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December 5, 2013 -
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Today's tip from Building Operating Management comes from Daniel H. Nall of Flack + Kurtz. The creation of energy-efficient HVAC systems can be difficult. Many different and often conflicting factors must be optimized to achieve the best system. The prevailing climate and the function of the conditioned space are the main determinants of the most effective system. The challenge is to recognize the opportunities inherent in the climate and application so as to select the best heating and cooling sources and distribution system. One key step in the process of creating an energy-efficient HVAC system is to improve the efficiency of the heating and cooling distribution system for the building. This improvement should be thought of not only as improvement of peak-load efficiency but also of part-load efficiency, because most HVAC systems spend the preponderance of their operating life at part load.
Good part load efficiency for distribution system components often involves the use of variable speed drives along with components that allow those drives to operate at lower frequencies as often as possible. For fans and pumps, facilitating variable flow operation is a must.
For variable flow systems to be effective, capacity reduction should be accompanied by flow reduction. Two-way control valves should almost always be specified for hydronic distribution systems. Some systems require a minimum flow rate, so the use of a controlled minimum flow bypass may be required.
The bypass is preferred to the option of utilizing a limited number of three-way valves, because the three-way valves will increase flow through the system when the actual required flow is above the minimum, resulting in increased pumping energy.
Appropriate selection of the prime movers is also important for energy efficient distribution systems. Pump and fan curves can be compared to find the best selection for each application. In general, larger diameter, slow rotation speed selections are more efficient, up to a point, although the designer should avoid selections for which a slight miscalculation of the system pressure drop might result in an undesirable operating point.