Effect of Recirculation on Air Quality in a Car Compartment

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Abstract
The quality of air in a car’s compartment is an important factor affecting passengers’ comfort and also the driver’s ability to focus throughout his driving trip. In this work, air quality related to the level of carbon dioxide (CO2) and relative humidity (RH) in a car’s compartment was studied. Two mode of ventilation were considered: (a) 100% recirculation air mode and (b) intermittence of recirculation and fresh air mode (mixed mode). It was found that the concentration of CO2 under the full re-circulation mode reached 2500 ppm just in one hour after the trip started. Under the same condition, the RH decreased with temperature, from 58% to 42% in one hour. For mixed mode, when fresh air was selected 15 minutes after the trip started, the concentration of CO2 reduced to a range of 700 ppm to 1000 ppm. However, as expected, the RH started to increase because the air surrounding had high humidity. This study gave an insight on suitable interval for interchange of air recirculation and fresh air modes in order to maintain acceptable level of comfort in a car.
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Australian Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences, 8(4) Special 2014, Pages: 466-470
AENSI Journals
Australian Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences
ISSN:1991-8178
Journal home page: www.ajbasweb.com
Corresponding Author: Mohd Sahril Mohd Fouzi, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Ungku Omar Polytechnic,
31400 Ipoh, Perak, MALAYSIA.
E-mail: msahril@jkm.puo.edu.my
Effect of Recirculation on Air Quality in a Car Compartment
1Mohd Sahril Mohd Fouzi, 2Mohamad Asyraf Othoman, 3Shaharin Anwar Sulaiman
1,2Department of Mechanical Engineering, Ungku Omar Polytechnic 31400 Ipoh, Perak, MALAYSIA.
3Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Universiti Teknologi Petronas, 31750 Tronoh, Perak, MALAYSIA.
A RT I CL E I NF O
A B ST RA CT
Article history:
Received 20 November 2013
Received in revised form 24
January 2014
Accepted 29 January 2014
Available online 5 April 2014
Key words:
air quality, carbon dioxide, relative
humidity, automobile.
The quality of air in a car’s compartment is an important factor affecting passengers’
comfort and also the driver’s ability to focus throughout his driving trip. In this work,
air quality related to the level of carbon dioxide (CO2) and relative humidity (RH) in a
car’s compartment was studied. Two mode of ventilation were considered: (a) 100%
recirculation air mode and (b) intermittence of recirculation and fresh air mode (mixed
mode). It was found that the concentration of CO2 under the full re-circulation mode
reached 2500 ppm just in one hour after the trip started. Under the same condition, the
RH decreased with temperature, from 58% to 42% in one hour. For mixed mode, when
fresh air was selected 15 minutes after the trip started, the concentration of CO2 reduced
to a range of 700 ppm to 1000 ppm. However, as expected, the RH started to increase
because the air surrounding had high humidity. This study gave an insight on suitable
interval for interchange of air recirculation and fresh air modes in order to maintain
acceptable level of comfort in a car.
© 2014 AENSI Publisher All rights reserved.
To Cite This Article: Mohd Sahril Mohd Fouzi, Mohamad Asyraf Othoman, Shaharin Anwar Sulaiman, Effect of Recirculation on Air
Quality in a Car Compartment. Aust. J. Basic & Appl. Sci., 8(4): 466-470, 2014
INTRODUCTION
Air quality in car’s compartment is important in ensuring comfort and good focus of the driver. Heating,
Ventilation and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) systems are normally designed to fulfill this requirement. However,
people often spend long time in the automobile during commuting and leisure. Therefore indoor environment in
car compartment could be regarded as a kind of residential environment that is equipped with HVAC system
(Yokoyama, Iwashita, Yoshinami, Nagayama, & Nakagawa, 2007). Notable characteristics of a car
compartment include, for example, sensitiveness to the atmospheric environment and functionality for driving
performance.
Study on the quality of air indoor has been very limited; e.g. by Yokoyama et al. (Yokoyama, Iwashita,
Yoshinami, Nagayama, & Nakagawa, 2007) and Nakagawa et al. (Nakagawa, Iwashita, Yoshinami, Nagayama
& Yokoyama, 2007). On the other hand, there are plentiful of reports available on study of indoor air quality in
buildings; for example in the work by Sulaiman et al. (Sulaiman, Isa, Raskan, & Harun, 2013) and Harun et al.
(Harun, Buyamin, Othman, & Sulaiman, 2013).
The decision for choosing either fresh air or recirculation air mode for car compartment environment may
involve similar process as in buildings, in which one would select recirculation modes when he feels discomfort
(Nakagawa, Iwashita, Yoshinami, Nagayama & Yokoyama, 2007). Carbon dioxide content in air may be used
as an indicator of the appropriateness of air recirculation because its concentration relates to the number of
people in a building and the building’s general ventilation rate.
Outdoor air contains about 330 parts per million (ppm) or about 0.033 percent carbon dioxide (Government
of Alberta, 2012). However, when people breathe in a confined space, oxygen from the air is inhaled and carbon
dioxide is exhaled, and if recirculation air is selected, the carbon dioxide content would increase to a level far
higher than that of the outdoor air. If carbon dioxide concentration becomes too high, the air gets stale and the
occupants will not feel comfortable. Complaints usually begin when carbon dioxide concentrations reach about
800 ppm and become more common when carbon dioxide exceeds 1000 ppm. If the level of carbon dioxide is
too high, more fresh air would be required to dilute the carbon dioxide content (Government of Alberta, 2012)
and (Federal Regulations, 2000).
The objective this work was to assess the air quality in car compartment as a result of choice of air
circulation mode. The study was conducted by measuring the level of carbon dioxide (CO2), relative humidity
(RH), and temperature in a traveling car under tropical weather.
467 Mohd Sahril Mohd Fouzi et al, 2014
Australian Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences, 8(4) Special 2014, Pages: 466-470
Methodology:
In this work, a compact sedan car with an estimated compartment volume of 3 m3 was selected. The
conditions of air in the car compartment were measured when the car was traveling along countryside road
between Ipoh and Lumut in Malaysia (4.2°N) mainly westward. The weather during the test was hot and humid.
The distance travelled was approximately 100 km at an average speed of 70 km/h. The weather during the test,
which was held between 9.30 am and 11.30 am, was sunny with scattered thin clouds in the sky in the month of
January. During this study, the car was occupied with three persons including the driver. The measured
conditions were CO2 content, relative humidity (RH), and dry bulb temperature.
The set point temperature of the car compartment’s air-conditioner was set at 26°C. The average supply air
flow rate from each of air-conditioner outlets, located on the dashboard, was measured to be 3.8 m³/min. Two
ventilation modes were selected; i.e. 100% recirculation and intermittence of recirculation and fresh air modes.
Table 1 shows descriptions of the measurement instruments and their accuracies. A Telaire 7001 portable CO2
temperature monitor was used to monitor the indoor CO2, dry bulb temperature and relative humidity. The
maximum readable value of carbon dioxide content was 2500 ppm. The data was analyzed by the software
provided by the instrument’s manufacturer. The instrument was mounted on the middle of the rear seat about 30
cm from the floor. Care was taken to ensure that the instrument was not directly exposed to sun radiation so that
only air temperature was measured.
Table 1: Measured parameters.
Parameter
Accuracy
CO2 content
± 50 ppm
Relative Humidity, RH
± 2.5% (10%-90% RH)
Temperature (°C)
± 1°C
Different than centralized air-conditioning systems for buildings, which allow slight fresh air intake for
return air system, most car air-conditioning systems do not allow such feature while in recirculation mode.
Consequently, under the air recirculation mode the car interior would experience accumulation in the content of
carbon monoxide due to exhalation by the occupants in the fully confined space.
The different modes tested in this study are shown in Table 2. Also shown in Table 2 are the durations and
actual times of the tests. The full re-circulation test refers to the condition during which air recirculation was in
place from start until end of test (60-minute duration). During this period, no fresh air was introduced. The
intermittence test refers to regular switching between fresh-air mode and re-circulation mode. The intermittence
mode started with fresh air at 10.30 am and followed by switching to recirculation and 100% fresh air at a 15-
minute interval. The total duration for intermittence test was 60 minutes.
Table 2: Test conditions.
Test
Duration (minutes)
Time
Full Re-circulation
60
9.30 am 10.30 am
Intermittence:
a. Fresh air
b. Re-circulation
c. Fresh air
d. Re-circulation
15 × 4
10.30 am 11.30 am
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
The results are divided into three sections, which look into the dry bulb air temperature, relative humidity,
and CO2 content.
A. Air Temperature:
Shown in Fig. 1 and Fig. 2 are variations of the dry bulb air temperature in the car compartment with time
throughout the test under the full recirculation and intermittence modes, respectively. It must first be noted that
the sudden drop and rise in temperatures in the graphs were erratic probably due to signal interference and might
also be caused by sudden change in the environment conditions.
468 Mohd Sahril Mohd Fouzi et al, 2014
Australian Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences, 8(4) Special 2014, Pages: 466-470
Fig. 1: Variation of dry bulb air temperature with time
for full-recirculation test between 9.30 am and
10.30 am
Fig. 2: Variation of dry bulb air temperature with time
for intermittence test between 10.30 am and
11.30 am
It is shown in Fig. 1 that the air temperature was at 28.5°C at the start of test. During the first 20 minutes, the
air temperature increased gradually to 29.1°C most probably due to the heat gain from occupants of the
compartment. Approximately at 10.13 am the air temperature reached a minimum value of about 26°C, which
was the same as the set point temperature.
In Fig. 2, for the intermittence test, the temperature is shown to be steady at around 27°C for the next 30
minutes before the raising up to 28°C until end of test. At 10.30 am, when the intermittence test was started, fresh
air was introduced. Nevertheless, did sudden increase in the indoor air temperature was not displayed, implying
that the air-conditioning system was already at steady state. Furthermore, the measurement sensor was located on
the rear seat of the car that the transient effect, due to sudden in the air intake configuration could not be detected.
The slight increase in the air temperature at 11.00 am was probably in response to the external heat gain
condition, which probably changed significantly at that time; for example the outdoor air temperature would be
expected to be higher as it reached closer to noon.
Overall, it is shown in Fig. 1 and Fig. 2 that the air temperatures under both full re-circulation and
intermittence tests were acceptable as they were very close to the set point temperature. The exceptionally higher
temperature at the start of full recirculation test was understandably due to the transient effect, which could have
been reduced by starting the test only after a quasi-steady state condition has been reached.
B. Relative Humidity (RH):
Shown in Fig. 3 and Fig. 4 are variations of relative humidity (RH) of air in the car compartment with time
throughout the test under the full recirculation and intermittence modes, respectively. Different than temperature
results, the graphs are shown in both figures to be fluctuating all the time at about 1%. This was suggested to be
caused by the high sensitivity of the sensor to RH. Despite the fluctuations, the trends of variations of RH with
time are clearly displayed.
Fig. 3: Variation of relative humidity (RH) with time for
full-recirculation test between 9.30 am and 10.30
am
Fig. 4: Variation of relative humidity (RH) with time
for intermittence test between 10.30 am and
11.30 am
Like in Fig. 1, the RH in Fig. 3 is shown to start at a high value (about 58%) mainly owing to the fact that
was the start time of the test and thus the significant transient effect is displayed. Therefore, right after the air-
conditioning system was turned on the RH dropped significantly. It took about 30 minutes from the start of test
469 Mohd Sahril Mohd Fouzi et al, 2014
Australian Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences, 8(4) Special 2014, Pages: 466-470
for the RH to display a steady condition (at about 45%). The remainder 30 minutes saw a quite constant RH
ranging between 42% and 46%, which was anticipated since no fresh air was taken and thus almost no change in
the amount of vapor in air. The source of vapor would come only from the occupants (passengers) and would be
regarded as very small in quantity. Overall, the RH in Fig. 3 kept decreasing with time.
The RH in Fig. 4 increased when fresh air was introduced at the start of intermittence test (10.30 am). This
was expected because the high humidity from the outdoor air, at an average RH of 74% - 80% (Director General
Meteorological Services, 2011), would affect the moisture content in the car compartment. A quite significant
pattern of increase and decrease in RH is displayed in Fig. 4. However, the highest RH recorded was only about
47%, which was small as compared to the results in Fig. 3. This implied that the cooling coil of the air-
conditioner was highly capable in condensing almost 100% of the water vapour from the fresh air intake.
Generally, Fig. 3 and Fig. 4 show that the RH under both tests were quite consistent despite the change in the
air ventilation mode. As explained for the temperature results, the higher RH at the start of full recirculation test
was avoidable. The result implied that the air-conditioning system functioned well in delivering air at suitable RH
under full recirculation and intermittence test. No attempt was made to observe the trend for a very long
operation under the 100% fresh air mode.
C. Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Content:
Fig. 5 and Fig. 6 display the variations of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) content in air of the car compartment with
time throughout the test under the full recirculation and intermittence modes, respectively. It must be noted that
the maximum readable CO2 content was 2500 ppm (limitation of equipment), and thus explain the reason why the
graph lines look flat at 2500 ppm. In actual fact, the actual value may be higher than 2500 ppm. However, since
1000 ppm would be regarded the upper limit of healthy condition, the equipment limitation should be acceptable
in determining on the quality of air in the compartment.
Fig. 5 showed that the level of CO2 was readily high (2500 ppm or higher) and unhealthy at the start of test.
It was not clear why there was a drop in the measurement between 9.55 am and 10.20 am. One reason could be
due to disturbance on the data logger since the value dropped tremendously down to 500 ppm.
During the intermittence test, as shown in Fig. 6, the CO2 content decreased when the fresh air mode was
selected. This happened because of the dilution effect caused by introduction of fresh air. The patterns results
were similar between the 15-minute intervals of switching of recirculation and 100% fresh air modes.
Interestingly, the 15-minute duration of introduction of fresh air was just enough to bring down the CO2 content
to the recommended upper limit value (DOSH, 2005).
The reduction in CO2 content shown in Fig. 6 was as high as 1500 ppm. Thus, it can be suggested that if the
initial value of the CO2 content were low, it would not be difficult to maintain a healthy indoor content in the car.
Therefore, long exposure of the car interior to fresh air prior to the start of journey would be highly
recommended; for example by opening all the windows and selecting the air intake to 100% fresh air.
It is also worth noting that it took only 15 minutes after changing to full recirculation mode for the car
interior to gain 1500 ppm of CO2 content, consequently resulting in to unhealthy indoor condition. Therefore, it
would be recommended that 100% fresh air mode be maintained whenever possible, although the tradeoff would
be poorer energy conservation. Another consideration would be for car manufacturers to design systems that can
allow small intake of fresh air as in building air-conditioning systems.
Fig. 5: Variation of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in ppm with
time for recirculation test between 9.30 am and
10.30 am
Fig. 6: Variation of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in ppm with
time for intermittence test between 10.30 am and
11.30 am
470 Mohd Sahril Mohd Fouzi et al, 2014
Australian Journal of Basic and Applied Sciences, 8(4) Special 2014, Pages: 466-470
Conclusion:
A study on indoor air quality of a car compartment was conducted, while the vehicle was traveling on roads.
The study was important in assessing the suitability of air condition vis-à-vis passengers’ comfort and health.
From the study, the following conclusions are made:
1. The temperature and relative humidity were observed to be acceptable during the study that they fell
within the expected set point values.
2. The CO2 content was observed to be high in the car compartment at the start of test. Ventilation with
100% fresh air and opening of windows at the start of every journey would be recommended for healthy indoor
environment.
3. The rise in CO2 content can be as high as 1500 ppm in just 15 minutes after changing from 100% fresh
mode to full recirculation mode. This implies that full recirculation would result to unhealthy indoor condition.
To some extent, this could be a factor contributing to poor drivers’ alertness in long distance journeys, apart from
fatigue.
4. For journeys that take more than one hour, the selection of mixed mode (alternate between 100% fresh
air and full recirculation) would be highly recommended in addressing the issues of passengers’ comfort and also
energy conservation.
One important recommendation that car manufacturers and respective authorities would want to consider is
to add minimal fresh air intake even under full recirculation mode; a concept that has been long applied in
centralized air-conditioning systems for building.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
This study was partly conducted in collaboration with Universiti Teknologi Petronas (UTP). The authors
would like to thank the technicians of UTP who were involved in guiding the authors on the operation of
measurement instruments.
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  • Chapter
    Users would adjust air conditioner knob position to regulate the cool air supply to the cabin. Essentially, adjusting the knob position would affect fuel consumption of the vehicle. Thus, this study is done to measure the fuel consumption of different thermostat level settings of an air conditioning system, in the case of stationary car, without passengers and driver in it. The data in this study were taken in four different modes and two levels of selected fan speed. At the same time, the cabin temperature was monitored by a specific device to record the temperature, relative humidity, and CO2 emission. Fuel consumption is monitored by filling 5 L of petrol into an external tank. After running for one hour, the total fuel consumption is calculated by measuring the remaining of the fuel amount. At the end of the experiment, the most practical and suitable thermostat level setting is proposed. Besides saving fuel, the outcome of this study showed that the most comfortable condition in the cabin is 25.83 °C, 51.72% relative humidity and CO2 is 553 ppm. The selected mode is actually at mode 4, low blower fan speed with the fuel consumption is amounted at 1220 mL.
  • Department of Occupational Safety and Health Ministry Resources, Ministry of Human Resources, Malaysia, Code of Practice on Indoor Air Quality, Putrajaya Federal Regulations Classes of comparable automobiles, Country: U.S Title 40-Protection of Environment
    • Canada
    • H Harun
    • N Buyamin
    • M A Othman
    • S A Sulaiman
    Director General Meteorological Services, 2011. " Temperature & Relative Humidity Range, Country: Malaysia ". DOSH, 2005. Department of Occupational Safety and Health Ministry Resources, Ministry of Human Resources, Malaysia, Code of Practice on Indoor Air Quality, Putrajaya Federal Regulations, 2000. Classes of comparable automobiles, Country: U.S. " Title 40-Protection of Environment ", Section., 600: 315-82. Government of Alberta, 2012. " General Health – Occupational Health and Safety Bulletin ", Canada. Harun, H., N. Buyamin, M.A. Othman and S.A. Sulaiman, 2013. A Case Study on Indoor Comfort of Lecture Rooms in University Buildings, Applied Mechanics and Materials, 393: 821-826.
  • Temperature & Relative Humidity Range, Country: Malaysia
    Director General Meteorological Services, 2011. "Temperature & Relative Humidity Range, Country: Malaysia".
  • General Health-Occupational Health and Safety Bulletin
    DOSH, 2005. Department of Occupational Safety and Health Ministry Resources, Ministry of Human Resources, Malaysia, Code of Practice on Indoor Air Quality, Putrajaya Federal Regulations, 2000. Classes of comparable automobiles, Country: U.S. "Title 40-Protection of Environment", Section., 600: 315-82. Government of Alberta, 2012. "General Health-Occupational Health and Safety Bulletin", Canada. Harun, H., N. Buyamin, M.A. Othman and S.A. Sulaiman, 2013. A Case Study on Indoor Comfort of Lecture Rooms in University Buildings, Applied Mechanics and Materials, 393: 821-826.
  • Fundamental Study on Particles, Ultra-Fine Particles and Ozone in The Car Compartment
    • Y Yokoyama
    • G Iwashita
    • Y Yoshinami
    • H Nagayama
    • J Nakagawa
    Yokoyama, Y., G. Iwashita, Y. Yoshinami, H. Nagayama and J. Nakagawa, 2007. Fundamental Study on Particles, Ultra-Fine Particles and Ozone in The Car Compartment, 6 th International Conference on Indoor Air Quality, Ventilation & Energy Conservation in Buildings IAQVEC, Sendai, Japan.
  • Department of Occupational Safety and Health Ministry Resources
    DOSH, 2005. Department of Occupational Safety and Health Ministry Resources, Ministry of Human Resources, Malaysia, Code of Practice on Indoor Air Quality, Putrajaya Federal Regulations, 2000. Classes of comparable automobiles, Country: U.S. "Title 40-Protection of Environment", Section., 600: 315-82. Government of Alberta, 2012. "General Health -Occupational Health and Safety Bulletin", Canada. Harun, H., N. Buyamin, M.A. Othman and S.A. Sulaiman, 2013. A Case Study on Indoor Comfort of Lecture Rooms in University Buildings, Applied Mechanics and Materials, 393: 821-826.
  • Article
    The concentrations of ozone, particles (PM10 and PM2.5) and ultra-fine particles were measured during driving the automobile and during standing. Two ventilation modes were prepared; 1) all fresh air mode and 2) all re-circulation mode. The windows of the automobile had been always closed during this measurement. The indoor/outdoor ratio of the concentrations and the correlation among those substances were reported. The concentrations of particles (PM10 and PM2.5) and ultra-fine particles were dramatically had been increased while the automobile followed the trailer bus. The average indoor/outdoor ratio of ozone during all fresh air mode was higher than that during all re-circulation mode. The correlation coefficient between indoor ozone concentration during all fresh air mode and that during all re-circulation mode was fairly high at 0.63. There were no significant correlation between indoor/outdoor ratio of particles and that of ozone. The ozone deposition velocity in the car compartment was calculated to be 3 m/h by using the measured air-change rate and indoor/outdoor ratio of ozone.
  • Article
    The concentration of CO2 was measured during driving the automobile and during standing. VOCs concentration was measured during standing. Two ventilation modes were prepared; 1) all fresh air mode and 2) all re-circulation mode in the car compartment. The windows of the automobile were always closed during this measurement. The ventilation rate and the airchange rate were determined by the concentration of CO2. Those concentrations were also measured in the classroom with occupancy and without occupancy for confirming bioeffluents. The concentrations of CO2 during all fresh air mode were stable between 600 and 800ppm. On the other hand, those during all re-circulation mode were dramatically elevated and reached more than 3,800ppm. The ventilation rate during driving was similar to that of standing. The ventilation rate during all re-circulation mode was less than that during all fresh air mode. P-dichlorobenzene was detected in the car compartment only with occupancy. P-dichlorobenzene, which is often used as insecticides, might have been emitted from clothes of person. Several kinds of VOCs, which might be from human bioeffluents, were detected in the classroom. The influence of p-dichlorobenzene and these bioeffluents on driving condition should be evaluated.