Residential cooling loads and the urban heat island—the effects of albedo

Publication Type

Journal Article




The urban heat island has become the target of recent research aiming at improving urban climates and energy efficiency of cities. In the warm, mid- and low-latitude cities, the typical heat island intensity averages up to 3-5°C on a summer day, adding to discomfort and increasing the air-conditioning loads, whereas in some temperate and cold, high-latitude cities a 2°C heat island is considered as a mild asset in winter. Some of these cities have been built to retain the urban heat. The objective of our ongoing research is to identify ways to mitigate summer heat islands in hot climates, for example by increasing the urban albedo, expanding evaporative surfaces and vegetation covers, and increasing urban thermal mass. From the energy consumption point of view, simple techniques such as these can be effective in reducing air-conditioning costs by modifying and improving the urban micro- and meso-climates. In this work, we have correlated the residential cooling energy and power consumption in Sacramento, California, with the urban heat island intensity. The effects of selected strategies, such as the ones mentioned above, upon changing the urban micro-climate and reducing the heat island induced cooling loads were simulated. The main focus in this paper is placed on albedo. The simulations were performed using the DOE-2.1C building energy analysis program in conjunction with micro-climate and planetary boundary layer models that predict the effects of albedo modifications on ambient conditions and micro-climates. The simulations indicate that there exists significant potential energy and peak power savings by using such simple conservation strategies. Simulations for Sacramento indicate that whitewashing the buildings can result in direct savings of up to 14% and 19% on cooling peak power and electrical cooling energy, respectively. Modifying the overall urban albedo, in addition to whitewashing, can result in total savings of up to 35% and 62% respectively.


Building and Environment



Year of Publication



0360-1323Added to JabRef: 2010.04.21


Research Areas