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Design Criteria for

Primary/Secondary and
Primary-Loop-Only Systems
Optimizing chilled-water plants annual electrical usage requires
analyzing chillers water-flow-rate requirements
By ALEXANDER L. BURD, PhD, PE, and GALINA S. BURD, MS
Advanced Research Technology
Suffield, Conn.
Editors note: The following is a continuation and conclusion of
the article Primary/Secondary-Loop vs. Primary-Loop-Only
Systems, 1 published in the December 2010 issue of HPAC
Engineering.

In multichiller plants, control of the number of chillers in operation typically is realized by setting up control
points for kilowatt minimum and maximum magnitudes
(which relate to the chillers specific electrical energy use
in kilowatts per ton at various loading factors and other
parameters), upon which chillers are removed or added to
line to adjust to the load.
However, in addition to this control strategy, allowable
minimum and maximum water-flow-rate requirements
via the chillers evaporators must be satisfied either for a
primary/secondary- (P/S-) loop system with variable-flow
control in both loops or a primary-loop-only system with
variable flow (PLOVF) to prevent a chillers shutdown, simultaneously avoiding flow via decoupling pipe and, thus,
optimizing electrical energy use. If these conditions are
not satisfied, then a P/S system is superior over a PLOVF
system from an energy-conservation point of view.1
As long as P/S and PLOVF systems operate as singleloop systems, chilled water flows at design and off-design
conditions via generation, and distribution piping systems
are equalized (WCPGS = WCPDS in Figure 1), their annual
electrical energy consumption will remain optimal and
equal. (This is assuming both systems have the same major parameters, identical chiller and evaporator arrange-

ments, equal design chilled-water-pump horsepower,


overall flow and head pressure, variable-frequency pumps,
etc.). Thus, the purpose of the design will be to determine
the design criteria (i.e., available and required evaporator
chilled-water-flow turndown ratio) and select the equipment (number of chillers and their capacity) when P/S and
PLOVF systems will operate at their maximum energy
efficiency.

Available Evaporator Chilled-Water-Flow


Turndown Ratio
Available design chilled-water-flow turndown ratio
(WFTDRDEAVL) for the selection of a chiller-evaporator can
be determined as follows:
WFTDRDEAVL = TDEMAX TDEDP

(1)

TDEMIN TDEDP TDEMAX

(2)

where:
TDEMAX = maximum evaporator design chilled-water
temperature differential for a chiller, degrees Fahrenheit
TDEMIN = minimum evaporator design chilled-water
temperature differential for a chiller, degrees Fahrenheit
TDEDP = distribution-piping-system design temperature differential, which is selected between given values of
TDEMAX and TDEMIN
The magnitude of TDEDP must be optimized because
it affects installed and operating costs of the chillers, the
distribution piping system, and the terminal units (i.e.,
cooling coils, etc). After this optimization is completed and
TDEDP is known, the magnitude of WFTDRDEAVL can be

Alexander L. Burd, PhD, PE, is president of, and Galina S. Burd, MS, is a project manager for, Advanced Research Technology, an
engineering and research consulting firm. Alexander (aburd@energyart.net) has 35 years of experience in the design, research,
and optimization of HVAC and district energy systems and has published more than 35 research and technical papers in American
and European journals. Galina (gburd@energyart.net) has more than 25 years of design and research experience in the HVAC and
architectural-engineering fields and has co-authored numerous technical and research papers in American journals. The Burds
hold a number of U.S. patents for inventions in the energy-conservation field.
42

HPAC Engineering

OCTOBER 2011

DESIGN CRITERIA FOR PRIMARY/SECONDARY AND PRIMARY-LOOP-ONLY SYSTEMS

Generation system

Chiller #1

Distribution System
Load

W/2
Chiller #2
W/2

5
3

W
VFD
B. Series chillers evaporation arrangement

VFD

Generation system

WCPGS WCPDS

Distribution System

1
Chiller #1
W

Load

Chiller #2

TINT

4
W

VFD
VFD
Notes and symbols:
1 and 2 Series chiller-evaporator arrangement bypass pipes
3 Chiller-plant decoupling pipe
4 P/S- or PLOVF-system primary-loop pump
5 P/S-system secondary-loop pump
6 Chiller-evaporator arrangement A and B have equal cooling loads
7 For the specifics of control system arrangements, see1
W Chiller-plant cumulative relative water-flow rate via chillers evaporators
WCPGS, WCPDS Chiller-plant water flow rate via generation and distribution systems, respectively
TINT Intermediate chilled-water temperature between chillers 1 and 2
Additional electrical valves for series chiller-evaporator control arrangements
VFD Variable-speed pumps control arrangement1
Relative parameters are shown overlined

FIGURE 1. Examples of a parallel chillers evaporators arrangement and a series chiller


evaporator arrangement.
determined from Equation 1.
As a result, the available chilledHPAC_1011_Burd_figure
1
Schematical representation
of
water-flow
turndown ratio (which
comparative available chilled-water
represents system water flow conturndown ratios for P/S and PLOVF
trollable range shown in Figure 2) for
systems is shown in Figure 2. Bethe PLOVF system (WFTDRAVLPLOVF)
cause of the independent-loops arshould be reduced as compared with
rangement of the two-loop system
WFTDRAVLP/S for the P/S system by
and its unique architecture, the P/S
the overall system operational safety
system is able to utilize all of the
factor (OSOSF) of 0.82 to 0.9. Thus:
available evaporator chilled-waterflow turndown ratio. On the other
WFTDRAVLP/S = WFTDRDEAVL
hand, a PLOVF system, because of
the specifics of its architecture and
WFTDR AVLPLOVF = (0.82 to 0.9)
rigid dependency of the flows via
WFTDRDEAVL
the generation and distribution piping loop system, is able to utilize
Required Evaporator Chilledless than full available evaporator
Water-Flow Turndown Ratio
chilled-water turndown ratio. Figure
Required evaporator chilled-wa2 outlines suggested parameters, inter-flow turndown ratio (WFTDRREQ)
cluding operational safety factors
is another important parameter while
for F1HL and F1LL, to avoid PLOVFselecting P/S or PLOVF systems for a
system shutdown on high and low
chiller-plant application. WFTDRREQ
chiller evaporator flows or premafor a chilled-water plant can be evalture addition or removal of a chiller
uated for P/S and PLOVF systems
and associated ancillary equipment
from the following equation, which
from the line.
is based on the conservative assump44

HPAC Engineering

OCTOBER 2011

tion that in real-life conditions, the


relative chilled-water-flow variation
in the plant is changing in direct proportion to the relative plant cooling
load, or W Q 1:
WFTDRREQ = (CPDCL CPCLMFC)
SCSCF
(3)
where:
CPDCL = chiller-plant design cooling load in tons
CPCLMFC = chiller-plant cooling
load in tons at the end of mechanical
cooling season or at the load associated with implementation of various
control strategies (i.e., reset chilledwater temperature control, etc.)
SCSCF = system control strategy
correction factor, which is equal to
or less than 1. SCSCF equals 1 for
systems that do not utilize reset
chilled-water temperature control at
the chiller plant or variable airflow
rate at terminal units, etc. Otherwise,
F1HL

TDEMIN

F1HL
System operational
safety factor for F1HL
0.9 to 0.95 F1HL

P/S system
water flow
controllable range

PLOVF system
water flow
controllable range

WFTDRAVL P/S =
1.0 (F1HL/F1LL)

WFTDRAVL PLOVF =
(0.9 to 0.95)
F1HL/(1.1 to 1.05)
F1LL = (0.82 to 0.9)
(F1HL/F1LL)

TDEDP

WCPGS WCPDS

A. Parallel chillers evaporation arrangement

OSOSF = 1.0

OSOSF = 0.82 to 0.9


1.1 to 1.05 F1LL

System operational
safety factor for F1LL
F1LL

TDEMAX

F1LL

Notes:
F1HLEvaporator allowable high-limit water-flow rate, gpm
F1LLEvaporator allowable low-limit water-flow rate, gpm
TDEMAX, TDEMINMaximum or minimum evaporator
design chilled-water temperature, respectively, F
TDEDPDistribution piping system design temperature
differential, F
WFTDRAVL P/S, WFTDRAVL PLOVFAvailable chilled-water-flow
turndown ratio for P/S and PLOVF systems, respectively
OSOSFOverall system operational safety factor for
P/S and PLOVF systems

FIGURE 2. Chiller evaporator comparative


available chilled-water turndown ratio
schematical representation for P/S and
PLOVF systems.

DESIGN CRITERIA FOR PRIMARY/SECONDARY AND PRIMARY-LOOP-ONLY SYSTEMS

Relative supply
chilled-water temperature, T1

Figure 3 is illustrative of the impact


of the reset chilled-water-temperature control strategy. This is analyzed
for the cooling coil (which is assumed
to be maintained at ideal clean heatexchanger-surface conditions) with a
design load of 28.5 tons.1 The air-handling units are operating with constant airflow; we assumed a minimum
mechanical cooling load of 2.9 tons.
The upper graph shows four optional control strategies related to
chilled-water supply temperature.
Option 1 is associated with constant
relative chilled-water temperature T1
= 1 (T1 = 40F) over the systems entire operational hours. (Note: relative
parameters are shown overlined.)
Option 2 resets relative chilled-water
temperature from T1 = 40F (T1 = 1)
at design conditions with relative
cooling load Q = 1 to T1 = 47.5F (T1 =
1.19) at Q = 0.1.
Options 3 and 4 are a combination
of options 1 and 2. Option 3 maintains design chilled-water temperature of 40F (T1 = 1) until Q is reduced
to 0.52. After that, it gradually resets
relative chilled-water temperature to
47.5F (T1 = 1.19) at Q = 0.1. Option
4 maintains relative design chilledwater temperature of 40F (T1 = 1)
until Q is reduced to 0.29 and after
that gradually resets relative chilledwater temperature to 47.5F (T1 =
1.19) at Q = 0.1.
The graph in the middle of Figure
3 depicts relative temperature-differential variations associated with
control strategies shown in the upper
graph. The relative temperature differential (T) increases for Option 1
from T = 1 at Q = 1 to T = 1.25 (or
by a factor of 1.25) when the relative
cooling load, Q, decreases from the
design value of 1 to 0.1; T decreases
for options 2, 3, and 4, respectively,
from 1 at design load Q = 1 to 0.2 at Q
= 0.1 or by the factor of 5.

Option 1
Option 2
Option 3
Option 4

1.15
1.10
1.05
1.00
0.95
0.0

0.1

0.2

0.3

0.4

0.5

0.6

0.7

0.8

0.9

1.0

1.1

Relative cooling load, Q


1.4
Relative chilled-water
temperature differential, T

Reset Temperature Control and


Required Chiller-Plant ChilledWater Turndown Ratio

1.20

1.2
1.0
0.8
Option 1
Option 2
Option 3
Option 4

0.6
0.4
0.2
0.0
0.0

Relative chilled-water flow rate, W

SCSCF should be assumed to be less


than 1.

0.1

0.2

0.3

0.4

0.5
0.6
0.7
Relative cooling load, Q

0.8

0.9

1.0

1.1

1.2
1.0
0.8
0.6

Option 1
Option 2
Option 3
Option 4

0.4
0.2
0.0
0.0

0.1

0.2

0.3

0.4

0.5

0.6

0.7

0.8

0.9

1.0

1.1

Relative cooling load, Q


Notes:
Supply chilled water temperature at design relative cooling load Q = 1 is assumed to be 40F
Option 1: Constant chilled-water temperature maintained at its design level VFTDRREQ = 12.5
Option 2: Linear reset chilled-water temperature control from design conditions
to 0.1 relative cooling load (WFTDRREQ = 2)
Option 3: Reset chilled-water temperature control at 0.52 relative cooling load and below (WFTDRREQ = 2.1)
Option 4: Reset chilled-water temperature control at 0.29 relative cooling load and below (WFTDRREQ = 4.2)

FIGURE 3. Relative chilled-water-plant parameters at various cooling loads and supply


chilled-water temperature control strategies.
The bottom graph in Figure 3
Thus, Figure 3 indicates that the
shows relative chilled-water-flowreset chilled-water temperature conrate (W) variation as a function of the
trol has a pronounced impact on
3
relative cooling load Q. UnderBurd_FIGURE
the
WFTDR
REQ in the chiller plant. The
Option 1 chilled-water-temperature
unchanged magnitude of chilledcontrol strategy, W reduces from 1
water temperature T1 = 40F for the
to 0.08 when Q is lowered from 1 at
considered conditions (Option 1)
design conditions to 0.1, respectively.
leads to the reduction of the relative
At the same time, options 2, 3, and 4
chilled-water flow from 1 to 0.08 (reexperience reduction of W from 1 at
sulting in WFTDRREQ = 12.5), while
design conditions to 0.5 at the end of
Q fluctuates from 1 to 0.1. Option 2
the mechanical cooling season.
would result in W variation from 1 to
October 2011

HPAC Engineering

45

DESIGN CRITERIA FOR PRIMARY/SECONDARY AND PRIMARY-LOOP-ONLY SYSTEMS

0.5 (WFTDRREQ = 2).


Under Option 3, the magnitude of
W is reduced from 1 to 0.47 (WFTDRREQ = 2.1) at Q = 0.52 and then W
increases to 0.5 (WFTDRREQ = 2) at Q
= 0.1. Finally, under Option 4, W is reduced from W = 1 to W = 0.24 (WFTDRREQ = 4.2) and then W increases to
W = 0.5 (WFTDRREQ = 2). The higher
magnitude of WFTDRREQ should be
selected between the two turndown
ratio values that relate to options 3
and 4 to establish the resulting value
of WFTDRREQ for the system.

Chiller-Water-Plant Required
Number of Chillers
The number of chillers sharing the
plant load at a given chillers load
safety factor should be selected for
both P/S and PLOVF systems with
the purpose of making WFTDR AVL
equal or higher than WFTDR REQ to
eliminate water flow via the decou-

pling pipe and to optimize chillerplant electrical energy use.


The required number of chillers
for the plant optimal operation can
be calculated from the following
equation:
NREQ = (WFTDRREQ WFTDRAVL)
CPLSF
(4)
where:
WFTDRAVL = available chilled-water turndown ratio for a chiller plant
with P/S and PLOVF systems
WFTDRREQ = required chilled-water turndown ratio for a chiller plant
with P/S and PLOVF systems
CPLSF = chiller-plant load safety
factor
If the installed number of chillers in the plant (NI) is less than NREQ,
then WFTDR REQ is greater than
WFTDRAVLP/S & PLOVF and the applica-

tion of the P/S system will be beneficial from the energy-conservation


point of view as compared with a
PLOVF system. If NI is greater than or
equal to NREQ, then WFTDRREQ is less
than or equal to WFTDRAVLP/S & PLOVF,
and both P/S and PLOVF systems are
equally energy-efficient.

Chilled-Water Plants With Parallel


and Series Chiller Evaporators
Schematical representations of the
chiller plant with a parallel and series
connection of the chillers evaporators and P/S and PLOVF systems are
shown in Figure 1.
Chilled-water systems with parallel chiller-evaporator connections
(Figure 1A) are common. The chillers
plant load and the relative water-flow
rate is equally (W 2) shared by a
number of chillers on line until it is
reduced to a single chiller. The parallel chiller arrangement is relatively

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HPAC Engineering

OCTOBER 2011

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DESIGN CRITERIA FOR PRIMARY/SECONDARY AND PRIMARY-LOOP-ONLY SYSTEMS

simple in operation and maintenance.


Chilled-water systems with series
chiller-evaporator connections are
mostly utilized in custom-made applications. The same series connection
is equally applicable for a P/S and
PLOVF system and variable-speed
pump control. The series-chillers arrangement (assuming that identical
chillers to be employed in both series
and parallel arrangements) requires
a substantial increase of the pressure
drop via the evaporator (because of
a twofold W increase in relative water flow via a chiller at design conditions). In this instance, the design
pressure drop will be approximately
eight times higher in a series arrangement (Figure 1B) than in a parallel arrangement (Figure 1A).
The series arrangement is less
dependable in operation and will
require employment of additional
electrically operated control valves
to remove/add a chiller from/to the
line to adjust the load or to isolate
a failed chiller (Figure 1B). The series arrangement will make the reset
chilled-water temperature control
more challenging to implement, even
for a P/S system because of the introduction of the additional variable
parameter (TINT in Figure 1B) representing the temperature of chilled
water leaving Chiller 1 and entering
Chiller 2.
When the identical and equal
number of chillers with similar
load-sharing strategy is utilized, the
chilled-water turndown ratio will be
the same for both parallel and series
chillers evaporator arrangements.

Specifying Chillers
Tables 1 and 2 demonstrate comparative chiller-plant analysis of the
required number of chillers for P/S
and PLOVF systems. The data in these
tables are related to two sets of values
for distribution-piping-system design
temperature differential: T DEDP =
15F (Table 1) and TDEDP = 10F (Table
2). For the purpose of analysis of the
T DEDP impact on required number
of chillers, we assumed that terminal-

P/S
Option 1

PLOVF
Option 1A

PLOVF
Option 1B

P/S
Option 2

P/S
Option 3

P/S
Option 4

0.90

0.82

WFTDRREQ

12.5

12.5

12.5

2.1

4.2

WFTDRAVL. DES

1.5

1.3

1.2

1.5

1.5

1.5

Required number of
chillers, Nreq

8.4

9.3

10.2

1.3

1.4

2.8

Installed number of
chillers, Ni

10

11

Required individual chillers


design load, tons

67

60

55

300

300

200

Parameter
Overall system operational
safety factor, OSOSF

Notes:
1. Chiller plant design cooling load, tons: 600
2. Installed chiller plant cooling load capacity, tons: 600
3. Assumed chiller-plant load safety factor: 1
4. Assumed maximum chiller evaporator design chilled-water temperature differential
(Tdemax) = 22.4 F
5. Assumed distribution piping system design temperature differential (Tdedp) = 15 F
6. Control options 1, 2, 3 and 4 are in reference to Figure 3
7. AHUs serviced by the chiller plant are assumed to be operating with constant-air-flow control
arrangement
8. Reset chilled water temperature control is assumed to be applicable only for P/S system1

TABLE 1. Comparative chiller-plant turndown ratios and required number of chillers for
P/S and PLOVF systems (TDEDP = 15F).
unit cooling-coil parameters will not
change. Each table also includes two
values of OSOSF for PLOVF system
that are either 0.9 (Option 1A) or 0.82
(Option 1B). Required number of chillers is calculated utilizing Equation 4 to
satisfy the conditions under which a
chiller plant will not have water flowing through the decoupling pipe for

the entire mechanical cooling season.


We considered four control strategy options outlined earlier in Figure
3. The conditions shown in Table 1 for
a P/S system under Option 1 (without
chilled-water reset temperature control) will require the installation of
nine 67-ton chillers. The same option
for a PLOVF system will require the

P/S
Option 1

PLOVF
Option 1A

PLOVF
Option 1B

P/S
Option 2

P/S
Option 3

P/S
Option 4

0.90

0.82

WFTDRREQ

12.5

12.5

12.5

2.1

4.2

WFTDRAVL. DES

2.2

2.0

1.8

2.2

2.2

2.2

Required number of
chillers, Nreq

5.6

6.2

6.8

0.9

0.9

1.9

Installed number of
chillers, Ni

100

86

86

600

600

300

Parameter
Overall system operational
safety factor, OSOSF

Required individual chillers


design load, tons

Notes:
1. Chiller-plant design cooling load, tons: 600
2. Installed chiller-plant cooling-load capacity, tons: 600
3. Assumed chiller-plant load safety factor: 1
4. Assumed maximum chiller evaporator design chilled water temperature differential
(Tdemax) = 22.4 F
5. Assumed distribution piping system design temperature differential (Tdedp) = 10 F
6. Control options 1, 2, 3 and 4 are in reference to Figure 3
7. AHUs serviced by the chiller plant are assumed to be operating with constant-air-flow control
arrangement
8. Reset chilled water temperature control is assumed to be applicable only for P/S system1

TABLE 2. Comparative chiller-plant turndown ratios and required number of chillers for
P/S and PLOVF systems (TDEDP = 10F).
OCTOBER 2011

HPAC Engineering

47

DESIGN CRITERIA FOR PRIMARY/SECONDARY AND PRIMARY-LOOP-ONLY SYSTEMS

installation of either 10 60-ton chillers (Option 1A) or 11 55-ton chillers


(Option 1B). Thus, the PLOVF system
will utilize a higher number of chillers to satisfy given conditions.
Table 1 further indicates that the
number of installed chillers (NI) for a

P/S system under Option 2 (assuming


continual reset water-temperature
control through the entire cooling
season) could be reduced to two 300ton chillers. The number of installed
chillers (N I) under options 3 and 4
(assuming reset water-temperature

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Circle 178
48

HPAC Engineering

OCTOBER 2011

control during off-design conditions)


for a P/S system could be reduced to
two 300-ton chillers or three 200-ton
chillers, respectively.
Table 2 shows the number of chillers required for the system with
T DEDP = 10F could be reduced by
the factor of 1.5 compared with the
system with TDEDP = 15F because
of the higher WFTDR AVL value calculated from Equation 1. Still, the
number required for a P/S system
under options 2, 3, and 4 remains
substantially lower than for a PLOVF
system.
In a real-life situation, it is unlikely
(perhaps, with the exception of modular chillers) that the number of chillers would be increased to nine or 10
(Table 1) or to six or seven (Table 2)
for a chiller plant with P/S and PLOVF
systems because of the additional
cost associated with the multiple
chillers and their ancillary equipment
(cooling towers, condenser pumps,
controls, etc.). Because of that, two
300-ton chillers are most likely to be
installed for the considered plant.
This is equivalent of the conditions when NI is less than NREQ and
WFTDR REQ is greater than WFTDRAVL for both P/S and PLOVF systems. Under these scenarios, a P/S
system will provide lower annual
electrical energy usage for the chiller
plant compared with a PLOVF system. As an additional benefit, a P/S
system will reduce the number of
times a system swtiches from twochiller to single-chiller operation and
vice versa by about 10 percent to 18
percent, compared to a PLOVF system with an OSOSF of 0.9 or 0.82,
respectively.

This investigation specifies design


criteria and required conditions at
which P/S and PLOVF systems will
have no energy wasteful chilled-water flow via the decoupling pipe of
the chiller plants with parallel and
series chiller-evaporator arrangements and essentially operate as single-loop systems. As long as both P/S

DESIGN CRITERIA FOR PRIMARY/SECONDARY AND PRIMARY-LOOP-ONLY SYSTEMS

and PLOVF systems operate in this


mode (assuming both systems have
the same major parameters, identical chiller and evaporator arrangements, equal design chilled-waterpump horsepower, overall flow, head
pressure, variable-frequency-drive
controls, etc.), their annual electrical
energy use will be optimal and equal.
The other findings of the article are
as follows:
Satisfying the above conditions
requires a larger number of chillers
with a lower design cooling capacity
as compared with current engineering practice for both P/S and PLOVF
systems and may call for the employment of modular chillers.
The procedure of selecting and
specifying available and required
chilled-water turndown ratio for the
evaporators of a chiller plant with
P/S or PLOVF systems is presented
to optimize electrical energy use.
The number of chillers for P/S
or PLOVF systems is selected based
on the optimal distribution-pipingsystem temperature differential
and chiller-plant load safety factor
to match the required and available
magnitudes of the chilled-water turndown ratio.
A P/S system requires a lower
number of chillers in a chiller plant
compared with a PLOVF system
because of the higher controllable
range of water-flow rate for P/S system and the ability to realize a reset
chilled-water-temperature control
strategy.
A PLOVF system compared with
a P/S systemassuming both systems have an equal number of chillers and chiller capacitieswill need
more frequent changes in the number of operating chillers and their associated ancillary equipment over the
cooling season because of the lower
available magnitude of chilled-water
turndown ratio.
The similar procedures and design criteria are equally applicable for
the selection of available and required
magnitudes of a hot water boiler-plant
turndown ratio, as well as a number

of boilers in the central boiler plant


with P/S or PLOVF systems.

Engineering, pp. 36-45. Available at


http://bit.ly/Burd_1210

References

Did you find this article useful? Send


comments and suggestions to Senior
Editor Ron Rajecki at ron.rajecki@
penton.com.

1) Burd, A., & Burd, G. (2010, December). Primary/secondary-loop vs.


primary-loop-only systems. HPAC

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