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The following article was published in ASHRAE Journal, August 2004.

Copyright 2004 American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Inc. It is presented for educational purposes only. This article may not be copied and/or distributed electronically or in paper form without permission of ASHRAE.

How Chillers React to Building Loads


By Kwok Tai Chan, Ph.D., Member ASHRAE, and Fu Wing Yu

his article considers the importance of understanding the interaction between building cooling load and chiller load

profiles. It discusses the characteristics of building cooling load in terms of a weather load profile and a load frequency profile, and presents four design options with respect to the number and size of chillers.
A schedule of staging chillers together with the weather-load profile of a hypothetical office building1 can be used to determine a weather-load profile of chillers. This profile is used as an input into a chiller system model to assess how much electricity the chillers consume year-round. The assessment shows that it is desirable to use unequally sized chillers within a chiller plant to prolong their operation near
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full load and, therefore, to decrease overall electricity consumption.


Methods

Evaluation of building load and chiller load profiles. TRNSYS2 is a computer simulation program that contains a multizone building model to calculate the hourly cooling load of a building based on a combination of weather data and the
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detailed features of the building: materials, orientation, construction, ventilation and air-conditioning requirements, occupancy, equipment power density, and operating schedules. Using this program, detailed information about a generic office building in Hong Kong1 was compiled into a building description file for the model. Hourly weather data in 1989 were used. It was assumed that every piece of air-handling equipment was capable of delivering the cooling energy required to match the cooling demand for the thermal conditions specified in each zone. The characteristics of a buildings cooling load4 are expressed as a weather-load profile, which shows how hourly building cooling load (expressed as a ratio to its peak
About the Authors Kwok Tai Chan, Ph.D., is an associate professor and Fu Wing Yu is a Ph.D. research student in the Department of Building Services Engineering, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong.

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unequally sized chillers within a chiller plant to proThe assessment shows that it is desirable to use long their operation near full load and, therefore, to decrease overall electricity consumption.
value) changes in response to outdoor temperature throughout the year (Figure 1); and a load-frequency profile, which shows how the percentage of total operating hours varies at different ranges of building load ratios (Figure 2). Table 1 illustrates the four design options (OP1 to OP4) proposed for the chiller plant serving the hypothetical office building. The peak load of the building was 6389 kW (1,817 tons). OP1 and OP2 typically are used in many existing Hong Kong air-cooled chiller plants. OP3 and OP4 are not used often, but these options serve to increase the number of steps of total cooling capacity, allowing the chillers to operate more frequently at full load. Using these options, it was possible to ascertain how the chillers should be staged at different building cooling loads. To allow the chillers to operate at maximum efficiency as much as possible, chiller sequencing was implemented so all chillers were operating at the same part load, and no additional chillers in the chiller arrangement started to operate until each of the operating chillers was running at full load. Following this strategy for staging chillers, it was possible to evaluate the effect of both the weather-load and load-frequency profiles on energy usage. Calculation of the annual electricity consumption of chillers. A chiller system model computed annual electricity consumption of chillers with a given weather-load profile (showing how hourly chiller load varies with outdoor temperature) and staging schedules at various building cooling loads. This model was developed under the TRNSYS environment and could determine the hourly energy consumption for air-cooled chillers at various load and weather conditions.3 Within this model, mechanistic relations between chiller components were taken into account. In simulating the operation of a chiller, the mass balance of refrigerant and energy balance at the evaporator, the compressors and the condenser had to be satisfied. An algorithm was used to compute the number of staged condenser fans by a condensing temperature setpoint. This model was experimentally verified by an error analysis, which enabled all operating variables to be accurately predicted. Figure 3 shows the partload performance curves used in the chiller model. These curves are generally applicable to describing the efficiency of aircooled reciprocating chillers with a nominal cooling capacity of 703 to 1406 kW (200 to 400 tons).
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Results

Weather-load and load-frequency profiles of a hypothetical office building. Based on local weather conditions in 1989, there were 3,085 hours at which cooling energy was required for the building, and this accounted for 98.5% of the total working hours (3,131 hours a year). The weather load profile of the building in Figure 1 illustrates that the proportion of the internal load could be identified from the weather-dependent load. These two load components could be represented by a stepwise regression line, of which the steeper segment had a high coefficient of determination of 0.83. The internal load varied with a building load ratio (BLR) of 0.05 to 0.164, and was likely to be separate from the weatherdependent load when the outdoor temperature was below 18.4C (65.12F). This internal load constituted the whole building cooling load when the enthalpy of outdoor air was below 48 kJ/kg (20.64 Btu/lb), which corresponded to the enthalpy of indoor air based on the thermal conditions (24C [75.2F] dry-bulb temperature and 50% relative humidity) specified for air-conditioned areas in the building. In this situation, it is possible to stage off chillers and to apply free, or economizer, cooling, which means using outdoor air instead of using chilled water to provide cooling to indoor areas. If free cooling was considered for this weatherload profile, the annual building cooling energy could drop by 457 MWh (130 103 ton-hours) from 7424 MWh (2,111 103 ton-hours). As Figure 2 illustrates, if the chiller plant was designed to meet all building loads year-round, the building load ratio (BLR) would be less than 0.5 for approximately 60% of the total operating hours. In addition to this, the peak load range (a BLR of 0.9 to 1) would account for only 0.3% of the total operating time. If the benefits of free cooling were taken into account, the operating period of the chiller plants would be shortened from 3,085 to 2,162 hours for the generic office building. Under this scenario, most of the building load ratios ranging from 0.05 to 0.16 could be disregarded. This would enable the percentage of total operating hours, in which the building load ratio was below 0.5, to drop from 59.9% to 47.5% for the office building. Furthermore, chillers could operate more frequently at higher loads. Schedule of staging chillers and their load profiles. Figure 4 shows how chillers were staged to implement chiller
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Option Total Cooling Capacity, kW (tons) Total Number of Chillers Number of Chillers for Each Capacity Nominal Cooling Capacity, kW (tons) Full Load Efficiency, Coefficient of Performance (kW/ton)

OP1 6796 (1,933) 6

OP2 6478 (1,843) 8

OP3 6472 (1,841) 6

OP4
Building Load Ratio

1.0 Internal Load Weather Dependent Load 0.8

6585 (1,873) 6

0.6

0.4

1133 (322)

810 (230)

1213 (345)

810 (230)

1350 1133 810 (384) (322) (230)

0.2

3.1 (1.13)

3.1 (1.13)

3.1 3.1 3.1 3.1 3.1 (1.13) (1.13) (1.13) (1.13) (1.13)

0.0

10C

15C

20C 25C Outdoor Temperature

30C

35C

Table 1: Number and size of chillers for options OP1 to OP4.


25
Total Operating Hours, %

Figure 1: Weather load profile.


3
Chiller Efficiency (kW/ton)

Building Load Ratio < 0.5 for 59.9% Of Total Operating Hours

20 15 10 5 0 <0.1 0.1 0.2 0.2 0.3 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8 0.9 Building Load Ratio 0.9 1.0

Outdoor Temperature 35C 30C 25C 20C 15C

0 0.2 0.4 0.6 Chiller Part-Load Ratio 0.8 1.0

Figure 2: Load frequency profile.

Figure 3: Chiller part-load performance curves.

sequencing when the building load ratio reached a certain level. The number inside each column in the figures indicates the number of staged chillers with a given nominal capacity. Under options OP1 and OP2, the chilled water plant contained equally sized chillers, and one more chiller would be staged when the building load exceeded the total capacity of the staged chillers. Based on this, the step of total cooling capacity corresponded to the total number of chillers installed. More steps meant that there was more chance the chillers were operating with maximum efficiency at full load to meet various building cooling loads. OP3 and OP4 presented the opportunity to use unequally sized chillers in the chiller plant to allow the chillers to operate more frequently at full load. With regard to OP3, where the air-cooled chiller plant contained four large and two small chillers, 14 steps of total cooling capacity existed. When six chillers in OP4 were split into three different capacities, the number of steps of total cooling capacity further increased to 26. This study assessed the distribution of chiller load frequency as represented by a percentage of total operating hours at different ranges of chiller part-load ratios. Figure 5 shows that six identical chillers under OP1 operated at the full-load range (a part-load ratio of 0.9 to 1) for 26.1% of total operating hours. For OP2 where the number of identical chillers increased to
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eight, the total operating hours within the full-load range rose slightly to 36.6%. For OP3 and OP4 where the chilled water plant contained six chillers with two or three different capacities respectively, the full load range constituted 63.6% or 72.8% of total operating hours, respectively. Based on the schedules of staging chillers at different building load ratios and on the weather-load profiles of the office building, it was possible to establish the weather-load profiles of chillers for different options (Figure 6). These profiles included all combinations of chiller loads and outdoor temperatures for determining the annual power consumption of the chillers. Figure 6 illustrates that with chiller sequencing, all the chillers operated at a part-load ratio of at least 0.3. If free cooling was applied, the lowest part-load ratio rose to 0.4 or even higher. There was a wide range of outdoor temperatures (18.4C to 33.7C [65.1F to 92.7F] for OP1; 13.9C to 33.7C [57F to 92.7F] for OP2 to OP4) at which the chillers operated near full load with a part load ratio of 0.9 to 1. Given that different options provided different steps of total cooling capacity, the chillers could operate at a higher part-load ratio for more of the time for a given outdoor temperature when the number of steps of total cooling capacity increased. When the outdoor temperature increased, the part-load ratio of the chillers rose while its extent of variation tended to decrease. Very
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Option OP1
Total Cooling Capacity, kW

Option OP2
Total Cooling Capacity, kW

6,000

4,000

Chiller Nominal Capacity, kW 1123.6 6 5

6,000

4,000

Chiller Nominal Capacity, kW 809.8 7 8

2,000 2 1 0 0.18 1 0.35 2

4 3

2,000 2 0.25 2 3

6 4 1 0.13 1 5

0.53 0.70 0.88 Building Load 3 4 Ratio 5

1.00 6

0.38 0.51 0.63 0.76 3 Building 4 Load 5 Ratio 6

0.89 7

1.00 8

Option OP3
Total Cooling Capacity, kW

6,000

4,000

Chiller Nominal Capacity, kW 1213 809.8 4 3 2 4 1 1 2 0.38 2 1 0.44 3 3 2

2,000

4 2 2 1 0.76 0.82 0.89 1.00

1 0.13

1 0.19

2 0.25

1 0.32

0.51 0.57 0.63 Building Load Ratio

1 0.70

Option OP4
Total Cooling Capacity, kW

6,000

4,000

Chiller Nominal Capacity, kW 1350 1107.1 800.6 1 1 2 1 2 2 1 1 1 1 2 2 1 2 2 2 1 1 2 2 1 2 2 1 1 2 1 2 2

2 1 2 2 1 2 2 1 2

1 2,000 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 2 1 2

0.13 0.17 0.21 0.25 0.30 0.34 0.35 0.38 0.42 0.42 0.46 0.47 0.51 0.55 0.56 0.60 0.60 0.64 0.67 0.68 0.72 0.77 0.81 0.85 0.89 1.00 Building Load Ratio

Figure 4: Schedule of staging chillers at different options (OP1 to OP4).

few chiller load data in terms of part-load ratios corresponded to the regression line of the ARI condition given by the ARI Standard 5904 that relates chiller part-load ratios ranging from 1 to 0.33 with decreasing outdoor temperatures ranging from 35C to 12.5C (95F to 54.5F). Annual energy consumption of chillers with different options. After identifying the weather load profiles and the schedules of their staging, it was possible to calculate how much electricity would be consumed by chillers in the alternative options of air-cooled chiller plants. Table 2 summarizes the seasonal efficiency of the chillers and their annual electricity consumption for each option. Seasonal chiller efficiency means the annual total electricity
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consumption of the chillers in kWh over the annual total building cooling energy in kWh (or ton-hours). The normalized annual electricity use of chillers is the annual electricity consumption in kWh per unit floor area of the building in square meters. The annual electricity consumption of the chillers could be reduced by 9.2% when the number of steps of total cooling capacity increased from six to 26. Pump energy was not considered in this analysis. However, if the pumping system is assumed to be primary-secondary (P-S), then running chillers at or near full load minimizes the pumping energy. This is because in a P-S system, any time the chiller is operating, the pump also must run. Since the pump is a constant speed device and assuming pumping efficiency is
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constant for each pump selection, the pumps energy consumption is constantregardless of the chiller load. Therefore, if primary pumping energy also is considered, the benefits of energy savings are even larger when the number of steps of total cooling capacity increases. Strategies for implementing chiller sequencing. When a chiller plant contains equally sized chillers, the implementation of chiller sequencing is straightforward and based entirely on the load conditions of individual chillers. This is because one more chiller needs to be staged as long as each staged chiller operates at above full load. One of the staged chillers can be switched off when their part-load ratio drops to below (Nch 1)/ Nch , where Nch is the number of staged chillers. If, for example, six chillers are operating, when their part-load ratio falls to below 0.83 (i.e., 5/6), one of the chillers can be staged off. To successfully implement chiller sequencing, it is essential to evaluate the part-load ratio of each chiller. This evaluation involves measuring the flow and temperature of chilled water. On the other hand, if identically sized chillers in a P-S pumping system are balanced to carry equal flows of chilled water, the chillers can be staged based simply on the system-mixed temperatures of return chilled water and supply chilled water. When a chiller plant contains chillers of different sizes, it is critical to determine building cooling load in addition to the load conditions of each chiller to successfully implement chiller sequencing. It is impossible to simply switch these chillers on or off based on their load conditions, because they can be staged in various combinations to meet the requirements of building cooling load. More steps of total cooling capacity will bring more sophisticated staging of chillers. For example, with OP4, the number of staged chillers tended to oscillate across the entire range of building cooling loads. The increasing building cooling load cannot be met simply by staging more chillers because the sizes of these chillers strongly influence the extent to which their composite cooling capacity can rise to match the building load. It is essential to provide a detailed monitoring of the cooling capacity of individual chillers of different sizes and of their combined cooling capacity. A building management system (BMS) is a prerequisite for facilitating this monitoring. With a BMS, the schedule of staging unequally sized chillers can be programmed to automatically implement chiller sequencing.
Discussion and Conclusions

80
Total Operating Hours, %

60

40

Design Options OP1 OP2 OP3 OP4

20

0 0.30.4 0.40.5 0.50.6 0.60.7 0.70.8 Chiller Part-Load Ratio 0.80.9 0.91.0

Figure 5: Load frequency profile of chillers.


Option Seasonal Chiller Efficiency, kWh/kWh (kWh/ton-hour) Normalized Annual Electricity Use of Chillers, kWh/m2 Percentage of Electricity Saving in Relation to OP1 OP1 0.34 (1.20) 59.34 OP2 0.32 (1.23) 55.68 6.2% OP3 0.31 (1.09) 53.95 9.1% OP4 0.31 (1.09) 53.91 9.2%

Table 2: Seasonal efficiency and annual electricity use of chillers in the office building under different options.

Considering that the cooling load of a building directly influences how much energy chillers in a chiller plant consume, it is essential to understand how the building cooling load varies at different times of day and different days of the year. This variation can be represented by a load-frequency profile and a weather-load profile. Based on the load-frequency profile of a generic office building, the peak load range (a building load ratio of 0.9 to 1) accounts for less than 0.3% of the total operating time. It is
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reasonable that the total capacity of a chiller plant can be designed for the peak cooling demand without additional spare capacity. This design helps eliminate the chance of the plant being oversized and meets ASHRAEs recommendation that any plant capacity should be sized to cope with the cooling demand for 97.5% of the total operating time.5 Based on the schedule of staging chillers, we can determine how much backup capacity idle chillers can provide in various building load conditions. This analysis is useful in ascertaining whether additional chillers are required to provide a backup capacity for the peak demand, and how the idle chillers should be arranged for routine maintenance. When the building cooling load drops, the backup capacity increases because more chillers are idle. With regard to OP1 and OP2 for the chiller plant with identically sized chillers, one extra chiller seems sufficient to provide a backup capacity for the peak demand because at least one chiller staged for the peak demand can be idle for more than 90.6% of total operating hours. This is true unless N+1 redundancy is required when the chiller plant is satisfying a process cooling loadfor example, manufacturing semiconductors (N means the total number of chillers for the peak demand). The load frequency varies irregularly across the entire range of building load ratios. This depends on how accurately the cooling capacity given by the staged chillers matches the building cooling load. In the presence of free (economizer) cooling, the annual building load that the chillers handled decreased by 6.2% and their operating period shortened by 29.9%. It is important to use the load-frequency profile of chillers to assess how many hours the chillers operate at a part-load
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Option OPI
1.0 1.0

Option OP2

Chiller Part-Load Ratio

0.6 ARI Condition 0.4

Chiller Part-Load Ratio

0.8

0.8

0.6 ARI Condition 0.4

0.2 Internal Load Weather Dependent Load 0.0 10C 15C 20C 25C Outdoor Temperature 30C 35C

0.2 Internal Load Weather Dependent Load 0.0 10C 15C 20C 25C Outdoor Temperature 30C 35C

Option OP3
1.0 1.0

Option OP4

Chiller Part-Load Ratio

Chiller Part-Load Ratio

0.8

0.8

0.6 ARI Condition 0.4

0.6 ARI Condition 0.4

0.2 Internal Load Weather Dependent Load 0.0 10C 15C 20C 25C Outdoor Temperature 30C 35C

0.2 Internal Load Weather Dependent Load 10C 15C 20C 25C Outdoor Temperature 30C 35C

0.0

Figure 6: Weather load profiles of chillers at different options (OP1 to OP4).

ratio of 0.9 to 1. The length of this operating period depends on the number of steps of total cooling capacity. Figure 5 shows that at least 10 steps of total cooling capacity could enable chillers to operate near full load for more than 50% of total operating hours. With 26 steps, this percentage of total operating hours increased to 72.8%, and the weather-load profile of the chillers indicated that there was a wide range of outdoor temperatures when the chillers were operating near full load. Considering that very few chiller load data correspond to the condition given by ARI Standard 590, it is inadequate to use the ARI part-load condition (IPLV or NPLV) alone to describe the operating conditions of chillers and to specify chiller efficiency. Chillers generally operate at part load with various outdoor temperatures.6 When the number of steps of total cooling capacity increases from six to 26, the annual electricity consumption of chillers could be reduced by 9.2%. The benefits of energy savings can be larger if chillers use primary pumping energy. Unequally sized chillers can be put into effect to enable them to operate with high efficiencies and to lower overall electricity consumption. It remains to be seen how overall engineering economics (i.e., life-cycle cost analysis) can help determine
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if the energy savings are worth the increased capital and maintenance costs for multiple chillers of different sizes.
Acknowledgments

The work described in this paper was supported by a grant from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong SAR, China (Project No. PolyU 5018/00E) and the central research grant of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
References
1. Chan, K.T. and F.W. Yu. 2002. Part load efficiency of air-cooled multiple-chiller plant. Building Services Engineering Research & Technology 23(1):2939. 2. Solar Energy Laboratory. 2000. TRNSYS: A transient system simulation program (reference manual). Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin-Madison Press. 3. Chan, K.T. and F.W. Yu. 2004. Optimum set point of condensing temperature for air-cooled chillers. International Journal of HVAC&R Research 10(2):113127. 4. Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Institute. 1998. ARI Standard 550/590, Water chilling packages using the vapor compression cycle. 5. 2001 ASHRAE HandbookFundamentals (SI ed.), chap. 24. 6. Landman, W.J. 1996. Off-design chiller performance. Trane Engineers Newsletter, 25(5). www.trane.com/commercial/library/ vol255/25-05pdf.pdf. ASHRAE Journal 57