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Technical paper
Hydraulic balance in a district cooling system

Herman Boysen, Product Application Manager, Danfoss A/S

Published in DBDH 2003 (www.dbdh.dk)

Hydraulic balance in 
a district cooling system

During the last two decades, the number of established Author(s)

district cooling systems has increased rapidly.

Herman Boysen, Product Application Manager,

Danfoss A/S
Danfoss District Energy, Nordborg, Denmark,
+45 7488 4123 · boy@danfoss.com

This may be caused by the fact that a change of ΔT in a district cooling in the pipe network increases in relation
today`s district cooling systems are: system will result in a much higher rate to the change in typical district cooling
• More economically attractive of change in circulated water flow in the systems ΔT, compared to a typical
• More environmentally friendly distribution network for a district district heating system. This shows that
• More efficient cooling system. This, again, will cause even small changes in district cooling
an increasing need for a pump effect systems` ΔT can cost a lot in pump
This means that today, much more than
and a lower efficiency of the systems. effect, or, if the pump capacity is
earlier, district cooling can meet the
Figure 1 shows how the pressure drop insufficient, in energy supply.
demand for air conditioning systems
and other applications where cooling is
Important preconditions of a district
cooling systems` success are a well Pressure loss in distribution network
functioning distribution net, system
type and the right choice of consumer 0,30
systems. The choice of control district cooling
equipment for hydraulic balancing of 0,25 district heating
the water flow in the network and
Pressure loss kPa/m

consumer systems is very important, as 0,20

well as the temperature control.
District cooling systems typically 0,15
operate with considerably lower
temperature differences than the 0,10
traditionally known district heating
systems. Typical temperature 0,05
differences (ΔT) for district heating
systems are 40-50°C, whereas the
differences in district cooling systems 0 1 2 3 4
are 6-10°C.
Temperature displacement °C
As the capacities in district cooling
systems are very often high, it means
that the systems will circulate a much
larger flow of water than the traditional FIGURE 1: Pressure loss kPa/m related to decreasing ΔT
district heating systems. Therefore,

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Technical Paper Hydraulic balance in a district cooling system

In looking for the right system

application, it is therefore important to T11
focus on systems with a high ΔT and
keep this ΔT as a minimum under all
operational conditions.
In this article, recommendations will be AVTA T12 AFP/AFPB
given for:
• Choice of the right concept for high ΔT
and high efficiency
• Temperature control of the systems
• Hydraulic balancing of the systems
• Choice of balancing valves FIGURE 2: By-pass in a district cooling system where a normally closed self-acting
• Settings of the control equipment controller is chosen in a by-pass to keep the right temperature at the
inlet of the building.
System type
A district cooling system can be split into:
Distribution system:
• Constant flow system
• Variable flow system
Substation type:
• Directly connected systems
• Indirectly connected systems
House systems:
• System with or without mixing loops
Constant flow systems

Distribution system
The main purpose of a district cooling
network is to deliver the sufficient
capacity needed for the consumer;
nothing more. This can be achieved by FIGURE 3: Balancing valves, flow limiters and flow controllers, which can be used
establishing a hydraulic balance as in district cooling systems to maintain a hydraulic balance.
a well-designed network.
A district cooling system is in hydraulic
balance when the water flow to the
individual part of the systems has
exactly the volume necessary to Qmax
maintain the required or designed
water flow at the current load.
The consequence of a non-existing ∆pmin AVP ∆pcircuit
hydraulic balance in a district cooling M
system can be a high rate circulation in
the system or a lack of supply to the
Constant flow systems
In a constant flow system, the circulated
water flow is independent of the ∆pAVP ∆pmotor valve
consumption. To maintain a constant
water flow in the network, a diverting
valve is used in each substation,
diverting the supply water either to the FIGURE 4: Differentail pressure control of a mixing loop in a district cooling system.
consumer or to the return pipe.

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Technical Paper Hydraulic balance in a district cooling system

The consequences of choosing

a constant flow system are:
• Hydraulic balance in the system.
• Low ΔT in the distribution network at
low consumption. ∆pmin AVPB ∆pexchanger
• High velocity of the water stream in
the pipe network (meaning low water
temperature at the consumer)
• High return temperature, i.e. high heat
transfer from the ambience to the
return pipe. ∆prestrictor
• High rate of circulated water in the ∆pAVPB ∆pmotor valve
network = high pumping costs.
Variable flow system
In a variable flow system, the circulated
FIGURE 5: Differential pressure control and flow limitation of a heat exchanger
water flow depends on the
system in a district-cooling network.
consumption in the system. The control
valves in these type of systems are
2-way valves. Here the water flow
depends on the consumption at the
consumers. The consequence is Qmax
therefore a lower circulated water flow
and a higher return temperature. ∆pmin AVPQ ∆pcircuit
Taking into consideration the M
advantages and disadvantages, one
thing is clear − if a hydraulic balance
and low supply temperature are
established in a variable flow system,
then a variable flow system is to be
preferred as network type in a district ∆prestrictor
cooling system. ∆pAVPQ ∆pmotor valve
As the velocity of the flow stream in
a variable flow system is low at low
consumption, there is a risk that the
water in the supply pipe will be heated
too much from the ambient FIGURE 6: Combined differential pressure and flow control of a mixing loop in
temperature before it enters the a district cooling system.
A solution for solving this problem is to Manual balancing valves loops to balance the secondary water
mount a normally closed thermostatic Manual valves are mainly used to (see figures 4 and 6).
valve of the type AVTA in a bypass line restrict the water flow in a branch at Differential pressure controllers
right after the entrance in the building a given differential pressure. As soon as
(see figures 2, 8 and 9. The control function of a differential
the water flow in a manual balancing
pressure controller is to keep a constant
valve decreases, the restricting effect in
differential pressure in a control loop
Hydraulic balance it will be reduced drastically. These
independent of the water flow in the
types of valves are therefore useful and
Establishing a hydraulic balance in system. This function reduces the risk of
mostly applied in systems with small
a system is a matter of adapting the instable temperature control, because
variations in the water flow.
system’s water flow to the max. the differential pressure across the
consumption. Equipment for this The manual balancing valves with temperature control valve will be more
purpose can be the following: temperature controllers have a few or less constant during all flow
disadvantages − varying capacity in the variations.
• Manual balancing valves
loop, unstable differential pressure
• Differential pressure controllers In a mixing loop (as shown in figure 4),
across the temperature control valve
• Combined differential pressure control the set pressure of the differential
and, consequently, unstable
and flow limitation pressure controller will be the
temperature control.
• Combined differential pressure and calculated differential pressure across
flow control The manual balancing valves are very the motorized control valve ΔP motor
often used in systems with mixing valve. If the return water flow is mixed
up in the mixing loop at max. load, the

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Technical Paper Hydraulic balance in a district cooling system


District cooling
Supply station


Distribution network branch

with balancing valves

FIGURE 7: Hydraulic balancing valves in a district cooling network.

T11 T22



FIGURE 8: Self-acting control of a district cooling substation.

ΔP circuit can be restricted with the Combined differential pressure control the restrictor on top of the control valve.
manually balancing valve. and flow limitation. As the flow limitation in this controller is
Combination valves A combined differential pressure based on all restrictions in the loop, this
In systems where the capacity is limited, controller and flow limiter consists of type of flow controller is often used in
or where the tariff of district cooling is a differential pressure controller with an a loop, in which the differential pressure
based on the allocated capacity, a type integrated restrictor on top of the valve. across all equipment, is known. Typically
of flow limitation or flow control in A differential pressure controller with an these systems consist of a heat
combination with a differential pressure integrated restrictor controls the exchanger and a control valve (see fig. 5).
controller might be preferred. differential pressure across a number of It is only used in systems where the flow
units in a loop where the restrictor is in limitation is the allocated capacity for
series (see figure 5). The flow limitation the whole loop.
(the ΔP restrictor) is then set by means of

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Technical Paper Hydraulic balance in a district cooling system

ESM-10 ECL 300

T11 ESM- T22

AMV 55



T11 T22




FIGURE 9: Electronic control of a heat exchanger (above) and a mixing loop (below) in a district cooling system.

Combined differential pressure Combination valves of this type can • Distribution networks
and flow control typically be used in systems where the • House substations
A combined differential pressure restriction in the total loop is unknown • In-house systems
controller and flow controller has two and where the capacity is limited to
diaphragm elements. The lower a level lower than the designed Distribution networks
element is for the control of the capacity for the whole loop. Typical for
this controller are directly connected In order to make sure that all consumers
differential pressure in a system loop. have sufficient capacity and the
The element near to the controller has systems with and without mixing loop
(see fig. 6), or systems in which the flow necessary water flow in the pipe
the function of controlling and limiting network, the system has to be carefully
the water flow in the system limitation is set for more loops or
branches in the total system − balanced.
independent of the differential pressure
controller function. Like the flow limiter, i.e. systems in which the total restriction A good solution to this problem could
the controller has a restrictor integrated is difficult to determine. be the use of a differential pressure or
in the valve. In this way, a differential flow controller (see figure  7).
pressure controller controls System adjusting The flow controller will be a good
a differential pressure in a control loop. solution in case of smaller systems,
The flow control is based on the The precondition for a well functioning where the delivered capacities in the
differential pressure across the district cooling system is a balanced individual branches are known.
restrictor and its setting. water flow. The system can be split up Differential pressure controllers and the
in three groups that are balanced limitation of the flow in the system can
The controlled flow is then set with the individually. The groups are the
restrictor on top of the control valve. be set according to the calculated
following: pressure loss in the pipe network.

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Technical Paper Hydraulic balance in a district cooling system

In branches with high water flow, pilot differential temperature ΔT) in the Differential pressure or flow control
controlled valves can be used as system − there is no temperature loss in If a capacity control is preferred,
balancing valves. In pilot controlled the heat exchanger. a combined differential pressure and
valves, small differential pressure When using heat exchangers in the flow controller will be the right solution
controllers or flow controllers are used system, a lower system pressure can be (see figure 8). The differential pressure
as control valve for the main diaphragm established in the secondary net, which controller has to be set in such a way
valve. is an advantage, too. Furthermore, that no flow will run in the bypass when
The advantages of pilot controlled these two systems can run different the designed or the set return
valves are − first of all − the price level types of media because they are temperature is achieved. This can easily
of the valve, as well as its wide hydraulically separated. be checked on a thermometer in the
rangeability. This means that a stable supply line. If T11 and T show the same
controlled pressure can be expected temperature, then no flow will run in
Control of smaller systems
even with very small water flows. the bypass line.
Temperature control
Smaller systems with mixing loops very Control of bigger systems
House substations often have self-acting thermostatic
House substations can be directly valves for temperature control of the Because of the demand for more
connected or connected with a heat set return temperature in the house control functions in bigger systems,
exchanger between the primary and system. The sensor of the thermostatic electronic temperature controllers are
secondary net. valve is placed in the return to control often selected. In that case, a weather
the return temperature, and will make compensator with an integrated return
The directly connected system can be
sure that a high return temperature is temperature limitation function will be
completed with and without a mixing
achieved. If the return temperature the preferred option.
loop. In a mixing loop, the supply
temperature to the individual systems is not maintained, the thermostatic The supply temperature can then be
in the house can be controlled. valve will start to close and the return controlled according to the outdoor
water will then be bypassed into the temperature. This will increase the level
The advantage of directly connected
supply water and increase the supply of comfort. However, a high return
systems is the high efficiency (a high
temperature to the house systems.

District cooling
house system Secondary cooling






FIGURE 10: A house system with air-conditioning systems.

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Technical Paper Hydraulic balance in a district cooling system

temperature is of high priority. House systems Conclusion

Therefore, the controller has to have
Together with the temperature As stated in this article, a high system
a return temperature limitation
controllers, a hydraulic balancing of the ΔT is a very important factor in
function to keep the water temperature
house system will ensure a high rate of obtaining a high system efficiency.
on a sufficient level. The return
ΔT in the system. For this purpose, Another positive impact of a high ΔT is
temperature limitation can be weather
self-acting balancing valves are that sufficient capacity can be delivered
compensated so that a higher return
preferred − apart from their balancing to the consumers.
temperature can be accepted at high
function, they also have an impact on Maintaining a hydraulic balance all over
load of the system.
the temperature control. Thus, a stable the system including the secondary net
Differential pressure or flow control and precise temperature control can be is of high importance. Here, self-acting
The criteria of selecting flow control/ achieved in the air conditioning controllers play an important role
limitation or just differential pressure systems. The choice of balancing valves because of the constant differential
control are the same as in small depends of the type of systems. pressure under all conditions. This also
systems. However, if the system has
In central systems, like air conditioning improves the temperature control.
a heat exchanger and capacity control
and air handling systems where A correct choice of application,
is demanded, a combined differential
a motorized control valve controls the including control equipment, also has
pressure controller and flow limiter can
supply temperature, a traditional a big influence on the temperature
be used (see figure 9).
differential pressure controller can be conditions in the system and improves
In a system with a mixing loop, the used (see figure 10). the comfort as well.
differential pressure controller has to be
The differential pressure controller is set
set in such a way that no water mixes
in the same way as the electronically
up in the secondary supply line at max.
controlled substations. This means that
there is a max. flow at fully open
The procedure for the setting is the motorized control valve and no flow in
following: the bypass line under this condition.
• Set the differential pressure on the In decentred air handling units such as
differential pressure controller, or set induction units, the choice of balancing
the flow limiter according to max. valve type depends on the control
water flow in the line. valves for the units.
• Adjust the water flow in the secondary If the control valves have a pre-setting
main line so that no flow will run in the function, a traditional differential
mixing loop (T11 = T22) pressure control function can be
This water flow can be adjusted with chosen. If not, a differential pressure
a manual balancing valve or with an controller in combination with a flow
adjustable circulation pump. limitation function is a better solution.

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Technical Paper Hydraulic balance in a district cooling system

More articles [1] Valve characteristics for motorized valves in district heating substations
 by Atli Benonysson and Herman Boysen
[2] District heating house substations and selection of regulating valves
by Herman Boysen
[3] Optimum control of heat exchangers by Atli Benonysson and Herman Boysen
[4] Auto tuning and motor protection as part of the pre-setting procedure
in a heating system by Herman Boysen
[5] kv: What, Why, How, Whence? By Herman Boysen
[6] Pilot controlled valve without auxiliary energy for heating and cooling system
 by Martin Hochmuth
[7] Pressure oscillation in district heating installation by Bjarne Stræde
[8] Dynamic simulation of DH House Stations by Jan Eric Thorsen
[9] Differential pressure controllers as a tool for optimization of heating systems
 by Herman Boysen

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on our homepage: www.districtenergy.danfoss.com

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