PCM thermal storage design in buildings: Experimental studies and applications to solaria in cold climates

Francesco Guarino*, Andreas Athienitis, Maurizio Cellura, Diane Bastien

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


As energy availability and demand often do not match, thermal energy storage plays a crucial role to take advantage of solar radiation in buildings: in particular, latent heat storage via phase-change material is particularly attractive due to its ability to provide high energy storage density. This paper analyzes the performance of a building-integrated thermal storage system to increase the energy performances of solaria in a cold climate. A wall opposing a highly glazed façade (south oriented) is used as thermal storage with phase change materials embedded in the wall. The study is based on both experimental and simulation studies. The concept considered is particularly suited to retrofits in a solarium since the PCM can be added as layers facing the large window on the vertical wall directly opposite. Results indicate that this PCM thermal storage system is effective during the whole year in a cold climate. The thermal storage allows solar radiation to be stored and released up to 6–8 h after solar irradiation: this has effects on both the reduction of daily temperature swings (up to 10 °C) and heating requirements (more than 17% on a yearly base). Coupling of the thermal storage system with natural ventilation is important during mid-seasons and summer to improve the PCM charge-discharge cycles and to reduce overheating. Results also show that cooling is less important than heating, reaching up to 20% of the overall annual energy requirements for the city of Montreal, Canada. Moreover, the phase change temperature range of the material used (18–24 °C) is below typical summer temperature levels in solaria, but the increase in thermal capacity of the room alone can reduce annual cooling requirements by up to 50%.

Original languageEnglish
JournalApplied Energy
Issue numberPart 1
Pages (from-to)95-106
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Building design
  • Building simulation
  • Cold climates applications
  • Experimental studies
  • PCM
  • Phase change materials
  • Solaria


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