A new model predictive control (MPC) algorithm is used to select optimal air conditioning setpoints for a commercial office building, considering variable electricity prices, weather and occupancy. This algorithm, Cost-Comfort Particle Swarm Optimization (CCPSO), is the first to combine a realistic, smooth representation of occupants’ willingness to pay for thermal comfort with a bottom-up, nonlinear model of the building and air conditioning system under control. We find that using a quadratic preference function for temperature can yield solutions that are both more comfortable and lower-cost than previous work that used a “brick wall” preference function with no preference for further cooling within an allowed temperature band and infinite aversion to going outside the allowed band. Using historical pricing data for a summer month in Chicago, CCPSO provided a 1% reduction in costs vs. a similar “brick-wall” MPC approach with the same comfort and 6–11% reduction in costs vs. other control strategies in the literature. CCPSO can also be used to operate the building with much greater comfort and costs or much lower costs and comfort than the “brick-wall” approach, depending on user preferences. CCPSO also reduced peak-hours demand by 3% vs. the “brick-wall” strategy and 4–14% vs. other strategies. At the same time, the CCPSO strategy increased off-peak energy consumption by 15% or more vs. other control methods. This may be valuable for power systems integrating large amounts of renewable power, which can otherwise become uneconomic due to saturation of demand during off-peak hours.
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