Without blocking, 8 L/s (17
is encountered and the clean supply cfm) was required to achieve a
air mixes with the thermal plume. similar level of PEE. With other
The performance of a PV system Control
configurations, smaller improve-
depends on the physical configura- Personal Panel Personal ments in ventilation effectiveness
Diffuser Diffuser
tion, the supplied airflow rate and were reported in this flow range,
speed, the overall interaction of the Personal Ventilation and were highly dependent on the
Air Supply Duct
airflow with the thermal plume, direction of air delivery relative to
and the contributions from the the thermal test manikin.1,5
room’s total volume ventilation. In general, it can be said that PV
Personal exposure effectiveness devices delivering outdoor air at
index (PEE), the percent of clean ASHRAE Standard 62.1 flow rates
Figure 1: Personal ventilation system in a workstation.
personal air present in the inhaled can provide higher quality breathing
airstream is one measure of the efficacy of a personal ventila- air than the same amount of outside air introduced via conventional
tion device. mixed ventilation. Alternatively, similar quality breathing air can
Bolashikov, et al.,4 demonstrated that a PV configuration that be provided by PV with lower outside air supply airflow rates.
delivers supply air through a diffuser located in front of and In both cases, the caveat applies that the occupant needs to
blowing toward the face of the occupant provides PEE higher be at the workstation for most of the time, if PV is to be a basis
than approximately 80% when used in conjunction with an under- for reduced ventilation airflow rates to the conditioned space.
desk board that sufficiently blocks the effects of convective flow An occupancy sensor at the workstation can stop PV airflow
produced by the lower half of the body, with personal airflow of when the occupant is not at the workstation.

Advertisement formerly in this space. Advertisement formerly in this space.

72 ASHRAE Journal a s h r a e . o r g October 2010

Advertisement formerly in this space.

The Thermal Comfort Side maximum cooling effects. Also, ceiling mounted jets increase
Tests by Yang, et al.,3 of ceiling mounted units supplying a the pressure felt on the head.
downward jet of air directed toward the occupant’s head show Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
that airflow of 16 L/s (34 cfm) blocks the effects of the thermal recommends that ventilation systems be designed to minimize
plume. At this airflow rate, a cooling effect to the head and face air velocity to less than levels that could cause dry eyes or dis-
comparable to a reduction of room temperature of up to 10°F comfort. While the recommendations exist for mixed ventilation
(5.6°C) was observed, with 70°F (21°C) supply air. systems, they are transferable to PV systems, particularly since
Lesser cooling effect was measured lower on the body and PV systems blow air directly onto the worker.6
with lower supply airflow rate. As workers shift at their desks Though cleaner air is delivered and personal comfort, in terms
relative to the location of the personalized air nozzle, uneven of cooling, is increased, PV systems can introduce unwanted
cooling of the body occurs. discomfort. The potential for discomfort and the variance in
While other references were focused on ventilation effective- personal preferences argue for PV systems to include control
ness, similar cooling effects would be expected compared to over the airflow rate. Such control could alter the overall PEE
airflow, with more cooling effect to the face and upper torso. and cooling effects.
The cooling effect is achieved with comparatively high supply In a field study of desk-mounted PV units, Bauman, et al.,7
air temperatures compared to the conventional 55°F (13°C) to found that 80% of the PV users studied adjusted the airflow
60°F (16°C) range of supply air temperatures used in conven- settings once or fewer times per day. This finding highlights
tional building space conditioning systems. that individual control of airflow does increase the occupant’s
PV systems are effective at increasing the level of air quality sense of thermal and personal comfort.
in the breathing zone, and at providing sufficient cooling by
directing airflow into the head and breathing regions. Energy Saving Potential
Yang, et al.,3 showed that ceiling-mounted PV air jets un- Much of the research into PV has been focused on the venti-
evenly cool the body, with the head and upper body feeling the lation effectiveness of these systems, as opposed to the energy

Advertisement formerly in this space.

74 ASHRAE Journal a s h r a e . o r g October 2010


saving potential. Schiavon, et al.,4 studied With nebulous energy benefits, high
the potential for energy savings with PV cost of installation, and potential for dis-
systems when a three-part control strat- comfort due to high velocity air imping-
egy is applied: ing on the eyes and face, the technology
•• Reducing the outdoor airflow rate has yet to be widely adopted.1 Active
due to the higher ventilation ef- research continues with the aim of im-
fectiveness of PV; proving the technology.
•• Increasing the maximum allowed
room air temperature due to the References
PV capacity to control the micro- 1. Tsuzuki, K., E.A. Arens, F. Bauman, D.
climate; and Wyon. 1999. “Individual Thermal Comfort
•• Supplying outdoor air via the PV Control with Desk-Mounted and Floor-
Mounted Task/Ambient Conditioning (TAC)
system only when the occupant is Systems.” Center for the Built Environment,
at the desk. University of California at Berkeley. http://
They found that the resulting energy
savings is inherent to the design, use, and 2. Arsen, K., A. Melikov, R. Cermak,
climate location of the system. Results M. Majer. 2002. “Personalized ventilation:
ranged from PV systems incurring a 15% Evaluation of different air terminal devices.”
or greater energy cost above the mixed Energy and Buildings 34(8):829–836. Advertisement formerly in this space.
3. Yang, B., A. Melikov, C. Sekhar. 2009.
ventilation system in cooler climates to “Performance evaluation of ceiling mounted
energy savings of up to 51% in hot and personalized ventilation system.” ASHRAE
humid climates. Transactions 115(2):395–406.
Additionally, the use of PV can be 4. Bolashikov, Z. A. Melikov, M. Krenek.
energy efficient with indoor air tempera- 2009. “Improved performance of personal-
tures allowed to rise above the upper limit ized ventilation by control of the convec-
of the recommended room temperature at tion flow around occupant body.” ASHRAE
Transactions 115(2):421–431.
30°C (87°F).8 5. Faulkner, D., W.J. Fisk, D.P. Sullivan,
The feasibility of operating in this and D.P. Wyon.“Ventilation Efficiencies of
mode is highly dependent on the occu- Task/Ambient Conditioning Systems with
pants spending most of their time within Desk Mounted Air Supplies.” LBNL-42597.
reach of their PV systems. Therefore,
opportunities exist to save energy via PV, 6. OSHA. 2010. “Computer Workstations.”
but further research needs to be done to
7. Bauman, F., T. Carter, and A. Baugh-
find the optimal PV, mixed ventilation man. 1998. “Field study of the impact of a
operation, and climate combination to desktop task/ambient conditioning system
achieve guaranteed gains. in office buildings.” Center for the Built
Environment, University of California at
Market Factors Berkeley.
PV systems have been available since 8. Schiavon, S., A. Melikov, C. Sekhar.
the 1980s. They are not in widespread 2010. “Energy analysis of the personal-
ized ventilation system in hot and hu-
use because the cost of the systems is mid climates.” Energy and Buildings
relatively high, with a single unit costing 42(5):699–707.
up to $2,000.9 9. Tuhus-Dubrow, R. 2010. “A room tem-
Also, with the need to provide supply perature of one’s own.” Boston Globe. http://
air to each PV unit, installation costs are
high, particularly for retrofit into existing
building configurations. John Dieckmann is a director in the
For the potential benefits to be realized, Mechanical Systems Group and Alissa
it is necessary for most of the building Cooperman is an associate principal
occupants to spend the majority of their at  TIAX LLC, Cambridge, Mass. James
time in the building at their workstations Brodrick, Ph.D., is a project manager
and within a narrow range of positions. In with the Building Technologies Program,
many cases, this is simply not the way the U.S. Department of Energy, Washington,
building and occupants operate. D.C.

October 2010 ASHRAE Journal 75