Evaluating Cascaded and Tunable Phase Change Materials for Enhanced Thermal Energy Storage Utilization and Effectiveness in Building Envelopes

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17 Scopus Citations


The incorporation of phase change materials (PCMs) in envelope is considered an effective thermal energy storage (TES) method for energy savings and load flexibility in buildings. However, an important limitation of PCMs is their fixed and narrow transition temperature range. Because the interior temperature setpoints are typically different in summer versus winter, and the exterior temperature varies substantially above and below the setpoints during the year, PCMs with a fixed transition temperature are utilized only during part of the year. In this study, we provide an extensive numerical analysis of the performance of a lightweight building envelope containing three different types of PCMs: traditional single-layer PCM with a fixed transition temperature, novel cascaded two-layer PCM with different transition temperatures, and a “futuristic” tunable PCM whose transition temperature can be varied in-situ using external excitation. We compare their performances by evaluating the relationship between the PCM utilization and parameters such as latent heat, transition temperature range, PCM thickness, and PCM location. While traditional PCMs are mostly active during one season, properly designed cascaded and tunable PCMs can be active much longer, thereby allowing load shift and energy savings in both heating and cooling seasons. Under the operating conditions considered in this study, tunable PCMs performed best, providing the highest utilization (about 2 times the traditional PCMs) and enhanced effectiveness (up to 99% peak load reduction in cooling season and 34% peak load reduction in heating season) with the same amount of material as the traditional PCMs; however, cascaded PCMs can be a good alternative while tunable PCMs are unavailable.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number111937
Number of pages12
JournalEnergy and Buildings
StatePublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier B.V.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5500-79816


  • Buildings
  • Cascaded PCMs
  • Load flexibility
  • Thermal storage
  • Tunable PCM


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