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engineers newsletter providing insights for todays

hvac system designer

air distribution
Cold Air Makes Good $ense
from the editor Many choices in the design of comfort air temperatures of 45F to 48F are
Since 1995, the Engineers Newsletter systems are predetermined by most common, but applications with
has examined various aspects of experience. Designers repeatedly temperatures as cold as 42F also
chilled-water-plant design. With choose to supply 42F chilled water or exist. Successful installations
technological advancements in 55F supply air because they know that throughout this spectrum demonstrate
refrigeration and controls providing the it works. The temperature rises that how readily cold-air distribution can be
context, these articles have challenged result from these choices directly adapted to individual job requirements.
flow rates for chilled water (ENEWS/ impact the cost of pipes and ducts. Fan
283, 262), temperature control for and pump horsepower are affected, The appeal of cold-air distribution lies in
cooling towers (ENEWS/241), and too, extending the cost impact to the the dramatic impact on the amount of
plant partitioning (ENEWS/284, 255). electrical distribution system. A air required for sensible cooling. As
successful HVAC design is as much a Table 1 suggests, simply lowering the
But value-added, cost-saving designs matter of cost savings as it is comfort. supply-air temperature from the 55F
are by no means confined to the dictated by current practice to 45F
waterside of an HVAC system. Rules- Undoubtedly, lack of experience is what reduces the supply-air volume by 30 to
of-thumb for air distribution demand makes many engineers and contractors 40 percent!
equal scrutiny. As evidence, this EN: reluctant to consider HVAC designs
that distribute cold air, despite the
Table 1Comparison of Airside Designs
Identifies the effects of lowering the obvious benefits of doing so. No one
supply-air temperature by several in our area uses cold airI dont want Conventional Cold Air a

degrees to be the first Dont you have to Supply air 55F 45F
worry about condensation and Room set point 75F 78F
Outlines the application
moisture carryover? How can I keep Room humidity 5560% RH 4045% RH
considerations that must be
people comfortable if Im dumping Cooling-coil T 20F 33F
addressed to successfully design,
cold air into the space? Wont the Airflow rate for 553 cfm/ton 335 cfm/ton
install, and operate an HVAC system
system use more energy? space sensible
that supplies colder-than-55F air cooling load

Shedding a bit of light on the subject a This

phenomenon is described by the equation,
Q = 1.085 cfm T.
should help dispel these fears. Lets
discuss what cold air distribution is,
why its worth your time (and is in your
clients best interest), and how it
affects other aspects of system design. Benefits of Cold Air
Reducing the amount of supply air
needed in an application triggers a
series of related benefits, ranging from
How Cold Is Cold? lower construction costs for both the
Cold-air distribution describes building and the mechanical system to
comfort-cooling applications that improved comfort, acoustics, and
deliver supply air of 48F or less to the indoor air quality. Lower energy costs
occupied spaces in a building. Supply-

2000 American Standard Inc. All rights reserved Volume 29, No. 2
are possible, too, depending on the Less fan horsepower reduces the Building environment. Other benefits
application. cost of the electrical installation and that are directly attributable to cold
lowers operating costs for the life of supply air include better indoor air
Lets take a closer look at the the building, as shown in Table 2. It quality and improved comfort. Both
opportunities extended by a 40-percent may also reduce fan-generated improvements result from a lower
reduction in supply air volume: sound. relative humidity in the occupied
space55 to 65 percent for 55F air
Smaller air-handling equipment versus 40 to 45 percent for 45F air.
lessens capital expense. The extra Table 2Comparison of Supply Fans
space made available by the smaller Air temperature 55F 45F Obviously, lower relative humidity
air-handler footprint can be used for Airflow volume 34,485 cfm 20,900 cfm deters the growth of mold and mildew.
attenuation in sound-sensitive Total static pressure 4.0 in. wg 4.0 in. wg Carpets, furniture, and other building
applications or recoveredalong Power consumption 37.9 bhp 23.0 bhp materials last longer and are less likely
with the space savings of smaller Motor size 40 hp 25 hp
to develop moisture-related odors.
vertical air shaftsas usable/
rentable floor space. The positive effect of cold-air designs
on occupant comfort results from the
How much space can cold-air
distribution save? A typical air
Cold-air distribution common practice of raising the room
set point by several degrees since
handler that requires 34,485 cfm for is appealing because it there is less heat in the surrounding air.
conventional, 55F supply air needs
only 20,900 cfm for cold, 45F air. At
dramatically reduces People who are more heavily dressed
the air volume needed benefit from the lower relative
500 fpm, coil face area is reduced
humidity, while those who are more
from more than 60 square feet to for sensible cooling. lightly attired appreciate the warmer
40 square feet.
space temperature.
Smaller VAV terminals ease tight
installations, are less expensive, and
What about electrical distribution
costs? To maintain proper air Table 3Comparison of Installed Power
Smaller ductwork means less movement in cold-air distribution Supply-Air Temperature
sheet metal, easier installation, and systems, some designers add fan- Component 55F 45F
more space above the ceiling for powered VAV boxes to the interior Air handler 171.3 kW 120.1 kW
cable trays. Round duct also zones. This addition also increases the
VAV terminals kW 17.0 kW a
becomes a viable option, permitting number of electrical drops in the
Pump 11.3 kW 6.5 kW
slightly higher air velocities and building. But dont forget that the
further reducing duct size. overall ampacity of the electrical Chiller 135.0 kW 144.0 kW

distribution system is reduced and Total 317.6 kW 287.6 kW,

Shorter floor-to-floor height, saving 10%
not just on the airside of the HVAC
attributable to smaller ductwork, a Installed
system. Cold-air distribution requires power is only included for the additional fan-
may significantly reduce the cost of powered VAV terminals used in this cold-air application
colder chilled water and deeper coils, when compared to a conventional system based on 55F
glass and steel in a multistory supply air.
which in turn, require lower chilled-
building perhaps even add a floor
water flow rates. Table 3 hints at the
of rentable space.
potential savings by recounting the
actual reduction of installed power in a
six-story, Denver office building.

Note: The reduction in fan and pump

horsepower is attractive to electric
utilities. Rebates offered for thermal-
storage systems often apply to cold-air
distribution, too.

2 Trane Engineers Newsletter Vol. 29, No. 2

Impact on System Design Figure 1Operation of Exterior Walls
The checklist on page 6 provides a
Poor Wall System Good Wall System
number of guidelines that address
various aspects of cold-air distribution. Outdoors Outdoors
96F DB 96F DB
Designers unfamiliar with this practice
typically cite three concerns: 80F DP 80F DP
Indoors Indoors
72F DB 72F DB

delivering cold air to comfort zones 52F DP 52F DP

vapor pressure vapor pressure
system energy consumption
moist air dry air
Sound engineering practice is the
critical ingredient in any successful vinyl wallpaper high-permeability paint
cold-air comfort system. Rules-of- vapor retarder
thumb simply do not apply when the
objective is lower installed-costs and/or
lower operating-costs. condensate forms no condensate forms

Condensation. Uncontrolled
condensation can be a problem in any potential reduction of unwanted cavities. Figure 1 illustrates the
building. Unwanted condensation in condensation attributable to spaces operation of an effective wall system.
walls, plenums, fan rooms, or other with lower relative humidity. To realize Buildings with cold-air distribution and
areas of the building can lead to mold this benefit, however, cold surfaces positive space pressurization are
and mildew growth and the attendant must be inside the humidity-controlled typically healthy buildings.
problems with indoor air quality. envelope. Any cold surfaces located
outside this envelope must be Dumping cold air. Designers
Cold air is an excellent tool to help completely insulated. typically use one of two approaches to
solve unwanted moisture problems. address occupant comfort in cold-air
Supplying comfort zones with 45F-to- The humidity-controlled envelope ends designs:
48F air significantly lowers the room where infiltration begins. Maintaining a
dew-point temperature. Buildings that slightly positive pressure in the space High-aspiration diffusers
employ cold-air systems enjoy the extends the humidity-controlled
Fan-powered VAV terminals in all
benefits of 40-to-45-percent relative envelope to include exterior walls, and
zones, with continuous fan operation
humidity. One of these benefits is the allows dry air to bathe cracks and wall
during occupied hours

A diffuser design with a high aspiration

Figure 2Coanda Effect ratio induces room air toward the
supply diffuser. It also enhances cold-air
supply air systems by increasing both room-air
motion and diffuser throw. For
supply duct
linear example, a linear slot diffuser
slot diffuser
recirculates 1 cfm of room air for each
1 cfm of supply air that it delivers.

The higher momentum (mass flow rate

velocity) of cold air increases the
throw, or coanda effect, of aspirating-
type diffusers; see Figure 2. Improved
room air

providing insights for todays HVAC system designer 3

trim for foldout
performance provides greater Figure 3Series Fan-Powered VAV Terminal
latitude for diffuser selection.

Note: Non-aspirating diffusers such

as perforated plates or concentric
grilles may not perform well in cold- primary air
air applications. If this type of device
supply air
is used, couple it with fan-powered
VAV terminals to blend the room air
with cold supply air above the plenum air

Fan-powered VAV terminals also Table 4 summarizes representative Lowering the leaving chilled water
avoid dumping cold air into the savings. Annual savings in pump temperature from 42F to 38F can
space. Series fan-powered VAV energy resulting from the use of increase chiller horsepower-per-ton
terminals (Figure 3) may be colder chilled water typically range by 6 to 10 percent, depending on
preferred for large conference rooms from 1 to 3 per square foot. compressor type. Maintaining a
or other applications where constant Moving colder air usually cuts 6 to lower relative humidity in the
airflow is desirable. Parallel fan- 8 per square foot from supply-fan building increases the amount of
powered VAV terminals (Figure 4), energy costs, but savings in excess cooling required.
on the other hand, are well suited for of 10 per square foot are not
comfort zones where less air motion uncommon. Offsetting these increases in chiller
during off-peak conditions is energy is the substantial and
preferred. With either terminal Not every component of a cold-air continuous reduction of heat
configuration, the air-blending fans system contributes energy savings, generated by supply and return fans.
run continuously during occupied however. Despite small individual (Reducing system airflow may be a
hours. wattages, the continuous operation reason to reconsider the need for
of fan-powered VAV terminals, as air return fans.)
System energy consumption. blenders, during occupied hours
Cold-air systems require much less adds up. Energy costs for parallel The varying impact of cold-air
transport energy (energy used to terminals increase by as much as designs on chiller energy reflects the
pump water and move air) than 1 to 1.5 per square foot series complex relationship between
conventional designs. The balance terminals add more. building utilization, climate, airside
struck between first cost and design, and the intelligent reset of
operating cost determines the The costs of producing colder water supply-air temperature. It is also a
extent of the savings achieved; and colder air require attention, too. function of chilled-water-plant

Table 4Typical Energy Savings Figure 4Parallel Fan-Powered VAV Terminal

Annual Savings
Per Square Foot
supply air
Supply fans 6.0 to 8.5
Fan-powered VAV terminals (1.2)
Chiller (3.0) to 2.0 plenum air
Pump 0.7 to 2.6
Reheat (6.0) to (2.0) auxiliary
Total (3.5) to 9.9
trim for foldout

primary air

providing insights for todays HVAC system designer 4

trim for foldout

strategy, sometimes trading chiller (For more information, refer to In aggregate, the net energy savings
energy for condenser-water-pump ENEWS/271, The Threefold provided by cold-air distribution can
energy and cooling-tower energy. A Challenge of Ventilating Single-Duct be impressive. The reduction in fan
low-flow, low-temperature, cold-air VAV Systems. You can find it horsepower is primarily responsible
system that increases chiller energy among the archived newsletters in for reducing the energy cost of
by 2 to 3 per square foot in one the Commercial section of the Trane comfort cooling, but chilled-water-
application may reduce chiller energy Web site.) plant energy and reheat energy
by as much as 1 to 2 per square
foot in another.
Paradigms of Design
Zone reheat also deserves
How did the design conventions of approach reduced system control costs;
careful consideration. Cold air
42F chilled water and 55F supply air it required no more than a damper or
reduces the quantity of primary air come to be? A 10F T for chilled water air valve to vary zone airflow.
sent to each zone, while the and a 20F T for the airside of the
ventilation requirements of ASHRAE system are not advantageous for Like any new concept, VAV created a
efficiency or material cost. Nor do these new set of design challenges. With a
Standard 62 increase the minimum
temperatures impart any preordained, varying volume of supply air to the
airflow required. A ventilation-reset space, how would air motion be
thermodynamic advantage to the
control strategy can minimize the design or operation of air-conditioning maintained? Would the difference in
operating-cost impact of providing systems. In fact, supply air several diffuser noise be noticeable? Heating
proper ventilation at part load by degrees colder than 55F was not with VAV also posed difficulties.
matching outdoor airflow to the uncommon several decades ago. So how
did 55F become the norm in todays The rise of DX unitary. The 20 years
actual ventilation required.
HVAC designs? There is no one right that followed the energy crisis of the
Implementing such a strategy answer, but it may be useful to review a 1970s witnessed the explosive growth
requires communicating controls bit of HVAC history. of commercial and light-commercial
throughout the system: unitary air conditioners. These direct-
Before 1970, typical comfort systems
expansion (DX) products adapted well
included fan-coil, multizone, double-
VAV terminals with pressure- to VAV because temperature control
duct, and induction. The size of the
independent (DDC/VAV) was centralized at the air handler.
building and the magnitude of its
Controllers were developed to minimize
controllers perimeter (or skin) loads determined
compressor starts while maintaining
the choice of system.
A building automation system the supply air temperature within an
Induction systems were often preferred acceptable range, often by employing
with simple, equation-solving some type of supply-air reset strategy.
for high-rise applications. They
provided sufficient heating and cooling
The acceptable range was defined by
An air handler with a DDC capacity to both offset a 30F winter
the performance characteristics of DX
night and neutralize the solar load
controller and the means for equipment. When the supply-air
from large expanses of glass. Many of
sensing outdoor airflow and temperature exceeded 60F, fan
these applications used 40F-to-45F
maintaining it at a set point horsepower and fan noise increased
supply air; doing so permitted limited
noticeably, and loss of humidity control
quantities of primary air to offset the
became more likely. At the same time,
high gains conducted through floor-to-
When properly controlled, the temperatures colder than 55F more
ceiling glass substantially reducing
energy cost of providing additional often led to frost formation on direct-
duct sizes.
expansion cooling coils, especially when
reheat for a cold-air design need not coil air volume was reduced. How much
exceed 2 to 5 per square foot. The influence of VAV. Energy- did this phenomenon contribute to our
conserving construction practices and present design conventions?
materialsincluding less glass, better
U-factors, and better shading Perhaps it is less important to know
coefficientseliminated the radical how the paradigm of 55F supply air
load variations that induction systems came to be than to know whether that
addressed. It also paved the way for the paradigm yields the best possible
new kid on the block: variable-air- design on a case-by-case basis.
volume (VAV) designs that simply
changed the volume of air introduced to
the space to match the load. The VAV
trim for foldout

5 Trane Engineers Newsletter Vol. 29, No. 2

cannot be ignored. Intelligent system
control is crucial to realize the potential
energy savings.

A Final Thought Application Checklist for Cold-Air Distribution

Distributing cold air (48F or less) Sound engineering and construction Air handlers and ductwork
presents an excellent opportunity and practices can yield significant cost savings Size the cooling coil to limit carryover
motive to refine VAV-system designs. for any comfort-system design, but the
Use dual-slope drain pans to prevent
economic potential associated with cold
After all, air conditioning must compete standing water
supply air is particularly compelling.
with the dollars spent on glass, office Plan for proper trapping: the air
furniture, communication systems, and This checklist identifies the basic handler must be mounted high enough
other building technology. A comfort attributes of an HVAC system designed for above the floor to accommodate total
effective cold-air distribution. trap height and depth
system that reduces building cost,
reduces HVAC cost, and lowers energy For more information on this subject, be Gasket all access panels, door openings,
and inspection windows in positive-
cost while improving comfort and sure to consult ASHRAE publication
90396, Cold Air Distribution System pressure sections
indoor air quality makes sense in
Guide, and Trane publication SYS-AM-15, Insulate all air-handler and supply-
todays competitive marketplace.
Managing Building Moisture. duct walls
Specify sealing at all air-handler
By Don Eppelheimer, applications Building construction penetrations, including connections for
engineer, and Brenda Bradley, Use a vapor retarder on the warm side coil piping and electrical service
of perimeter walls to minimize vapor-
information designer, The Trane
pressure diffusion
Company. Terminal devices
Place all HVAC equipment within the Select linear slot diffusers with a high-
vapor barrier aspiration ratio to provide proper air
To comment on this article, send a note
to The Trane Company, Engineers Do not install the cold-air system in
unconditioned spaces such as attics or When using regular diffusers, install
Newsletter Editor, 3600 Pammel Creek
plenums fan-powered VAV terminals in all zones
Road, La Crosse, Wisconsin 54601; or
Specify VAV terminals with gasketed
e-mail us from www.trane.com. You
Equipment room panels and insulated surfaces
can also find back issues of recent Duct outdoor air directly to the air
Engineers Newsletters on the Trane handlerdo not use the equipment
Intelligent control strategies
Web site. room as a plenum
Maintain positive building pressure in
Consider pressurizing and cooling climates to prevent infiltration
dehumidifying the equipment room Use set-point reset for supply-air
with a small volume of supply air
temperature to minimize reheat
If the return air is unducted, use a
Provide set-point reset for supply-air
return fan to pressurize the equipment
static pressure to minimize fan energy
and improve zone control
Insulate and vapor-seal cold surfaces
Operate fan-powered VAV terminals
such as condensate drain pipes and
continuously during occupied periods,
chilled water pipes (leaving and
and when primary airflow is less than
20 to 30 percent of design

The Trane Company

An American Standard Company
Trane believes the facts and suggestions presented here to be accurate. However,
For more information, contact your
local district office or e-mail us at final design and application decisions are your responsibility. Trane disclaims
comfort@trane.com any responsibility for actions taken on the material presented.

6 ENEWS-29/2