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Variable Air Volume System Optimization

Variable Air Volume Systems (VAV) can be optimized to increase energy savings by maximizing the efficiency of the equipment at part-load conditions. The goal with the optimization strategy is to run each subsystem (chiller, cooling tower, Airhandler, etc) in the most efficient way possible while maintaining the current building load requirement.

VAV System Optimization

As each Variable Air Volume terminal controls the space temperature - based on flow – the “worst case” zone can easily be identified by an automation system. The supply fan speed can be reduced by resetting the static pressure (see following page). As the load drops and the fan meets a preset minimum flow, the system resets the air temperature up, so less chilled water is needed. In a variable flow chiller system, this reduces pumping energy.

If the system load continues to drop, the system will reset the chiller supply water temperature upward which will then reduce the energy requirements of the chiller. Changes in the chiller head pressure and loads can then reset the cooling tower fan speed.

The key to optimizing the system operation is communication and information sharing through the entire system equipment. With the reduced cost of variable frequency drives and Building Automation Systems, (BAS) complete system optimization can be implemented as a cost effective option.

In VAV systems where the individual VAV boxes and the AHU are on a building automation system, additional savings can be achieved by implementing static pressure reset. The static pressure sensor in a VAV system is typically located two-thirds of the way downstream in the main supply air duct for many existing systems. Static pressure is maintained by modulating the fan speed.

When the static pressure is lower than the setpoint, the fan speeds up to provide more airflow (static) to meet the VAV box needs, and vice-versa. A constant set point value is usually used regardless of the building load conditions.

Under partial-load conditions the static pressure required at the terminal VAV boxes may be far less than this constant set point. The individual boxes will assume a damper position to satisfy the space temperature requirements. For example, various VAV box dampers will be at different damper positions, (some at 70% open, 60% open, etc) very few will be at design, ie 95% -100% open.

Essentially, resetting supply air static pressure requires that every VAV box is sampled with the static reset set to the worst case box requirement. For example, each box is polled, every 5 minutes. If no box is more than 95% open, reduce duct static pressure set point by 5%. If one or more boxes exceed 95% open, increase static pressure set point by 5%.

With a lower static set point to maintain, fan speed reduces. The result is increased energy savings in the 3 to 8% range. See figure below. If the BAS system is already installed, implementing this strategy is relatively free.
Variable Air Volume System energy savings

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