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Chapter 1 - Introduction

5

CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION

Desiccant Systems

Desiccant systems and components are a useful addition to the engineer's tool kit. They allow independent control of humidity, as well as potential energy savings and increased comfort levels.

BENEFITS FOR THE SECOND CENTURY OF AIR CONDITIONING

Desiccant technology now stands where mechanical cool- ing stood in the 1930's. Desiccant systems have been used by industrial engineers for years to achieve productivity and energy benefits which far outweigh their installed cost. Now, with lower cost desiccant components, commercial build- ings are using desiccant systems because they provide ben- efits beyond those of simple air cooling.

In many ways, the rise of desiccant systems is parallel to the 80-year-old transition from fan-only cooling to mechanical cooling. Mechanical cooling did not reduce the need for fans and blowers. Likewise, desiccant technology will not reduce the need for mechanical cooling; it will simply shift part of the cooling load to thermal energy sources. Also, just as mechanical cooling add cost to a fan-only system, desic- cant equipment can sometimes cost more than mechanical cooling. But just as cooling coils add functionality to a ven- tilation system, desiccant systems provide benefits which are beyond the reach of mechanical cooling systems. Spe- cifically, desiccant systems can provide:

• Precise control of humidity, independent of temperature.

• Dew points below the practical limits of cooling technology.

• Comfortable conditions during cool, muggy weather

• Lower operating cost

• Lower peak electrical demand.

• Ability to use low-cost thermal energy to control both humidity and temperature.

• Dry duct systems in accordance with ASHRAE Standard 62, avoiding microbial and fungal growth associated with sick building syndrome.

REALIZING THE BENEFITS

The growing popularity of desiccant systems is analogous to the addition of cooling systems to fans systems in an- other important respect. Namely, the system must be de- signed differently to take advantage of benefits and to mini- mize installed cost.

One hundred years ago, engineers could cool a building us- ing only fans, but the air flows used were very large, and air flow velocities had to be kept high. When mechanical cool- ing arrived in the engineer's tool kit, air flows and air veloci- ties could be greatly reduced because of the greater cool- ing capacity of cold air. But if air flows were not reduced, a mechanical cooling system could be cost-prohibitive. The transition to desiccant systems is similar. A building's air handling system must be designed to take advantage of the technical differences between the desiccant system and the older technology it replaces or supplements.

That's the reason for this application guide: to provide en- gineers with an "efficient thought process" about the ad- vantages and limitations of desiccants. With this knowledge, desiccants can be applied as quickly as other air condition- ing technologies, and possibly more cost-effectively.

The guide will describe how desiccant systems work, what components they contain and how to install and maintain them. It also describes general application principles for such systems, and gives examples of how those principles are applied in practice to specific buildings.

THE FUTURE

Information contained in this guide pertains primarily to commercial buildings, and as this edition goes to press, des- iccant system applications are expanding very rapidly. We sincerely hope that the reader will find this information use- ful. And as his or her experience with desiccants expands, we look forward to hearing the reader's suggestions to im- prove and expand the guide in future editions.

suggestions to im- prove and expand the guide in future editions. COMMERCIAL DESICCANT SYSTEM APPLICATION GUIDE
suggestions to im- prove and expand the guide in future editions. COMMERCIAL DESICCANT SYSTEM APPLICATION GUIDE

Chapter 2 - Fundamentals

7

CHAPTER 2 FUNDAMENTALS

Operating Principles

Desiccant components are mechanically quite simple, durable and reliable.

DESICCANTS

Desiccants are materials which can attract and hold mois- ture. Nearly any material is a desiccant—even glass can col- lect a small amount of moisture. But desiccants used in com- mercial equipment are selected for their ability to hold large amounts of moisture. For example, the silica gel packets often sealed into vitamin bottles can hold moisture equal to about 20% of their dry weight. Liquid desiccant materials can hold even more moisture. But all desiccants used in com- mercial systems work the same way.

HOW DESICCANTS WORK

Desiccants remove water vapor by chemical attraction caused by differences in vapor pressure. When air is humid, it has a high water vapor pressure. In contrast, there are very few water molecules on a dry desiccant surface, so the water vapor pressure at the desiccant surface is very low. Water molecules move from the humid air to the dry desic- cant in order to equalize this pressure differential.

With desiccants, moisture removal occurs in the vapor phase. There is no liquid condensate. Consequently, desic- cant dehumidification can continue even when the dew point of the air is below freezing. This is different from cool- ing-based dehumidification, in which the moisture freezes and halts the process if part of the coil surface is below 32 F.

Desiccants can be either liquids or solids, and there are many different materials of both types. The principles described here apply to both liquid and solid systems. However, the great majority of systems built for commercial buildings use solid desiccants.

DESICCANT WHEELS

Figure 1 shows the basic desiccant component—the wheel. The desiccant material, usually a silica gel or some type of zeolite, is impregnated into a support structure. This looks like an honeycomb which is open on both ends. Air passes

Desiccant Wheel Operation

Reactivation

Heater Moist Reactivation Air Humid Process Air Dry Process Air to the HVAC System Honeycomb
Heater
Moist
Reactivation Air
Humid Process Air
Dry Process Air to
the HVAC System
Honeycomb
Matrix
Desiccant Wheel

Moist "process" air is passed through a rotating wheel, which looks like a ceramic honeycomb. The desiccant in the wheel absorbs moisture. Then the wheel slowly rotates into a second, heated air stream.

The hot "reactivation" air removes moisture from the desiccant so it can absorb more humidity when the wheel rotates back into the process air stream.

Figure 1. Desiccant wheel operating principles

through the honeycomb passages, giving up moisture to the desiccant contained in the walls of the honeycomb cells. The desiccant structure is formed into the shape of a wheel. The wheel constantly rotates through two separate air streams. The first air stream, called the process air, is dried by the desiccant. The second air stream, called reactivation or regeneration air, is heated. It dries the desiccant.

8

Chapter 2 - Fundamentals

Moisture Exchange (Enthalpy Wheel) 75∞ 70 gr/lb Exhaust Air Outdoor Air 76∞ 85∞ 77 gr/lb
Moisture Exchange
(Enthalpy Wheel)
75∞
70 gr/lb
Exhaust Air
Outdoor Air
76∞
85∞
77 gr/lb
120 gr/lb
20 rpm
An enthalpy wheel has a small amount of desiccant, so
it can move moisture from the supply air to the exhaust.
But without heat for reactivation, its dehumidification
capacity depends on the dryness of the exhaust air.
Moisture Removal (Desiccant Wheel) 250∞ 85∞ 120 gr/lb 120 gr/lb Outdoor Air Reactivation Heater Outdoor
Moisture Removal
(Desiccant Wheel)
250∞
85∞
120 gr/lb
120 gr/lb
Outdoor Air
Reactivation Heater
Outdoor Air
121∞
85∞
42 gr/lb
120 gr/lb
0.2 rpm
A desiccant wheel rotates slowly, and contains more
desiccant than an enthalpy wheel. By heating the
reactivation air, it can remove much more water vapor
than an enthalpy wheel.

Figure 2. Desiccant wheels compared to energy recovery wheels

DESICCANTS CHANGE VAPOR TO HEAT

One aspect of desiccant wheel behavior can be confusing to the first-time user of the technology; air leaves a desic- cant wheel dry, but warmer than when it entered the wheel. For example, if air enters a desiccant wheel at 70F and 50% rh, it will leave the wheel at about 100F and 4% rh.

This non-intuitive behavior becomes easier to understand as the reverse of evaporative cooling. When water is sprayed into air, it evaporates by using part of the sensible heat in the air—so the dry bulb temperature falls as water vapor is added to the air. That process is intuitive to children run- ning through sprinklers in summertime.

Desiccants produce the opposite phenomenon. As water va- por is removed from air, the dry bulb temperature of the air rises. The amount of temperature rise depends on the amount of water removed. More water removal produces a greater temperature rise. The initial user naturally asks: how can desiccant systems save cooling energy if dehumidifica- tion adds sensible heat to the air? Part of the answer is that some heat is moved to reactivation by a heat exchanger. (Chapter 3, figure 4) The rest of the answer depends on the application.

For example, if air is dry, it may not be necessary to cool it if the space is already overcooled—as in a supermarket, where display cases cool the aisles as well as the product. Alternatively, dry air can be cooled using low-cost indirect evaporative cooling such as cooling towers, or with highly efficient vapor compression systems operating at high evaporator temperatures. In such cases, desiccants can save energy and energy cost.

ENERGY RECOVERY VS. DESICCANT WHEELS

Desiccant wheels are often confused with energy recovery wheels. The confusion is understandable. Both devices look nearly the same, because energy recovery wheels and des- iccant wheels are constructed with honeycomb media. Also, total heat or "enthalpy" wheels contain desiccant. Also, sen- sible-only heat wheels are sometimes used as post-coolers in desiccant systems. But there are important functional dif- ferences between these devices which appear so similar.

Heat wheels are optimized to transfer sensible heat between two air streams, while desiccant wheels are optimized to re- move moisture. These different purposes lead to differences in materials and in wheel rotation speed. An energy recov- ery wheel rotates at a comparatively high speed (20 rpm), to maximize the heat transfer between air streams. A desic- cant wheel rotates 60 times more slowly (10 to 20 rph). The slow rotation speed allows the desiccant to adsorb more moisture, and it minimizes the amount of heat carried over from the hot reactivation air into the cooler process air.

If the exhaust air is dry, an energy recovery wheel can trans- fer some moisture out of the incoming air. But energy re- covery wheels contain less desiccant than desiccant wheels. Also, the honeycomb material, air seals and support struc- ture of an enthalpy wheel cannot endure the temperature and moisture differences typical of desiccant wheel opera- tion. Consequently, the wheels perform quite differently.

As seen in figure 2, thermal energy used for reactivation allows desiccant wheels to remove much more moisture than energy recovery wheels. Desiccant wheels can deliver air be- low the moisture condition of the exhaust air. That level of dryness cannot be reached with energy recovery wheels.

air. That level of dryness cannot be reached with energy recovery wheels. COMMERCIAL DESICCANT SYSTEM APPLICATION
air. That level of dryness cannot be reached with energy recovery wheels. COMMERCIAL DESICCANT SYSTEM APPLICATION

Chapter 3 - Types Of Desiccant Systems

9

CHAPTER 3 TYPES OF DESICCANT SYSTEMS

All-Desiccant & Hybrid Systems

Desiccant systems combine a desiccant wheel with additional cooling and heating components. These may be conventional gas-driven or vapor-compression coolers, or they may be evaporative coolers combined with heat exchangers.

COMMERCIAL DESICCANT SYSTEMS

Figure 1 shows a typical example of a desiccant system de- signed for a commercial building. It includes a desiccant wheel for humidity control, and a conventional vapor com- pression cooling system for temperature control.

ALL-DESICCANT SYSTEMS

Figure 2 shows how a desiccant wheel can be combined with a rotary heat exchanger to form a complete air condition- ing system. Air is dried by the desiccant wheel, and then cooled by the heat exchanger.

Such designs combine the best of both technologies, and point to one of the principal advantages of desiccant-as- sisted HVAC systems, namely that they can control humid- ity independently of temperature. The desiccant subsystem is controlled by a humidistat and the cooling coil is con- trolled by a thermostat. This allows humidity control regard- less of what the space may or may not need for heat re- moval.

This configuration has useful advantages when large amounts of fresh air are needed, and when the exhaust air can be evaporatively cooled and used for post-cooling the air leaving the desiccant wheel. Under those circumstances, an all-desiccant system is the same physical size as conven- tional alternatives because the ventilation air required for the building defines the overall system's air flow.

The system also uses very little electrical power, so it has advantages when electrical demand charges are high. When these two circumstances combine, such as when large amounts of ventilation air must be added to an existing building in an area with high peak demand charges, the all- desiccant system will reduce both energy and first cost com- pared to other ways of adding the increased fresh air.

The disadvantage of the all-desiccant system is that, at peak design tem- peratures, it delivers sup- ply air at temperatures above 70 F.

But fundamentally, there are two different types of desic- cant systems: those which use only desiccants for all cool- ing and humidity control, and those like the system in fig- ure 3, which combine desiccants with conventional compo- nents.

3, which combine desiccants with conventional compo- nents. Figure 1. Hybrid desiccant system using both desiccant

Figure 1. Hybrid desiccant system using both desiccant and vapor- compression cooling.

10

Chapter 3 - Types Of Desiccant Systems

All-Desiccant Air Conditioning System

All-Desiccant Air Conditioning System Desiccant Wheel Reactivation Heater Heat Wheel Evaporative Pad Exhaust Air Supply

Desiccant Wheel

Reactivation Heater

Heat Wheel

Evaporative Pad

Exhaust Air

Supply Air

Heater Heat Wheel Evaporative Pad Exhaust Air Supply Air Chicago 2.5% Design 91∞, 92gr/lb 48gr/lb 72∞
Chicago 2.5% Design 91∞, 92gr/lb 48gr/lb 72∞ 75∞ 100∞ 125∞
Chicago 2.5% Design
91∞, 92gr/lb
48gr/lb
72∞
75∞
100∞
125∞

Figure 2 All-Desiccant system, including an indirect evaporative cooler.

The only exceptions are in far-north and high-altitude cli- mates, where the ambient moisture is so low that evapora- tive cooling can provide lower air temperatures.

So in most climates, if the building does not need a large percentage of ventilation air, and when the exhaust air can- not be collected and brought back to the unit for post-cool- ing, the all-desiccant system has a disadvantage compared to a hybrid system. Since it cannot cool air below 70F on a "design day", the all-desiccant system must use large amounts of air to remove a given heat load. Such systems are physically much larger than an equivalent conventional cooling system . The conventional system would supply 55air, and therefore remove the same internal sensible heat load using less air.

For example, consider a small office building maintained at 75F with an internal sensible heat load of 180,000 Btu/h (15 tons). If the supply air can be cooled to 55 F, the system will have to supply 8,333 cfm:

Btu/h = cfm x 1.08 x t

cfm = (180,000) (1.08 x (75 - 55))

cfm required @55F = 8,333

But if the supply air can only be cooled to 70 F, the tem- perature difference between supply and return is only 5F , so the air flow needed to remove the load is much greater:

Btu/h = cfm x 1.08 x t

cfm required @ 70F = (180,000) (1.08 x (75 - 70))

cfm = 33,333

However, if that office building needs a great deal of out- side air, the all-desiccant system could handle the ventila- tion load, and a separate system arranged to handle the in- ternal heat load. In that circumstance, the all-desiccant sys- tem has advantages over a conventional system.

The desiccant system's 70F delivered air removes some in- ternal load since the space is being maintained at 75 F. And the heat exchanger in the desiccant system can operate during cooler months, to recover waste heat from the build- ing exhaust. Since the system size is governed by the re- quired outside air quantity and not by the internal load, the all-desiccant system is the same size as a conventional alter- native. So installed cost is close to the same, and the desic- cant system costs much less to operate because it uses so little electrical power.

In summary, an all-desiccant system is generally attractive when:

• Large amounts of air must be exhausted from the building.

• The exhaust air can be brought back to where the make-up air enters the building.

• Electrical demand charges are high.

• Supplying outside air at 70F is adequate for the application.

In other circumstances, the engineer may wish to consider a hybrid desiccant system.

Chapter 3 - Types Of Desiccant Systems

11

Hybrid Desiccant System Hardware Options Heat Exchanger Direct-Fired Gas Reactivation Pre-Heat Reactivation Heater
Hybrid Desiccant System
Hardware Options
Heat Exchanger
Direct-Fired Gas
Reactivation Pre-Heat
Reactivation Heater
Optional
Desiccant Wheel
Indirect Evaporative
(Reactivation Sector)
Post-Cooler
Reactivation Fan
Reactivation Air
Exhaust
A
BC
D
E
3
6
5
2
1
To Conditioned Space
4
Process Air
Optional
Direct Evaporative
Post-Cooler
Filter
Optional
Cooling Coil
Desiccant Wheel
Process Air Sector
Heat Wheel
Heating The Air
Cooling The Air
Process Air Fan
Post-cooling

Figure 5. Hybrid desiccant system, including a variety of heating and cooling options.

HYBRID DESICCANT SYSTEMS

Figure 5 shows the wide variety of components which can form hybrid desiccant systems, i.e: systems which include a desiccant component along with gas cooling or conventional coils.

Figure 6 shows the psychrometric behavior of different sys- tem alternatives. Note especially the dry bulb temperature leaving the system. To a great extent, the leaving air tem- perature determines which applications are economically practical for each system alternative.

Some applications, such as hotel corridors and ice rinks, are not sensitive to a leaving air temperature of 78 to 85F on a design day during the summer. So an indirect evaporative post-cooler is the best cooling option because it is quite economical to install and operate. Other applications like hospital operating rooms must have air at relative humidi- ties below 50% rh and temperatures below 65 F. In those cases, gas cooling or conventional cooling coils will be re- quired downstream of the desiccant wheel.

To understand each equipment alternative, we will track the process air as it moves through the system. The diagrams in figure 6 assume the system is arranged to handle 100% out- door air on the process side, and 100% outdoor air for reac- tivation.

1 Air enters the process side of the desiccant wheel from outside the building. It is hot and humid.

2 Air leaves the process side of the desiccant wheel hotter, and much drier than when it entered the system. In most cases, this air is too hot to send directly to the building. It must be cooled.

3 Dry air leaves the first stage of post-cooling at a lower temperature. The sensible heat has been removed from the process air and transferred to the reactivation air by a heat exchanger. The schematic here shows a rotary heat wheel, but heat pipes and plate-type heat exchangers are used by many system suppliers instead of heat wheels. Regardless of the type of heat exchanger, it provides a double benefit: the process air is cooled using only the energy needed to push the air through the exchanger. So the operating cost of the cooling is very low. Secondly, the heat from process is used to pre-heat incoming reactivation air, which saves slightly on the cost of thermal energy.

4 Point 4 represents the additional cooling which can be accomplished by the heat exchanger if the air on the other side of the heat exchanger is

12

Chapter 3 - Types Of Desiccant Systems

Psychrometrics of Each Desiccant System Alternative

Direct Evaporative Cooling Option Can save operating costs, but may increase unit installed cost because more air will be needed for the same sensible cooling load, and humidity in duct work is high.

Cooling Coil Option Post-cooling with vapor compression or absorption systems provides greater cooling capacity and a dry system at an increased operating cost

Indirect Evaporative Cooling Option Increases the post cooling effect of the heat wheel, reducing operating expense for the cost of providing water for the cooling pads

Process Air Path 1 6 5 4 3
Process
Air
Path
1
6
5
4 3
75∞
75∞

Heat Exchanger Post-Cooling Saves considerable operating cost by moving heat from the process air to the reactivation air. Both cooling and heating energy requirements are reduced by the heat exchanger.

Desiccant Dehumidification Removes moisture from the supply air, but adds heat in proportion to the
Desiccant Dehumidification
Removes moisture from the
supply air, but adds heat in
proportion to the amount of water
removed. Low-cost post-cooling
is essential to achieving overall
cost savings.
2
100∞
125∞
E
Reactivation
Air
Path
B
D
A C

75

100

125

E Reactivation Air Path B D A C 75 ∞ 100 ∞ 125 ∞ 250 ∞

250

Outside Air Entering The System

Indirect Post-Cooling Option Saves substantial cooling energy on the process side at the expense of slightly increased gas cost in reactivation.

Optional Waste Heat Recovery Saves a modest amount of heating energy in return for an increase in installed cost.

Direct-Fired Heater Reactivates the desiccant at very low cost.

Figure 6. State points within a desiccant system.

evaporatively cooled. In this option, the incoming reactivation air is cooled by an evaporative pad before it enters the heat exchanger. Since the air on the reactivation side of the exchanger is cooler, more heat can be removed from the process side. This diagram shows roughly what happens on a design day, so the evaporative cooling effect is not very large. But when outside air temperature and moisture is lower—99% of the time during the year—the cooling effect of the evaporative pad will be substantial. This reduces the need for any subsequent post cooling.

5 Point 5 shows the temperature and moisture leaving the system when a gas cooling or conventional cooling system follows the heat exchanger. Air is sent to the building at a very cool and very dry condition. This configuration is popular because it keeps air distribution ducts and filters dry and free of microbial growth. Low temperature, dry supply air allows the system to do a great deal of cooling and dehumidification with less air than conventional cooling systems.

6 An alternative to conventional cooling coils is a second evaporative cooling pad, this time on the process air side. Direct evaporative cooling seldom chills air as deeply as a conventional coil. Also, the supply air is saturated at a comparatively high temperature (73 to 78F on a design day). So such systems cannot be used to control humidity unless a relatively warm, highly humid environment is needed, as in a greenhouse.

The evaporative cooling option (point 6) is less expensive to install, and uses very little energy compared to conven- tional post-cooling alternatives. So this option has advan- tages when electrical power cost reduction is the principal goal of a project rather than humidity control.

To date, hybrid systems have been popular, perhaps because they combine the best characteristics of each technology:

desiccants for moisture removal and conventional cooling for sensible heat removal. Hybrid systems are nearly always

Chapter 3 - Types Of Desiccant Systems

13

Figure 7. Liquid desiccant system

Liquid Desiccant System and Flow Diagram

Liquid Desiccant System and Flow Diagram
Liquid Desiccant System and Flow Diagram

smaller than all-desiccant systems, because they can pro- vide air at low levels of both temperature and humidity. So smaller hybrid systems can do the same work as larger all- desiccant or all-cooling units.

LIQUID DESICCANT SYSTEMS

Over the last 15 years, manufacturers of desiccant systems for commercial buildings have concentrated primarily on desiccant wheel type units, which use solid desiccants. But in industrial markets, liquid desiccant systems have been used very effectively since the 1920's. In recent years, manu- facturers of liquid desiccant equipment have been expand- ing their activity in commercial markets.

The unique characteristics of liquid desiccant systems are effective in commercial applications, especially in larger buildings, where the advantages of liquid desiccants pro- vide cost-effective competition to both solid desiccants and to conventional cooling systems.

How Liquid Desiccants Work Liquid desiccants, such as lithium chloride, can absorb up to 1200 times their dry weight in water. The concentration of salt in the liquid solution determines the absorption char- acteristics of the liquid, which is sprayed into the process air. If the solution is concentrated, it can absorb moisture from drier air streams, and if the solution is dilute, it ab- sorbs moisture from more humid air streams.

So by controlling the concentration of the solution, one can control the humidity of the air that passes through the liq- uid spray. In order to control the temperature of the pro- cess air, one simply adjusts the temperature of the liquid desiccant being sprayed into that air.

Liquid systems are very simple in concept, as described above. In hardware, they are somewhat more complex, be- cause liquid desiccant solution can be corrosive, and because the components of the system can be located in different parts of a building with interconnecting piping. In the past, this flexibility of component arrangement has meant that in smaller sizes, liquid desiccant systems were more expen- sive to install than dry desiccant systems.

Unique advantages of liquid systems In larger sizes, liquid and solid desiccant systems are closer in cost, and the advantages of liquid systems can be signifi- cant. Specifically, liquid systems:

• Kill bacteria and viruses, clearing the air of biological contamination

• Can operate effectively with very low-temperature reactivation energy (as low as 130F)

• Can connect many process air conditioner sections with a single regenerator section, saving costs for large installations where many air inlets may be scattered widely through a building.

• Can use low-cost cooling tower water for removing sensible heat from the desiccant dehumidification process, eliminating any need for mechanical cooling equipment in many cases.

In summary, although a full discussion of liquid desiccant systems is beyond the scope of this application guide, the technology is well-proven. As manufacturers continue to re- duce costs and simplify installation, liquid systems will be applied in low-rise construction as well as in the larger com- mercial and institutional and industrial buildings where liq- uids have enjoyed success in the past.

and industrial buildings where liq- uids have enjoyed success in the past. COMMERCIAL DESICCANT SYSTEM APPLICATION
and industrial buildings where liq- uids have enjoyed success in the past. COMMERCIAL DESICCANT SYSTEM APPLICATION

Chapter 4 - Configurations & Consequences

15

CHAPTER 4 CONFIGURATIONS + CONSEQUENCES

100% Outside Air Systems

Desiccant systems are especially useful for providing dry and cool fresh air. A desiccant system can remove heat and moisture from ventilation air, freeing conventional systems to remove the buildings internal heat loads.

T he outside air ventilation requirements of ASHRAE Stan dard 62 can present a considerable challenge to HVAC system designers. Conventional equipment does not

deal effectively with large amounts of outside air. Thermal comfort and humidity control can suffer unless special mea- sures are taken to remove heat and moisture from fresh air.

Desiccant systems are ideal for preconditioning large amounts of fresh air. This section of the application guide will survey alternatives for 100% outside air desiccant sys- tems. Each system configuration has its own advantages and limitations, which will become apparent as the systems are compared to each other.

ISSUES FOR 100% OUTSIDE AIR SYSTEMS

In designing desiccant systems, removing the sensible heat produced by desiccant dehumidification is an important is- sue. In a 100% outside air system, the issue is especially im- portant because fresh air carries a great deal of moisture, so the desiccant process will produce a great deal of sen- sible heat.

As described in the previous sections, heat can be removed from the supply air by using a heat exchanger to move the heat to the reactivation air. The temperature of the incom- ing reactivation air is critical. The colder the air, the colder the process air can be made, so the overall system can do more work.

There are two places to get that reactivation air: from the building exhaust or from the outside environment. If the designer can use building exhaust air, the system can cool the process air more deeply. But if only outside air can be used, there will be more heat for other systems to remove after the supply air leaves the desiccant system.

Regardless of the source of the reactivation air, it can be made still cooler through evaporation. If the owner will con-

sider that alternative, the dry process air on the other side of the heat exchanger can be cooled more deeply.

The most practical way to evaluate the advantages and limi- tations of each approach is to calculate the specific supply air temperatures and moisture levels which can be achieved with each design alternative, and consider their effect on the rest of the HVAC system.

ASSUMPTIONS

To compare the alternatives on equal terms, one must make some basic design assumptions. For the alternatives in this chapter, the key assumptions include:

The building :

• needs 10,000 cfm of outside air

• has additional cooling systems to remove internal sensible heat loads

• needs to be maintained at 75F and 50% rh. (The center of the ASHRAE summer comfort zone)

The location:

• is Detroit, Michigan

• has a 1% peak design enthalpy which occurs at 83 F, 123 gr/lb, based on ASHRAE data. (RP 754)

The owner:

• is willing to consider the use of evaporative cooling to reduce cost of operation

• would, if economically feasible, prefer to have better-than-typical humidity control in duct work and in the building itself.

16

Chapter 4 - Configurations & Consequences

Make-up Air With Exhaust Recovery

Post-cooling by heat exchanger alone

 

System Can Remove

 

InternalTotal

 

MBtu/h

Tons

Lbs/hr

Sensible

(151)

(12.6)

--------

Latent

68

5.7

64

Sensible

(65)

(5.4)

--------

Latent

463

38.6

437

(65) (5.4) -------- Latent 463 38.6 437 A B C DW HW D A Supply Air
A B C
A
B
C

DW

HW

D

A Supply Air 89∞, 55gr D C B
A
Supply Air
89∞, 55gr
D
C
B

32

150

150

 

A

B

C

D

Temperature (F)

83

144

89

75

Moisture (gr/lb)

123

55

55

65

Air Flow (scfm)

10,000

10,000

10,000

BLDG

System 1 - 100% outside air, with exhaust air used for post-cooling.

Make-up Air - No Exhaust Recovery

Post-cooling by heat exchanger alone

 

System Can Remove

 

InternalTotal

 

MBtu/h

Tons

Lbs/hr

Sensible

(216)

(18.1)

--------

Latent

68

5.7

64

Sensible

(129)

(10.8)

--------

Latent

463

38.6

437

(129) (10.8) -------- Latent 463 38.6 437 A B C A Supply Air 95∞, 55gr D
A B C
A
B
C
A Supply Air 95∞, 55gr D C B
A
Supply Air
95∞, 55gr
D
C
B

DW

HW

D 32

150

150

 

A

B

C

D

Temperature (F)

83

144

95

75

Moisture (gr/lb)

123

55

55

65

Air Flow (scfm)

10,000

10,000

10,000

BLDG

System 2 - 100% outside air, with outside air used for post-cooling.

EXHAUST RECOVERY

System 1 and 2 differ in only one respect: system 1 uses building exhaust air to cool the process air after the desic- cant wheel, and system 2 uses outside air for post-cooling.

In all other respects, the systems are the same. They pro- cess 10,000 cfm of fresh air and deliver it dry, for subse- quent cooling by other systems downstream. Both systems can remove 437 lbs of moisture per hour from the fresh air. Consequently, that air is so dry that it can remove 64 lbs per hour from the building, when the desired control level is 75, 50% rh. So both systems have ample moisture removal capacity, and it is very unlikely that any cooling coil down- stream of the desiccant system will have to remove any mois- ture at all.

Because the cooling air comes from different places, the two systems do different amounts of work. System 1 does more work, delivering air at 89 F. System 2 delivers air at 95. This is because, on the cooling side of the heat ex- changer, system 1 uses 75air from the building, where

system 2 uses air from the outside at 83. In almost all cases, the lower temperature is more desirable because it reduces cooling requirements in the rest of the HVAC system.

However, in some buildings, it may not be practical to bring the exhaust air back to the same location as the fresh air inlet duct work. For example, in a light industrial building with many internal fire walls and a dozen different process exhaust points, the return duct work may be more costly than the small additional cost to add capacity to the other rooftop air conditioning units. Or in cases where a very small amount of fresh air is needed, rather than 10,000 cfm, the additional sensible cooling capacity may already be available in other parts of the system at no additional cost, compared with a high cost for return duct work.

But in most cases, and in particular those cases where as much as 10,000 cfm of fresh air is needed, the use of return air for post-cooling quickly pays off any small cost of a re- turn duct system to bring the exhaust air back to the unit before it leaves the building.

Chapter 4 - Configurations & Consequences

17

Make-up Air With Exhaust Recovery

Post-cooling by indirect evaporation

 

System Can Remove

 

InternalTotal

 

MBtu/h

Tons

Lbs/hr

Sensible

(65)

(5.4)

--------

Latent

68

5.7

64

Sensible

22

1.8

--------

Latent

463

38.6

437

22 1.8 -------- Latent 463 38.6 437 E EC A B C DW HW D A
E EC A B C
E
EC
A
B
C

DW

HW

D

A Supply Air 81∞, 55gr E D C B
A
Supply Air
81∞, 55gr
E
D
C
B

32

150

150

 

A

B

C

D

E

Temperature (F)

83

144

81

75

65

Moisture (gr/lb)

123

55

55

65

82

Air Flow (scfm)

10,000

10,000

10,000

BLDG

10,000

System 3 - 100% outside air, with exhaust air energy recovery and indirect evaporative post-cooling.

Make-up Air - No Exhaust Recovery

Post-cooling by indirect evaporation

 

System Can Remove

 

InternalTotal

 

MBtu/h

Tons

Lbs/hr

Sensible

(162)

(13.5)

--------

Latent

68

5.7

64

Sensible

(76)

(6.3)

--------

Latent

463

38.6

437

(76) (6.3) -------- Latent 463 38.6 437 E EC A B C DW HW D E
E EC A B C
E
EC
A
B
C

DW

HW

D

E A Supply Air 90∞, 55gr D C B
E
A
Supply Air
90∞, 55gr
D
C
B

32

150

150

 

A

B

C

D

E

Temperature (F)

83

144

90

75

77

Moisture (gr/lb)

123

55

55

65

133

Air Flow (scfm)

10,000

10,000

10,000

BLDG

10,000

System 4 - 100% outside air, with outside air indirect evaporative post-cooling.

INDIRECT EVAPORATIVE COOLING

Systems 3 and 4 are similar to systems 1 and 2, but 3 and 4 use indirect evaporative post cooling.

This feature adds slightly to the purchase cost of the equip- ment, but saves on downstream cooling capacity in the rest of the HVAC system.

For example, note that the supply air temperature for sys- tem 3 is 8 degrees lower than what system 1 can provide (81compared to 89). On 10,000 cfm, that allows the sys- tem 3 configuration to save 7 tons of cooling capacity. As with the previous systems, system 3 outperforms system 4, because the exhaust air can cool the supply air more deeply than can the outside air.

The major advantage to indirect evaporative cooling is its very low operational cost, and simple maintenance compared with conventional cooling systems. The only cost to cool the air evaporatively is the cost of the water, and the mod- est cost to overcome the additional air flow resistance of the evaporative pad (less than 0.15"WC). That is usually less than 1/10th the cost of running an equivalent vapor com- pression cooling system.

Of course, these benefits do not come without some cost. For example, while simpler than a vapor compression cool- ing system, the evaporative cooling system will require some additional maintenance beyond the maintenance of the des- iccant wheel and the heat exchanger. Also, saving 7 tons on 10,000 cfm may not justify the increased purchase cost and maintenance cost if there are 7 extra tons of cooling capac- ity downstream of the desiccant system.

These facts suggest that indirect evaporative post-cooling is likely to yield the best cost-benefit ratio when:

• The system is large enough so the net cooling savings and peak electrical demand reduction is large in absolute terms.

• The building is large enough to have a maintenance staff which will already be familiar with service requirements of simple evaporative coolers or cooling towers.

• The exhaust can be returned to the same place as the supply, so the extra cooling effect of the dry exhaust air can maximize the cooling savings.

18

Chapter 4 - Configurations & Consequences

Make-up Air With Exhaust Recovery

Post-cooling by heat exchanger along with gas or conventional cooling coil

 

System Can Remove

 

InternalTotal

 

MBtu/h

Tons

Lbs/hr

Sensible

216

18.0

--------

Latent

68

5.7

64

Sensible

302

25.2

--------

Latent

463

38.6

437

302 25.2 -------- Latent 463 38.6 437 A B C D DW HW CC E A
A B C D
A
B
C
D

DW

HW

CC

E

A Supply Air 55∞, 55gr F D C B
A
Supply Air
55∞, 55gr
F
D
C
B

32

150

150

 

A

B

C

D

E

Temperature (F)

83

144

89

55

75

Moisture (gr/lb)

123

55

55

55

65

Air Flow (scfm)

10,000

10,000

10,000

10,000

BLDG

System 5 - 100% outside air, with exhaust air heat recovery, and assist from conventional cooling.

Make-up Air - No Exhaust Recovery

Post-cooling by heat exchanger along with gas or conventional cooling coil

 

System Can Remove

 

InternalTotal

 

MBtu/h

Tons

Lbs/hr

Sensible

216

18.0

--------

Latent

68

5.7

64

Sensible

302

25.2

--------

Latent

463

38.6

437

302 25.2 -------- Latent 463 38.6 437 A B C D DW HW CC E A
A B C D
A
B
C
D

DW

HW

CC

E

A Supply Air 55∞, 55gr F D C B
A
Supply Air
55∞, 55gr
F
D
C
B

32

150

150

 

A

B

C

D

E

Temperature (F)

83

144

95

55

75

Moisture (gr/lb)

123

55

55

55

65

Air Flow (scfm)

10,000

10,000

10,000

10,000

BLDG

System 6 - 100% outside air, with assist from conventional cooling, but no heat recovery.

HYBRID SYSTEMS WITH AND WITHOUT EXHAUST RECOVERY

Systems 5 and 6 are hybrid desiccant systems. In other words, they use conventional or gas cooling coils after the heat exchanger so the system can deliver air to the building at the 55temperature which is typical of AC systems.

That conventional assist allows these system to remove 64 lbs of water vapor and 216,000 Btu/h from inside the build- ing, in addition to removing all the temperature and mois- ture loads from the incoming fresh air.

To do that, they use 30 and 36 tons respectively of conven- tional equipment, which is mounted after the heat ex- changer. System 5 uses less conventional cooling, because it makes use of recovered cooling by using building exhaust air on the cooling side of the heat exchanger. System 6 has no energy recovery, so it must use an additional 6 tons of conventional cooling to achieve the same 55supply air tem- perature. Each of these alternatives has its own advantages compared to the other, and both have significant differences from systems 1 through 4.

Systems 5 & 6 vs. Systems 1-4

• 5&6 remove 18 tons of sensible load from the building, 1-4 add sensible heat load to the building.

• 5&6 use more electrical power

• 5&6 cost more to purchase

System 5 advantages over 6

• Uses less electrical power for the same cooling work

• Reduces winter heating costs

• Reduces annual operating costs

With these advantages, system 5 is especially useful for build- ings which have return air duct work, and for mid-conti- nent and northern climates where the cost of heating up outside air in the winter is reduced by exhaust recovery.

System 6 advantages over 5

• Lower installed cost by avoiding return air duct work

• Allows multiple, independent exhaust points

System 6 is advantageous where first cost is more of a con- cern than operating cost, and where there are a reduced benefit to winter heat recovery; such as in hot and humid climates. Eliminating a central, combined exhaust makes this system useful in applications where air must be exhausted from a building at many different points.

Chapter 4 - Configurations & Consequences

19

Make-up Air - No Exhaust Recovery

Post-cooling by indirect evaporation along with gas or conventional cooling coil

 

System Can Remove

 

InternalTotal

 

MBtu/h

Tons

Lbs/hr

Sensible

216

18.0

--------

Latent

68

5.7

64

Sensible

302

25.2

--------

Latent

463

38.6

437

302 25.2 -------- Latent 463 38.6 437 F EC A B C D DW HW E
F EC A B C D DW HW E CC
F
EC
A
B
C
D
DW
HW
E
CC
F A Supply Air 55∞, 55gr E D C B
F
A
Supply Air
55∞, 55gr
E
D
C
B

32

150

150

 

A

B

C

D

E

F

Temperature (F)

83

144

90

55

75

77

Moisture (gr/lb)

123

55

55

55

65

133

Air Flow (scfm)

10,000

10,000

10,000

10,000

BLDG

5,300

System 7 - 100% outside air, with indirect evaporative post-cooling and conventional assist.

All-Desiccant With Exhaust Recovery

Post-cooling uses both indirect and direct evaporative cooling pads

 

System Can Remove

 

InternalTotal

 

MBtu/h

Tons

Lbs/hr

Sensible

76

6.3

--------

Latent

-109

-9.0

-102

Sensible

162

13.5

--------

Latent

286

23.8

270

150

A Supply Air 68∞, 81gr D H G F EC E C B A B
A
Supply Air
68∞, 81gr
D
H
G
F
EC
E
C
B
A
B
C
D
DW
HW
E
32
150
EC
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
Temperature (∞F)
83
144
82
68
75
67
129
250
Moisture (gr/lb)
123
55
58
81
65
78
78
78
Air Flow (scfm)
10,000
10,000
10,000
10,000
BLDG
10,000
10,000
3,000

System 8 - 100% outside air, with both indirect and direct evaporative cooling, assisted by dehumidification inside the building

HYBRID AND ALL-DESICCANT SYSTEMS WITH EVAPORATIVE COOLING

System 7 includes all the components and same flow sche- matic as system 6, but also includes an evaporative pad to boost the cooling effect of the heat exchanger.

This allows system 7 to cool the air leaving the desiccant wheel to 90, which in turn reduces the amount of conven- tional cooling capacity needed to lower the supply air tem- perature to 55. System 7 needs 32 tons of conventional cooling, compared to 36 tons in system 6. That 4 tons of capacity is not really a significant saving at installation time, but it saves a considerable amount of money over a year's operation. As the temperature and moisture outside re- duces, the evaporative cooling effect increases. Then the conventional equipment can be shut off entirely for thou- sands of hours of the year, when the temperature and hu- midity outside is reduced. For example, during spring, and fall, and during evenings and mornings in the summer.

System 8 is the classic, all-desiccant makeup air configura-

tion, which provides sensible cooling with no assistance from vapor compression coils. The system cools the incoming air from 82 F down to 68 F, and reduces the moisture from

123 gr/lb to 81 gr/lb.

However, in contrast to all the other systems described here, system 8 does not dehumidify the building. In fact, it adds

102 lbs of water per hour to the internal moisture load. That

moisture must be removed by other systems. If other sys- tems do not remove that moisture, system 8 cannot cool the air as shown here. Rising moisture in the return air would reduce effectiveness of the indirect post-cooler, and the supply air temperature and moisture would rise.

System 8 is best applied where other desiccant or conven- tional dehumidification systems can remove the moisture load remaining in the supply air. Large buildings with mul- tiple systems can use this system to add fresh air without overloading existing electrical capacity. System 8 provides 10,000 cfm of cooled, fresh air, but only needs power for two fans and two fractional hp drive motors.

20

Chapter 4 - Configurations & Consequences

COMPARING OUTSIDE AIR ALTERNATIVES

Figure 7 compares all of the makeup air systems according to four characteristics:

• Loads they remove from the building (or add to it)

• Loads they remove or add to the incoming fresh air

• Thermal energy they need to operate at the design condition

• Supplemental gas or conventional cooling needed to bring the supply air to a building-neutral temperature of 75(or to 55in systems 5-7).

The figure divides the systems into three groups. Systems 1 through 4 are considered all-desiccant systems, because they do not contain gas or conventional cooling compo- nents. Systems 5 through 7 are hybrid systems, because they combine desiccants with conventional cooling. System 8 is an all-desiccant system, but it uses direct evaporative cool- ing, so it does not remove moisture like the other systems.

COMMON CHARACTERISTICS OF 1-7

Each approach has advantages and limitations, but the first 7 systems share some common characteristics:

Dry & Fungus-Free Duct Work Every alternative shown here delivers dry air to the build- ing. The warning in ASHRAE Standard 62 against saturated air in duct systems can be satisfied by any of these alterna- tives. The low humidity also allows all internal cooling coils to run dry, reducing the hazard of microbial growth in drain pans and insulation.

Internal Latent Loads Removed By Makeup Air All of these alternatives remove so much moisture from the makeup air, that any internal cooling coils can be designed to operate at a higher evaporator temperature, which can reduce their power consumption.

Rock-Solid Humidity Control The moisture removal capacity of all these systems allows very stable humidity levels inside the building throughout the whole range of weather conditions. This differs from conventional cooling systems, where humidity levels shift constantly, because dehumidification is an arbitrary result of whatever cooling happens to be needed.

Improved Temperature Control Without the moisture load to remove, the internal cooling system can control temperature much more evenly, because there is no need to over-cool and re-heat the air as incom- ing ventilation air changes in temperature and moisture content.

Reduced Peak Power Demand All these systems remove moisture through thermal energy rather than by using electric power. Part of the sensible load created by dehumidification is removed by a heat exchanger, so the net peak power demand is reduced.

CHARACTERISTICS OF SYSTEMS 1 - 4

These are all-desiccant system, in that they contain no supplemental conventional cooling. In addition, they share these characteristics:

Lowest first cost The all-desiccant systems are less costly than the hybrid sys- tems, because they contain fewer components.

Remove moisture, but add heat The post-cooling heat exchanger, even when assisted by the evaporative cooler, does not have enough capacity to re- move all the sensible heat produced by dehumidification, so these systems remove the latent load from both the in- coming air and from the building itself, but they deliver air which must be cooled by other systems inside the building.

Exhaust recovery improves winter economics In the summer months, exhaust recovery reduces post-cool- ing expense, but not by much. For example, system 1 uses exhaust recovery and system 2 does not. System 1 has only saved 5.3 tons of post-cooling. But during winter months, the value of waste heat recovery can be very great, perhaps reducing makeup air heating costs by 60% to 80%.

Cost advantage at high internal sensible heat loads If extra sensible capacity already exists inside the building for other reasons, the small additional sensible load from the all-desiccant makeup air system may be inconsequen- tial. This would keep costs down by avoiding the need for a supplemental cooling system on the makeup air.

CHARACTERISTICS OF SYSTEMS 5-7

These systems all include extra cooling capacity to deliver air at 55, so they can all remove not only moisture, but also remove some of the heat from inside the building. In addi- tion, they share these characteristics:

They do more work, so they cost more Systems 5-7 all include supplemental cooling coils, so they cost more than systems 1-4. But the hybrid systems also do much more work than the all-desiccant systems, delivering air at 55to the building instead of 78 or 90.

Cost advantage for buildings with low sensible loads If the makeup air represents not only 80% of the moisture load on the building, but also a high percentage of the to- tal sensible load, then all the internal loads may be removed by cooling the required makeup air. That way, there may be very little need for internal cooling systems, which would lower the overall installation costs for the building.

SYSTEM 8 - ALL-DESICCANT ALTERNATIVE

System 8 cools, but does not dehumidify the building. When other systems in the building can remove moisture, system 8 provides 10,000 cfm of nearly-conditioned air for almost no power consumption (other than for fans). When existing buildings with limited electrical service need more fresh air to meet ASHRAE Std. 62, system 8 may be ideal.

service need more fresh air to meet ASHRAE Std. 62, system 8 may be ideal. COMMERCIAL
service need more fresh air to meet ASHRAE Std. 62, system 8 may be ideal. COMMERCIAL

Chapter 4 - Configurations & Consequences

21

Loads Removed (Tons)

Loads Removed (Tons)

From The Building

From The Fresh Air

Thermal Energy

Additional Equipment Used

Gas Consumption

 

Non-Desiccant Tons

 

Therms/hr @ Design

In System

After System

 

Sensible

Latent

Sensible

Latent

 
DW HW
DW
HW
 

38.6

1

5.7

-5.4
-5.4

7.2

-12.6

 

0

  0 0.0
  0 0.0
0.0
0.0
 

Bldg.

 
 

-12.6

 
DW HW
DW
HW
 

38.6

5.7

5.7
 

18.1

2

7.5

0.0
0.0
 

0

-10.9

-10.9

  0 -10.9
 

Bldg.

 
 

-18.1

 
EC DW HW
EC
DW
HW
 

5.7

38.6

1.8
1.8
 

3

7.6

5.4

 

0

  0 0.0
  0 0.0
0.0
0.0
 

Bldg.

-5.4

 
EC DW HW
EC
DW
HW
 

38.6

5.7

5.7
 

13.5

4

7.6

0.0
0.0
 

0

-6.7

-6.7

  0 -6.7
 

Bldg.

 
 

-13.5

 
    38.6
 

38.6

   

30.6

 

18.0

0.0
0.0

5

5.7
5.7
25.2
25.2

7.7

0

0
 

DW

HW

CC

Bldg.

DW HW CC
DW
HW
CC
 
 

38.6

36.0

 

18.0

0.0
0.0

6

5.7
5.7
25.2
25.2

9.8

0

0
 

Bldg.

 
EC DW HW Bldg. CC
EC
DW
HW
Bldg.
CC
 

38.6

 

18.0

31.5

31.5
 

7

0

5.7
5.7
25.2
25.2

7.6

7.6

0.0

EC DW HW EC Bldg.
EC
DW
HW
EC
Bldg.

6.3

23.8 13.5
23.8
13.5

7.6

0.0

9.0

8

0

8 0  
 
 
 

-9.0

Figure 1 - Capacity comparison of 100% OSA systems

22

Chapter 4 - Configurations & Consequences

30% Outside Air Systems

Conventional rooftop packaged equipment has difficulty removing moisture loads when the proportion of fresh air increases above 15%.

These system layouts show how desiccant systems can be configured to

air condition a building which needs

a high proportion of outside air.

I n the previous section, we discussed 100% outside air systems. In those cases, desiccant systems have impressive advantages because there is so much moisture to be removed from incoming air during the summer. That same summer moisture load can also adversely affect conventional systems with as little as 15% outside air. When the proportion of outside air rises to 30%, conventional cooling-only systems have real difficulty controlling temperature, because so much of their capacity is being used to remove moisture,

So when a building or a system needs more than 15% outside air, engineers often use a single desiccant system to replace one of the several rooftop units on the building. The desiccant system easily handles 30% outside air, so the other rooftops can either use much less outside air, or perhaps none at all, allowing them to cool air more efficiently.

ISSUES FOR 30% OUTSIDE AIR SYSTEMS

As in the all-outside air systems, the fundamental issue re- mains: how to remove the sensible heat produced when the desiccant removes moisture from the air? A heat exchanger follows the desiccant wheel, but on the other side of the heat exchanger, the engineer can chose to use either out- side air or return air from the building. And that air can be used "as-is", or it can be cooled with an evaporative pad.

Following the heat exchanger on the supply air side, the engineer can remove heat with a conventional cooling coil. Or the warm air can be sent directly to the building, where other systems may have extra sensible capacity since they no longer need to remove moisture.

In this section, we will examine pro's and cons of each ap- proach. These example use a system with 3,000 cfm of out- side air, and 7,000 cfm of return air, rather than one which draws all 10,000 cfm from the outside.

ALL-DESICCANT SYSTEMS FOR 30% OSA

System diagrams 9, 10 and 11 show all-desiccant systems for 30% outside air. But each diagram shows different alter- natives for removing the sensible heat created by dehumidi- fication.

System 9 uses exhaust air energy recovery. Also, the exhaust air is pre-cooled by evaporation before being used in the heat exchanger. By using both exhaust recovery and indi- rect evaporation, system 9 delivers air to the building at 73F, even at peak design conditions.

System 10, by comparison, delivers air to the building at a temperature of 83. The supply temperature is higher, be- cause system 10 uses warmer, more humid outside air for post-cooling rather than the relatively cool and compara- tively dry exhaust air from the building.

System 11 delivers the supply air at an even higher tem- perature—88 F. This is because there is neither evaporative cooling nor exhaust energy recovery for the post-cooling heat exchanger.

Note that all three systems deliver the supply air at a very dry condition of 49 gr./lb. Consequently all of these systems remove the entire moisture load from the ventilation air, and they can also remove 103 lbs of water vapor per hour from the building itself.

Note also that systems 9,10 and 11 do not contain any con- ventional cooling. So they provide cooling and dehumidifi- cation using very little electrical power.

Chapter 4 - Configurations & Consequences

23

30% OSA With Exhaust Recovery

Post-cooling by indirect evaporation into exhaust air

 

System Can Remove

 

InternalTotal

 

MBtu/h

Tons

Lbs/hr

Sensible

22

1.8

--------

Latent

109

9.1

103

Sensible

43

3.6

--------

Latent

232

19.3

219

43 3.6 -------- Latent 232 19.3 219 A G EC C D E DW HW B

A

G EC C D E DW HW
G
EC
C
D
E
DW
HW

B

F

A Supply Air 73∞, 49gr G C B E D
A
Supply Air
73∞, 49gr
G
C
B
E
D

32

150

150

 

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

Temperature (F)

83

75

77

106

73

75

65

Moisture (gr/lb)

123

65

83

49

49

65

82

Air Flow (scfm)

3,000

7,000

10,000

10,000

10,000

BLDG.

3,000

System 9 - 30% outside air, with exhaust air and indirect evaporation used for post-cooling.

30% OSA - No Exhaust Recovery

Post-cooling by indirect evaporation into outside air

 

System Can Remove

 

InternalTotal

 

MBtu/h

Tons

Lbs/hr

Sensible

(86)

(7.2)

--------

Latent

109

9.15

103

Sensible

(65)

(5.4)

--------

Latent

232

19.3

219

(65) (5.4) -------- Latent 232 19.3 219 A F G EC C D E DW HW

A

F G EC C D E DW HW
F
G
EC
C
D
E
DW
HW

B

A Supply Air 83∞, 49gr G C B E D
A
Supply Air
83∞, 49gr
G
C
B
E
D

32

150

150

 

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

Temperature (F)

83

75

77

106

83

82

77

Moisture (gr/lb)

123

65

83

49

49

123

133

Air Flow (scfm)

3,000

7,000

10,000

10,000

10,000

3,000

3,000

System 10 - 30% outside air, with outside air and indirect evaporation used for post-cooling.

30% OSA - No Exhaust Recovery

Post-cooling by Heat Exchanger Only

 

System Can Remove

 

InternalTotal

 

MBtu/h

Tons

Lbs/hr

Sensible

(140)

(11.7)

--------

Latent

109

9.1

103

Sensible

(118)

(9.9)

--------

Latent

232

19.3

219

(118) (9.9) -------- Latent 232 19.3 219 A F C D E DW HW B A

A

F

C D E DW HW
C
D
E
DW
HW

B

A Supply Air 88∞, 49gr C B E D
A
Supply Air
88∞, 49gr
C
B
E
D

32

150

150

 

A

B

C

D

E

F

Temperature (F)

83

75

77

106

88

82

Moisture (gr/lb)

123

65

83

49

49

123

Air Flow (scfm)

3,000

7,000

10,000

10,000

10,000

3,000

System 11 - 30% outside air, with outside air used for post-cooling without evaporative cooling.

24

Chapter 4 - Configurations & Consequences

30% OSA - No Exhaust Recovery

Post-cooling by heat exchanger along with gas or conventional cooling coil

 

System Can Remove

 

InternalTotal

 

MBtu/h

Tons

Lbs/hr

Sensible

216

18.0

--------

Latent

103

9.1

103

Sensible

237

20.0

--------

Latent

232

19.3

219

237 20.0 -------- Latent 232 19.3 219 A G C D E F DW HW B

A

G

C D E F DW HW
C
D
E
F
DW
HW

B CC

A Supply Air 55∞, 49gr C B F E D
A
Supply Air
55∞, 49gr
C
B
F
E
D

32

150

150

 

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

Temperature (F)

83

75

77

106

88

55

82

Moisture (gr/lb)

123

65

83

49

49

49

123

Air Flow (scfm)

3,000

7,000

10,000

10,000

10,000

10,000

3,000

System 12 - 30% outside air, with conventional assist for post-cooling.

30% OSA - Dry The OSA Only

Post-cooling by heat exchanger along with gas or conventional cooling coil

 

System Can Remove

 

InternalTotal

 

MBtu/h

Tons

Lbs/hr

Sensible

216

18.0

--------

Latent

34

2.8

32

Sensible

242

20.2

--------

Latent

149

12.4

141

242 20.2 -------- Latent 149 12.4 141 A A Supply Air 55∞, 60gr E F D

A

A Supply Air 55∞, 60gr E F D C B
A
Supply Air
55∞, 60gr
E
F
D
C
B

150

B C D F DW HW CC
B
C
D
F
DW
HW
CC

E 32

150

 

A

B

C

D

E

F

Temperature (F)

83

154

97

82

75

55

Moisture (gr/lb)

123

47

47

60

65

60

Air Flow (scfm)

3,000

3,000

3,000

10,000

7,000

10,000

System 13 - 30% outside air, with desiccant on the outside air only, and using conventional assist for post-cooling

HYBRID SYSTEMS FOR 30% OSA

Diagrams 12 and 13 show hybrid systems which use con- ventional cooling coils and either compressor-based or gas cooling to deliver the supply air to the building at a tradi- tional temperature of 55 F.

System 12 uses a desiccant wheel to dry the mixed return air and outside air. In contrast, system 13 uses a much smaller desiccant wheel to dry only the outside air. Consequently, system 13 is less expensive to install, and less expensive to operate. On the other hand, system 12 has three times the moisture removal capacity because it dries the entire sup- ply air stream. Both systems can remove the same amount of sensible heat from the building—18 tons.

Unlike systems 9, 10 and 11, these systems can provide all the needed temperature and humidity control for a small commercial building. So they are especially useful for smaller buildings or areas within buildings where a single system is the most economical and practical alternative.

COMPARING 30% OSA DESICCANT SYSTEMS

Looking at the first column of figure 8, one can quickly see the difference between the desiccant-only and the hybrid systems. The all-desiccant systems remove very little, if any, sensible heat from the building. Only system 9 removes a very small 1.8 tons of sensible heat load, and systems 10 and 11 actually add sensible heat load to the building.

But looking at the latent load capacity in the first column, one can also see that every system removes all the mois- ture from the 30% outside air, and can still remove addi- tional moisture loads from inside the building.

All of these systems have enough moisture removal capac- ity to allow the building owner to reset the humidity to a lower-than-traditional level, and to ensure that the level will be maintained even in extremely humid conditions. That capacity would be useful, for instance, in laboratory research buildings, where constant humidity is important for consis- tent research results, and where large amounts of fresh air must be brought into the building to replace air exhausted through chemical fume hoods.

Chapter 4 - Configurations & Consequences

25

Loads Removed (Tons) Loads Removed (Tons) Thermal Energy Additional Equipment Used From The Building From
Loads Removed (Tons)
Loads Removed (Tons)
Thermal Energy
Additional Equipment Used
From The Building
From The Supply Air
Gas Consumption
Non-Desiccant Tons
Sensible
Latent
Sensible
Latent
Therms/hr @ Design
In System
After System
EC
19.3
16.5
9.1
1.8
4.0
9
3.6
DW
HW
0
0.0
Building
25.1
19.3
EC
9.1
4.0
bk
0
DW
HW
0.0
-5.4
-7.2
Building
29.3
19.3
9.1
4.0
bl
0
DW
HW
0.0
-9.9
Building
-11.7
G
29.3
20.0
19.3
18.0
9.1
4.0
bm
0
DW
HW
0.0
CC
Building
24.0
18.0
20.2
12.4
bn
2.8
2.2
DW
HW
0
CC
0.0
Building

Figure 2 - Capacity comparison of 30% OSA systems

Another difference between desiccant-only and hybrid sys- tems is their respective installed costs. The desiccant-only systems cost less, because they have fewer components. So if a building has sufficient additional conventional sys- tems to remove the building's sensible heat loads, the low- est-cost solution for additional outside air would be to in- stall a desiccant-only system. However, if the building has no supplemental sensible heat removal equipment, a hy- brid system is probably the best choice for adding more ventilation air.

In summary, the owner and the design engineer would be well-advised to investigate the use of desiccant systems whenever one or more of the following circumstances ap- plies to the project:

• Need for more than 15% outside air. (e.g.: to meet codes based on ASHRAE Standard 62-89)

• Higher than normal inside moisture loads. food processing buildings)

(e.g.:

• Need for lower-than-conventional humidity control level. (e.g.: research, biomedical buildings and electronic assembly)

• Humidity cannot be allowed to swing more than 2% rh. (e.g.: museums and research labs)

• Electrical power service to a building is limited. (e.g.:

retrofits to add ventilation air)

• Duct work must be kept dry to prevent fungal growth. (e.g.: hospitals and medical office buildings)

• Warm temperatures with low humidity is preferred to cold, saturated environments. (e.g.: nursing homes, movie theatres and conference rooms)

environments. (e.g.: nursing homes, movie theatres and conference rooms) COMMERCIAL DESICCANT SYSTEM APPLICATION GUIDE
environments. (e.g.: nursing homes, movie theatres and conference rooms) COMMERCIAL DESICCANT SYSTEM APPLICATION GUIDE

Chapter 5 - Components Of Desiccant Systems

27

CHAPTER 5 COMPONENTS OF DESICCANT SYSTEMS

Desiccant System Hardware

Mechanically, desiccant systems are rather simple. By examining each component in turn, the reader can understand what must be done in design and maintenance to ensure minimum cost and maximum reliability.

F rom the outside, commercial desiccant systems look like conventional rooftop packaged equipment. That's because the system enclosures are essentially identical

to conventional equipment. Additionally, most commercial

desiccant systems are hybrids combining desiccant components with conventional or gas cooling equipment. So there are may components of desiccant systems which will be familiar to owners and designers of commercial buildings.

Therefore, we will discuss the components which may be less familiar because they are more specific to desiccant systems, including:

• Desiccant wheel assemblies

• Reactivation heaters

• Heat exchangers for post-cooling

• Indirect evaporative post-coolers

• Filtration requirements

• Control components

DESICCANT WHEEL ASSEMBLIES

Desiccant wheel assemblies consist of "core material", which contains the desiccant, a wheel support structure, a drive system and a set of air seals on both faces of the wheel to prevent air from leaking from the moist reactivation to the dry process air stream.

Desiccant core material The desiccant material is coated, impregnated or formed in place on a support matrix that looks like the corrugated board used to make cardboard boxes. The material is not, of course, cardboard, since it must withstand soaking and heating to temperatures between 130and 250F six times every hour. Typically, the basic material which forms the support matrix is a mix of different fibres including glass,

Reactivation

Heater Moist Reactivation Air Humid Process Air Dry Process Air to the HVAC System
Heater
Moist
Reactivation Air
Humid Process Air
Dry Process Air to
the HVAC System

Desiccant wheels are made as single wheels, or as wheel sections supported by a spoke-and rim assembly

The geometry of core material in desiccant wheels varies according to manufacturer. Both sinusoidal and hexagonal air passages are used in commercial equipment.

Both sinusoidal and hexagonal air passages are used in commercial equipment. COMMERCIAL DESICCANT SYSTEM APPLICATION GUIDE
Both sinusoidal and hexagonal air passages are used in commercial equipment. COMMERCIAL DESICCANT SYSTEM APPLICATION GUIDE

28

Chapter 5 - Components Of Desiccant Systems

ceramic binders and high-temperature plastics. And in one case, the corrugated material is an aluminum alloy. Each des- iccant wheel manufacturer has a somewhat different pro- cess for making core material, and each technique has its own advantages and disadvantages.

But in all cases, the core material is very durable. It resists temperature and moisture extremes and is quite fault-tol- erant. Manufacturers warranties vary widely, but apart from what the manufacturers will actually guarantee, field expe- rience shows that desiccant core material lasts for well over 5 years, and cases of over 20 years of continuous operation are not uncommon. For all practical purposes the owner can think of the desiccant wheel as being equal to, or bet- ter than a compressor in terms of longevity and reliability.

Many manufacturers offer a choice of desiccants for load- ing into the core material. And in recent years, much re- search has been invested in developing advanced desiccant materials which have sorption characteristics which are bet- ter for different applications.

In commercial applications, the desiccant materials are usu- ally adsorbents like silica gel, activated alumina and molecu- lar sieves rather than absorbents, such as lithium chloride. An AD-sorbent is like a ceramic sponge. It has a limited ca- pacity for water vapor, usually 18 to 22% of its own weight. Adsorbents are very durable and can be designed to attract moisture at specific relative humidities, so they can be "tuned" for particular applications. AB-sorbents, by contrast, hold far more water vapor, but are more sensitive to over- saturation, so they are usually used for industrial applica- tions where their great capacity is an advantage and their reduced fault-tolerance is less of a disadvantage.

Lithium chloride is an example of an AB-sorbent desiccant, and it was used in early commercial desiccant systems with mixed results. The material performed well when properly reactivated, but when reactivation heat was lost, the salt migrated out of the wheel as a liquid, reducing capacity and softening the wheel itself. Large commercial systems no longer use lithium chloride, although one manufacturer of small systems uses low-cost, disposable lithium chloride/ paper-based wheels rather than the semi-ceramic materials used by most competitors. In that smaller equipment, the manufacturer suggests periodic replacement of the wheel.

The more common AD-sorbent materials used in desiccant wheels are like fine powders. Such small particles present a great deal of surface area to air flowing through the core material. The desiccant is coated onto the core material or formed in-place through chemical reactions so that it is bound tightly to its support structure. The desiccant lasts about as long as the core material—between 5 and 20 years. Each manufacturer can provide performance data for equip- ment over the life of a desiccant wheel. Generally there is some loss of desiccant capacity over time—on the order of 15% over 5 years. Most manufacturers rate the performance of the desiccant equipment at the midpoint of the life of

of the desiccant equipment at the midpoint of the life of Smaller wheels are made in

Smaller wheels are made in one piece

Larger wheels are made in sections for strength

in one piece Larger wheels are made in sections for strength the desiccant wheel. Usually, the

the desiccant wheel. Usually, the rating is conservative. The only things that commonly shorten the life of the core ma- terial and the desiccant are sticky particulates such as to- bacco smoke.

Like a cooling coil, a desiccant wheel can become clogged by fibrous dust, bird feathers, insects, etc. Consequently, the inlets of the process and reactivation air streams are always equipped with filters. Tobacco smoke, which is much too small to be trapped by coarse filters, will clog some of the pores in the desiccant material, reducing its moisture adsorption capacity. However, tests conducted in govern- ment laboratories have shown that even at smoke concen- trations significantly greater than dedicated smoke lounges, the reduction in desiccant capacity is less than 15% over five years.

Desiccant wheel assemblies vary mechanically between manufacturers and between different wheel diameters. In smaller wheels, typically below 5 ft. in diameter, the desic- cant wheel is a monolithic structure—the core material is

Chapter 5 - Components Of Desiccant Systems

29

Chapter 5 - Components Of Desiccant Systems 29 Desiccant wheels are driven from their periphery, so

Desiccant wheels are driven from their periphery, so they can be rotated by small drive motors.

formed in the shape of a wheel, and a round casing at its perimeter protects its edges. Above 5 ft. in diameter, the core material may need more support internally, so the core material is cut into sections and inserted into a spoke-and- rim assembly, supported in a frame by a hub and bearing assembly at its center.

The advantage of a monolithic wheel is it's convenience for replacement; as a single unit, the wheel can be easily rolled into and out of the unit . In contrast, the advantage of the spoke-and-rim design is its great strength, which is useful for large wheels where the weight of the water in the desic- cant places considerable load on the core material.

In commercial systems, the wheel is rotated at speeds which vary by manufacturer, but are generally between 6 rph and 20 rph. The drive system consists of a motor which turns a drive belt or chain at the perimeter of the wheel. By driving the wheel from the rim rather than at the center hub, me- chanical advantage is increased substantially, so very little

Flexible rubber sheeting or extrusion which rides lightly on the wheel face
Flexible rubber sheeting
or extrusion which rides
lightly on the wheel face

Wiper seals have the advantage of low wear and long life.

Compressible seals are virtually air-tight, but will need replacement about every five years.

air-tight, but will need replacement about every five years. power is needed to drive even the

power is needed to drive even the largest wheels. For ex- ample, a 12 ft. diameter wheel can easily be turned by a 1/2 hp motor.

Each manufacturer has a different arrangement for tensioning the drive belt and providing sufficient friction between belt and wheel to rotate the wheel with a full load of water. Over 10 years, these drive belts and chains can break or slip. So most manufacturers provide rotation fault de- tectors to signal the operator if the desiccant wheel is not rotating properly—a fact that may not be evident by casual observation since normal wheel rotation is so slow (one revo- lution every 6 minutes).

The air seals at the edge of the desiccant wheel and which separate the process from the reactivation air can affect desiccant equipment performance. If air leaks around the wheel, or if humid reactivation air leaks into the dry process air, then the equipment capacity is reduced. There are two strategies used by equipment manufacturers for seals.

The first uses flexible strips of rubber or other elastomer to "wipe" across the surface of the wheel lightly. Air pressure from fans keeps these strips tight against the wheel face. The advantage of such seals is low friction and low cost. These rarely need replacement, and they do not stress the wheel drive system with a high friction load. The disadvan- tage is that they allow some leakage, and if fans and seal supports are not located carefully, such seals can leak sig- nificant amounts of air.

The alternate seal strategy uses compressible bulb seals which press against the face of the wheel. Their advantage is air tightness—most can resist leaks at pressure differen- tials across the seals of 6" WC. But they cost more than wiper seals, they create a larger friction load on the drive system, and wear out more quickly than wiper seals. Essen- tially, compressible seals gain a significant performance ad- vantage in return for a somewhat greater maintenance cost.

30

Chapter 5 - Components Of Desiccant Systems

30 Chapter 5 - Components Of Desiccant Systems Direct-fired natural gas reactivation heaters are over 90%

Direct-fired natural gas reactivation heaters are over 90% efficient, so they are often used on larger units

over 90% efficient, so they are often used on larger units Gas-fired boilers are less efficient

Gas-fired boilers are less efficient than direct-fired burners, but can provide heating for both reactivation and supply air, minimizing first costs.

The rotor casing, called the "cassette" by some manufactur- ers, is an important part of the desiccant wheel assembly for two reasons. First, it provides the support structure for the seals. The volume of air leakage can depend on casing stiffness. Secondly, the cassette provides structural sup- port for the wheel itself. If the casing is weak or crooked, the wheel may not rotate properly, or may leak air during rotation. Consequently, desiccant equipment manufactur- ers tend to invest more design and materials in the frame than what one might otherwise assume is necessary to sup- port a lightweight, slowly-rotating wheel. The net result of those investments is assured equipment capacity, longer life and very low maintenance expense compared to the vapor compression components of conventional systems.

Reactivation heaters As seen in previous chapters, desiccant system recover heat from the process air stream to use in reactivation. But that heat is usually less than 20% of the total energy needed for reactivation. Other heat sources are always needed. These can include electric resistance heaters, solar hot water coils,

include electric resistance heaters, solar hot water coils, T Reactivation Process A temperature controller can vary
T Reactivation Process A temperature controller can vary reactivation energy as the moisture load reduces,
T
Reactivation
Process
A temperature controller can vary reactivation energy as the
moisture load reduces, to avoid waste.

heat reclaim coils and hot water or steam coils fed from boilers. Industrial desiccant system use all of these sources.

But in general, natural gas heaters allow an owner to save between 50 and 75% of the cost of reactivating the desic- cant compared to other means. Consequently, as a matter of practical economics, gas heaters are the heaters of choice for nearly all commercial desiccant system installations. There are two basic types of natural gas heaters used in com- mercial desiccant systems: direct-fired and indirect-fired gas burners.

Direct-fired heaters burn natural gas directly into the reac- tivation air stream. This allows 90 to 92% heating efficiency, so it is the equipment of choice for many desiccant sys- tems, particularly for larger units. Not all systems are equipped with direct-fired burners, however, because there are different advantages to indirect-fired burners.

Indirect-fired burners burn the natural gas outside the re- activation air stream, and the combustion heat is transferred to the reactivation air through a heat exchanger. Since a heat exchanger comes between the flame and the reactivation air stream heating efficiency is reduced to 50-70% compared to the 92% efficiency of direct fired burners. So operational costs of indirect-fired burners are slightly higher. However, using a heat exchanger reduces the maximum temperature of the reactivation air. A direct-fired burner produces tem- peratures of 1300 F. If the air is not mixed well with the com- bustion gases, the desiccant wheel and/or the air seals can be scorched. With an indirect-fired burner, those potential problems are eliminated.

Also, some desiccant units use small gas-fired boilers which circulate water through heating coils for both reactivation and for winter heating. That strategy has advantages in first cost. In winter, there is seldom a need for desiccant reacti- vation. One boiler can serve both heating and reactivation needs through coils rather than with separate gas heaters.

Chapter 5 - Components Of Desiccant Systems

31

Chapter 5 - Components Of Desiccant Systems 31 Sensible heat recovery wheels are sometimes used as

Sensible heat recovery wheels are sometimes used as post- coolers. They are controllable and highly efficient.

Reactivation heater modulation The heating capacity of the reactivation burners is usually controlled, so that no more energy is used for reactivation that is necessary to remove the moisture from the desic- cant. That energy requirement varies in direct proportion to the changes in moisture load. As the moisture load on the desiccant wheel increases, more heat must be added to the reactivation air to remove the moisture.

One method of reactivation energy modulation maintains a constant "reactivation-leaving" air temperature. A tempera- ture controller is mounted in the reactivation air leaving the desiccant wheel. If the temperature of that air falls, more moisture is being pulled off the wheel, so more heat should be added to the reactivation air before it enters the desic- cant wheel. Conversely, if the reactivation-leaving air tem- perature rises, it means there is less moisture being pulled from the wheel, so less heat is needed in reactivation.

POST-COOLING HEAT EXCHANGERS

Most commercial desiccant systems include a heat exchanger mounted after the desiccant wheel to transfer sensible heat from the process air to the reactivation air stream. There are three common types of heat exchangers used in this location: plate-type, heat wheels and heat pipes. Each has advantages and disadvantages.

Plate-type heat exchangers Plate-type heat exchangers, often called "air-to-air" exchang- ers, are the lowest in cost, and the lowest in heat exchange efficiency. (On the order of 40 to 65%) These are made of thin sheets of metal or plastic, arranged so that one air

Cool, Incoming Reactivation Air Hot Process Air
Cool,
Incoming
Reactivation
Air
Hot
Process
Air

Heat pipes also serve as post-coolers when low maintenance is preferred to high heat exchange efficiency

stream flows across one side of the plates, and the other air stream flows across the other side of the plates. The hotter air stream heats the cooler one through the plates. In addi- tion to having the virtue of low cost, for all practical pur- poses, plate-type exchangers separate the two air streams, so leakage is unlikely. On the other hand, their efficiency is a function of their surface area, so even minimally-efficient plate exchangers tend to be rather large, adding size to the overall desiccant system.

Heat wheels Heat wheels are the highest in cost, but also have the high- est heat exchange efficiency. (Between 80 and 95%) Heat wheels look very much like desiccant wheels. They are made of fluted media. And the media is held in a cassette assem- bly similar to desiccant wheels. But where desiccant wheels are optimized for moving moisture, heat wheels are opti- mized for moving heat. Heat exchange efficiency is a func- tion of wheel rotation speed. Specifically, where desiccant wheels rotate at 6 to 10 revolutions per HOUR, heat wheels rotate at 10 to 20 revolutions per MINUTE.

Heat wheels are also much more compact than plate ex- changers, occupying a length of perhaps 11" in the direc- tion of air flow compared to several feet for plate exchang- ers. Also, the high heat exchange efficiency translates di- rectly into reduced cost for cooling downstream. More heat is moved to reactivation, so less heat must be removed from process, reducing the size, cost and complexity of any re- maining conventional cooling equipment. Additionally, the designer can modulate the cooling effect of the heat wheel by changing its speed.

32

Chapter 5 - Components Of Desiccant Systems

32 Chapter 5 - Components Of Desiccant Systems Adding an evaporative pad to the cool side

Adding an evaporative pad to the cool side of the heat exchanger allows cooling without adding water vapor to the supply air

However, in spite of these significant advantages, not all des- iccant systems use heat wheels. Such equipment costs more than other types of heat exchangers, it requires some main- tenance attention, and it does not entirely separate the hu- mid reactivation air from the dry process air. None of these limitations have prevented heat wheels from being a popu- lar form of post-cooling heat exchanger for desiccants.

Heat pipes Heat pipes are smaller and less expensive than heat wheels, and somewhat less efficient in terms of heat exchange (55 to 75% efficient). Heat pipe exchangers look like conven- tional cooling coils, with one end of the coil in the hot air stream and the other end in the cool air stream. A divider plate in the coil separates the air streams.

Heat pipes have the useful advantages of compactness and design flexibility. They occupy between 4 and 8 inches in the direction of air flow, depending on how many rows of pipes are included in the assembly. Also, the heat pipes need not cover the entire face of the process air outlet. This is because the temperature of the air leaving the process sec- tor of the wheel varies according to how far the wheel has rotated away from the reactivation sector. That is to say, as the wheel leaves the reactivation sector, it is quite hot, and it looses heat as it rotates through the process sector. So heat pipes can be arranged to capture the hottest part of the process air, and allow the cooler air to bypass around the heat pipe array. This saves cost without making major sacrifices in heat exchange efficiency. Also, the heat pipe requires no maintenance other than occasional cleaning.

These advantages are balanced by the increased conventional cooling capacity needed to remove remaining heat from the

Filtration requirements for desiccant systems are simple, but easy access and regular replacement are essential for proper performance.

regular replacement are essential for proper performance. process air stream. And there is no practical way

process air stream. And there is no practical way to control the heat exchange capacity of a heat pipe other than a rela- tively costly and complex air bypass system.

Heat pipes and heat wheels are the two most popular post- cooling heat exchangers for desiccant systems. Customer preference determines which type is provided by the manu- facturer on larger systems. In smaller, more standardized systems, either one or the other is built into the system.

However, not all desiccant systems include heat exchang- ers. In some applications such as supermarkets and ice rinks, the extra supply air heat is an advantage. And in other cases when conventional cooling is provided as part of the sys- tem, it may be more cost-effective to add a bit of capacity to the conventional cooling equipment rather than pay for the cost of an additional heat exchanger.

EVAPORATIVE POST-COOLERS

In addition to heat exchangers, desiccant systems often in- clude evaporative coolers to remove heat produced by de- humidification. In these devices, air is forced through a wet- ted contact media. As the air picks up moisture from the media, its temperature drops because its sensible heat is used to evaporate the moisture. The air is then more hu- mid, but cooler.

Evaporative cooling is adiabatic, that is to say, the air is cooled without the addition of external energy. So the only electri- cal power required for cooling is used by the water pump (less than 1/8 hp) and by the fans which push the air through the evaporative pad. Consequently, the energy and first-cost advantages of evaporative cooling are significant.

In spite of the obvious advantages of evaporative coolers, they are not always used in desiccant systems. They require

Chapter 5 - Components Of Desiccant Systems

33

attention to water quality, and need controls or maintenance to ensure that water pipes do not freeze in winter climates. Also, as with heat exchangers, it may be more cost-effec- tive to add conventional cooling capacity rather than invest- ing in the cost of installing another system component.

In large, built-up desiccant systems such as those used on

high-rise buildings or fresh air for laboratories and hospi- tals, cooling tower water is often used to post-cool the pro- cess air. Where a cooling tower is already an assumption in the overall building design, such a strategy can save sub- stantial conventional cooling capacity at nearly negligible installed cost and no incremental maintenance cost. But if a cooling tower is not part of the system assumptions, as in the case of low-rise commercial construction, it is not com-

mon to add one simply for desiccant post-cooling. Cooling tower maintenance issues usually make such a design less desirable from a small-building owner's perspective.

FILTRATION

Filters are an important component of desiccant systems, as they are in conventional systems. Like conventional sys- tems, the filtration need not be extreme—it must simply be there.

That is to say, the process and reactivation air must be fil- tered to prevent the desiccant wheel and heat exchangers from clogging with gross particulates like feathers, insects and grass clippings. But unless the building needs extra fil-

tration, as in the case of hospitals and industrial processes,

a conventional 30% disposable pleated filter is quite ad- equate to protect system components.

CONTROLS

As in conventional systems, controls for desiccant systems are a mixture of components provided by the manufacturer and the control subcontractor. We will divide the discussion into two sections—controls needed for internal system op- eration, and external controls needed to instruct the equip- ment to provide a particular supply air temperature and humidity.

Internal controls Inside the system, the equipment manufacturer generally provides controls to ensure, as a minimum, that:

• The reactivation burner does not ignite if there is no reactivation air flow.

• The reactivation fan continues to operate for a short period after the reactivation burner has turned off to allow the burner to cool down.

• The reactivation burner is shut down if the air temperature entering or leaving the desiccant wheel is excessive, and a fault indicator tripped accordingly.

• An alarm or fault indicator is tripped if the desiccant wheel is not rotating.

Also, manufacturers often provide controls inside the sys- tem to modulate reactivation energy in response to changes in moisture load, as previously described in the reactivation heater section.

Manufacturers generally believe It would be unwise and un- economical for the design engineer to perform these func- tions in an external control system or in a central building automation system.

Dehumidification capacity controls Controlling dehumidification capacity is often a shared re- sponsibility between equipment manufacturer and the con- trol subcontractor. There are three common methods of controlling dehumidification capacity:

• Variable air bypass (close-tolerances)

• Reactivation energy modulation (moderate tolerances)

• On-off reactivation control (loose tolerances)

Each of these methods is effective, depending on the de- gree of precision needed for the humidity control level in the building.

Variable process air bypass The most precise method of controlling humidity requires a bypass air duct and variable-position dampers for the face of the desiccant wheel and for the bypass duct. In this ar- rangement, when the humidity in the building rises above the setpoint, the bypass damper closes and the face damper opens, allowing more air to flow through the desiccant wheel. Then when the humidity control level is satisfied, the bypass damper opens to allow more air to flow past the desiccant wheel so the building is not over-dried.

A process air bypass system provides the most precise control, at the expense of some
A process air bypass system provides the most precise control,
at the expense of some mechanical complexity
Reactivation
Air
Process Air
Supply Air
Bypass
H
mechanical complexity Reactivation Air Process Air Supply Air Bypass H COMMERCIAL DESICCANT SYSTEM APPLICATION GUIDE

34

Chapter 5 - Components Of Desiccant Systems

Reactivation Air Process Air H Modulating reactivation energy provides simpler capacity control, in return for
Reactivation
Air
Process
Air
H
Modulating reactivation energy provides simpler capacity
control, in return for some reduced precision.

This method is preferred for industrial process applications, where control within ±1 or 2% rh is essential. Bypass control is used less frequently in commercial buildings, partly be- cause it costs more and partly because the dampers and linkages require some degree of maintenance attention. Fi- nally, many commercial buildings do not need precision con- trol. When control within ±5 or 7%rh is sufficient to meet the needs of the building and it's internal operations, other methods of control are quite adequate.

Reactivation energy modulation In this scheme, a humidistat varies the amount of heat pro- duced by the reactivation heaters. When the building rises above setpoint, the controller adds heat to the reactivation air stream, which provides more drying power for the des- iccant. When the humidity in the building falls below setpoint, the reactivation heat is reduced, so the desiccant does not remove as much moisture.

On-off reactivation energy control is the lowest cost alternative and is the least precise, but
On-off reactivation energy control is the lowest cost alternative
and is the least precise, but often adequate for commercial
buildings where lag-time is not an issue.
Reactivation
Air
Process
Air
H
is not an issue. Reactivation Air Process Air H This scheme has the advantage of low

This scheme has the advantage of low cost and mechanical simplicity. On the other hand, the control system must have lag-time built in so that the heater does not over-respond to a rise in humidity. For example, if the humidistat in the building calls for more dehumidification, but does not im- mediately see a fall in humidity, it may continue to call for more dehumidification long after the heater input has been increased. Then the dehumidifier may "overshoot" the de- sired control level because it is still being fed with extra re- activation heat.

These problems can be avoided by locating the humidistat

near the supply air outlet of the system, so that changes do not take long to be sensed by the humidistat. Also, a step- function can be built into the control, so that the humidis- tat calls for a small increment of extra heat, then waits for one wheel rotation before calling for additional heat.

Winter operations add one additional consideration to reac- tivation modulation as a means of control. When supply air flows through the wheel without reactivation, moisture will build up in the desiccant wheel. Excess moisture supports fungal growth within the core material. In springtime, as the humidistat calls for dehumidification, the warm, humid wheel can give off odors reminiscent of dirty laundry until the heat kills microbial growth accumulated through the winter. But this problem can be easily avoided by periodi- cally rotating and reactivating the desiccant wheel through any season when humidity is too low for the humidistat to call for dehumidification. If this wheel rotation and reacti- vation is performed once every eight hours for ten min- utes, the problem will not occur in the spring. Manufactur- ers may or may not include this feature in their internal con- trols. So the owner and design engineer should be aware of the issue when dehumidifier capacity control is accomplished by a central energy management or by a building automa- tion system.

On-Off reactivation control This method is a variation on the modulating reactivation heat scheme. Instead of modulating the reactivation heat according to the moisture load, the heaters are simply turned on or off according to control signals from a humi- distat mounted in the building.

The on-off method is even lower in cost than the modu- lated reactivation method, and gives good results in many situations. For example, when the desiccant system is mounted on the incoming ventilation air, the large mass of return air buffers the effect of changes in outside humidity.

The results can be nearly as precise as face-and-bypass dampers, for much less cost and complexity. However, the same cautions as used in the reactivation modulation method apply: the wheel should be rotated and reactivated several times a day even in periods of low humidity to avoid microbial growth during inactive seasons.

Chapter 5 - Components Of Desiccant Systems

35

Temperature controls Many desiccant systems cool the air with conventional va- por compression cooling systems, or with gas cooling sys- tems. Such systems are well-understood, as are the meth- ods through which these are controlled. For purposes of this guide, we will discuss methods of controlling direct evaporative and indirect evaporative coolers, which may be less familiar to building owners and design engineers.

As described earlier, air leaves a desiccant wheel warm and dry. In most cases, the air is too warm to send directly to the building, so some sensible heat must be removed. Then,

if sensible heat is to be removed from the building as well,

the dry air must be cooled below the control condition in the occupied space. There are three stages of cooling avail- able with evaporative cooling and heat exchangers.

Stage one - heat exchanger alone Part of this cooling can be accomplished with the heat ex- changer which, in many cases, follows the desiccant wheel. In most desiccant systems, this heat exchanger is not con-

trolled. That is to say, it cools the air as much as possible, regardless of the thermostat setting in the building, because there is always a need to remove heat. However, if the des- iccant system is mounted on the ventilation air, there may be a need for winter heat, and with that need, there will be

a need to control the heating effect produced by the desic- cant wheel.

In those cases, the warm air from the desiccant wheel can bypass the post-cooling heat exchanger when the space needs heat. Or, if the heat exchanger is a heat wheel, the wheel speed can be modulated in proportion to the heat- ing requirement. If the wheel rotates slowly, most of the heat remains in the supply air. When the wheel rotates more quickly, the supply air is cooled.

Stage two - indirect evaporative cooling When the heat exchanger by itself does not cool the supply air sufficiently, the next stage of cooling is an evaporative cooling pad located on the cold side (i.e.: the reactivation side) of the heat exchanger. As the temperature in the build- ing rises above set point, the control system turns on the water feed to the evaporative cooling pad. The cooling air is reduced in temperature, so more heat can be removed from the supply air.

Stage three - direct evaporative cooling When the building does not require humidity control, or when the building must kept cool and humid, as in the case of greenhouses, livestock barns or vegetable storage, addi- tional sensible heat can be removed by direct evaporative cooling after the heat exchanger. The warm air is passed through an evaporative cooling pad, where it picks up mois- ture and therefore becomes cooler.

This can bring the temperature of the supply air low enough to remove sensible heat from the building, rather than sim- ply bring the air to the same temperature as the building. Direct evaporative cooling has the advantages of low first cost and low operating cost. In return for those advantages, the water supply system and the evaporative pad and drain pan must be maintained regularly, and the supply air is es- sentially saturated. Consequently the system is no longer a dehumidification system, although such systems can be very useful for maintaining low temperatures and high humidi- ties as described above.

When the supply air must remain dry, the third stage of cool- ing can be accomplished by either conventional vapor-com- pression or gas cooling systems.

Final cooling - Vapor compression or gas cooling Designing conventional cooling systems to follow desiccant wheels is quite straightforward, and in many cases, a desic- cant system will include such systems on-board, so the pack- age is a complete comfort-conditioning system.

The third stage of cooling will operate for relatively few hours during the year, and will be operating at only partial capac- ity for much of the rest of the year. So, if the post-cooler is not equipped with capacity modulation, the building could suffer from poor temperature control and spikes in electri- cal power demand as the post-cooler turned on and off rap- idly when outdoor temperatures and moisture levels are moderate.

When post-cooling is provided by the desiccant system manufacturer, one can usually assume that the post-cool- ing will include capacity control. But the point is worth check- ing, and definitely requires attention when the controls con- tractor supplies temperature and humidity controls rather than the manufacturer of the desiccant system.

and humidity controls rather than the manufacturer of the desiccant system. COMMERCIAL DESICCANT SYSTEM APPLICATION GUIDE
and humidity controls rather than the manufacturer of the desiccant system. COMMERCIAL DESICCANT SYSTEM APPLICATION GUIDE

Chapter 6 - Installation Design Tips

37

CHAPTER 6 INSTALLATION DESIGN TIPS

Designing Desiccant System Installations

This information serves as a useful review for engineers, and as a guide to reviewing construction drawings and specifications for end users.

DUCT WORK

Duct work must be air tight. Although this instruction seems obvious, the point needs somewhat more emphasis in des- iccant systems than in conventional systems.

Return air duct work must be air tight, to avoid losing de- humidification capacity. Capacity is wasted when the fan draws in un-treated air through cracks on the negative-pres- sure side of the system. An engineer or owner is well-ad- vised to specify that return air duct work for any desiccant system be sealed and tested for gross air leaks. As the re- quired humidity control level goes lower, it becomes even more important to avoid air leaks in the return ducts.

When an all-desiccant system uses evaporative cooling pads for final cooling of the supply air, the air is likely to be satu- rated for many hours during the cooling season. If the sup- ply air duct work immediately following the pad has an in- side lining of insulation, the system could eventually develop the same fungal growth that is so common in conventional systems downstream of cooling coils. To avoid that prob- lem, the duct work immediately downstream of the cooling system should be lined with a washable, non-porous sur- face. Also, access doors should be located in the duct work to allow for cleaning of that lining.

These guidelines would not be out of place for conventional systems as well as desiccant systems. Manufacturers of all types of rooftop equipment often profess astonishment that design engineers and owners who would never tolerate pip- ing leaks sometimes accept that air duct work will leak as a matter of course. Avoiding air leaks is a very low-cost way to

eliminate problems. Tight duct work also improves comfort and save hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual oper- ating costs. Such great benefits are gained at the minor cost of a few rolls of duct sealer and a few hours of applica- tion labor at time of construction.

CONTROLS + SENSORS

Perhaps the most important point about controls and sen- sors is to be clear about who supplies which items, and to define who is responsible for installation.

In general, the desiccant system manufacturer can provide the internal system controls more economically than the controls contractor. Likewise, the external sensors are usu- ally less costly when purchased through the controls con- tractor. In any case, the engineer is advised to rely on the desiccant system manufacturer for advice on controls and sensors which will work properly with the equipment. Con- trols contractors are not always familiar with desiccant sys- tems, and when they are, they may make unwarranted as- sumptions based on industrial desiccant system practices.

Sensor location can affect the success of any system instal- lation, and desiccant systems are no different. For example, if a humidistat is located near the supply air discharge, the system may not control humidity properly if there is a large moisture load in the occupied space. This is because the humidistat would never see the effect of the internal load, so the desiccant would cease drying prematurely. So, as with any system, locate the sensors wherever one needs to con- trol the temperature and moisture conditions most closely.

38

Chapter 6 - Installation Design Tips

COOLING COIL DRAIN PANS + TRAPS

In many hybrid desiccant systems, the conventional cooling coils are designed to run dry. That is to say, the desiccant wheel will remove the moisture, so it does not condense out on a cooling coil. However, there are still times when a cooling coil will condense moisture temporarily. For example, on system start-up, before the systems comes to full equi- librium with the loads, the coil may condense water. Or if the desiccant wheel does not have full reactivation due to heater malfunction or other infrequent event, the coil may condense moisture from the air.

Consequently, experienced engineers and owners specify that cooling coils should have sloped drain pans with con- densate piping and full-sized P-traps to carry water out of the system and onto the roof or into a condensate drain. The P-trap must be long enough so it contains a column of water larger than the pressure rating of the system fan. Oth- erwise, water will not stay in the trap, and air will leak into or out of the system through the condensate drains.

UTILITIES

Most modern desiccant systems are designed for single- point connection of each utility. But for each service, there are some items that the engineer should consider when de- signing the installation.

Electrical power The main disconnect for the desiccant system cuts all power to the unit, which is an important safety feature when the unit is being serviced. However, the service technician usu- ally needs some source of power for work lights, drills, power wrenches, etc. So if the manufacturer does not provide a separate service power circuit for lights and power tools, the service technicians will be grateful for such a separate connection on the roof, but outside the unit. The technician's alternative is to connect a long extension cord down off the roof, through a roof access door and into the nearest building power socket—a major time-waster.

Natural gas The supply air and reactivation air heaters in desiccant sys- tems are designed to work within a specific range of gas pressures. If the pressure is above or below the specified range, the system will shut down on various types of faults.

Often the desiccant system uses enough natural gas to jus- tify a separate supply line to the roof at elevated pressure (2 to 5 psi). Other times, different appliances or heaters will need more gas, and the desiccant unit will be supplied with lower-pressure gas from a secondary line. In both cases, the engineer should be sure that the appropriate gas pressure regulators are installed to provide the specified pressure at the unit—not 300 ft. away from the unit.

In other words, if the desiccant system is supplied with gas from the main, it will need a pressure regulator installed near the unit to be sure the gas pressure is not too high. And if a smaller desiccant unit is supplied with gas from in-

side a large building's internal gas distribution system, the engineer must be sure that the pressure will be high enough when the gas reaches the desiccant unit.

Water Some desiccant systems use evaporative coolers instead of conventional cooling coils. Part of the normal maintenance for evaporative coolers is flushing the pads and the water sump every two months during the cooling season. Also, the water supply system must be drained before winter. The maintenance technician will be grateful to the engineer who makes these tasks easy to accomplish through proper fix- tures on the water supply piping.

Figure 1 shows the needed fixtures. Starting from the top of the diagram, the shut-off valve stops water flow to the system when the technician needs to flush the pads and the sump. Then the hose bib, mounted just below the shut- off valve, provides the technician with the flow needed to flush the pads. Below the roof line, the hose bib allows the technician to drain the water supply piping before winter.

Modem connections Larger desiccant systems, particularly those installed on su- permarkets, are often equipped with modems, so that their operation can be monitored remotely. When telecom wires are brought to the unit, some cautions apply.

Figure 1. Water supply piping for units which use evaporative pads for cooling

To Evaporative Pads Shut-off Valve Hose Bib For Flushing Pads During Summer Hose Bib For
To Evaporative Pads
Shut-off Valve
Hose Bib
For Flushing Pads
During Summer
Hose Bib
For Draining The System
Before Winter
Shut-off Valve

Water Supply

Roof