Residential water heaters contain water stratified by temperature-driven density differences. This implies that a water tank can reach a state in which the top and bottom sections have different temperatures, unless mixing happens. A high degree of thermal stratification can improve the efficiency of some water heaters, by saving the amount of energy required for the heat-up process. Studies of stratification became popular in the 1970s and it remains an active research topic today. The research has led to the development of different models and techniques to better predict and define a stratified tanks behavior. By comparing these models and techniques used previously to describe thermal stratification, the phenomenon could be better understood, exploited, and used to increase efficiency and thermal energy capacity in modern water tanks. From the existing models, we found the one-dimensional standard plug-flow and a multi node model to be appropriate for analyzing the processes of the heat up and cool-down in a water tank. These two models are based on energy balances. This work involved comparing the accuracy and computational effort needed to implement these models. To assess accuracy, we compared both types of existing models to experimental data (also collected in this work) which included a heat up process using an external heat pump. This external process included a layering process that has an eddy diffusivity at five times the rate of thermal diffusion. For this project, we implemented the models in MATLAB, the multi-paradigm numerical computing environment. We quantified model accuracy using the root mean squared error between modeled data and experimental data for six measured tank temperatures. Comparing the accuracy and the computational time taken to run the simulation provides a method to contrast the performance of each model and a way to rate it. The multi node model was run using from 6 to 96 spatial nodes; the plug flow model was run using 1 to 0.001 °C temperature bin sizes. Additionally, timesteps were varied from 4 to 236 s. The results quantify the tradeoff between accuracy and computational time, providing guidance for simulations to intelligently select the best model type and simulation parameters. This research can be used to validate the pre-existing models and possibly improve the modern water tank.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.