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DESICCANT COOLING :DESICCANT VENTILATION

COMES OF AGE EMERGING OPPORTUNITIES


AND DESICCANT COOLING SYSTEMS

JAGDEEP SINGH
Arctic India Engineering Pvt. Ltd.

ABSTRACT
Researchers, designers and manufacturers of refrigeration and air-conditioning systems and
equipment today are focusing on new and alternative technologies in view of the phasing out of CFCs.
This has brought about a revolution in HVAC industry with the advent of new replacement
technologies that operate independent of refrigerants.
Desiccant-based and desiccant assisted air-conditioning systems are currently emerging from a 60-
year industrial heritage and expanding into commercial applications. Today, both the user and the
consultant opt to adopt non-conventional approach case by case rather than sticking to conventional
method of designing systems.
Effort at all levels is being made to identify new slots / areas where desiccant cooling system provides
immediate applicability i.e. stand alone as well as provides economical and efficient alternative, by way of
lowering TR (Reduce impact of CFCs).
This paper deals with options and opportunities of viable applications of desiccant augmented
cooling systems e.g. Stand Alone – HVAC systems, industrial ventilation, Integration of Desiccant
Cooling in commercial HVAC system, Application of a Desiccant Cooling System to super markets,
Integrated Desiccant Cold Air Distribution Systems (IDCAD), Desiccant Dehumidifiers in ice arenas,
Clean Room Application, etc.
Energy shortage is something which we live with day in and day out. This energy shortage is
expected to increase as more and more population shifts to air conditioned buildings.
This presents the air conditioning industry with several challenges. Among these are demands for
increased energy efficiency and improved indoor air quality, growing concern for improved comfort and
environmental control, increased ventilation requirements, phase-out of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs),
and rising peak demand charges.
TOUGH ISSUES FACING THE HVAC&R INDUSTRY
The air-conditioning industry, worldwide, has been battling to meet new economic,
environmental, and regulatory challenges: improved ventilation-rate standards, upgraded
indoor air quality demands, reduced levels of gaseous emissions, phase-out of CFC
refrigerant, and peak electric demand. To meet these challenges, the industry and the
government in the West, specially in the United States are focusing on alternative and new
technologies like desiccant cooling and dehumidification technology.
New approaches and options to air conditioning such as Desiccant cooling and
dehumidification is providing important advantages in solving many of these problems.
However, these options have to be evaluated to resolve economic, environmental, and
regulatory issues.
Desiccant technology has become an important alternative amongst the options available to
the industry for space-conditioning. In many cooling applications, desiccant cooling units
provide advantages over the more common vapour-compression and absorption units. For
example, desiccant systems do not need ozone-depleting refrigerants and are very effective at
treating the large humidity loads resulting from ventilation air. Also, they use natural gas,
solar thermal energy, or waste heat, thus lowering peak electric demand.
As a result, the use of desiccant cooling and dehumidification systems for building comfort
conditioning has increased steadily during the past several years in the West.
Recent advances in adsorptive materials, in conjunction with dehumidifier design
innovations, are making the technology increasingly attractive.
SAVING ENERGY AND THUS, THE ENVIRONMENT
Desiccant cooling systems are energy efficient and environmentally benign.
In humid regions, desiccant dehumidification can reduce electricity demand considerably by
providing a drier, more comfortable, and cleaner indoor environment with a lower energy
bill. Desiccant systems allow more fresh air into buildings, thus improving indoor air quality
without using more energy.
Desiccant systems also displace chlorofluorocarbon-based cooling equipment, the emissions
from which contribute to the depletion of the Earth's ozone layer.
Desiccant dehumidification technology provides a method of drying air before it enters a
conditioned space. When combined with conventional vapour compression systems,
desiccant dehumidification systems are a cost-effective means of supplying cool, dry, filtered
air.
In the last decade, desiccant dehumidification technology has emerged as an alternative or as
a supplement to conventional vapour compression systems for cooling and conditioning air in
commercial and institutional buildings. A typical hybrid system combines a desiccant system
with a conventional vapour compression cooling system.
Desiccant-based systems are cost-effective because they use low-grade thermal sources to
remove moisture from the air. In general, the benefits of desiccant-based systems are greater
where the thermal energy required for regenerating the desiccant is readily available, the
electricity price is high, and the latent load fraction is high (>25%).
If there is no difference in energy costs, the factors that influence the economy include
climate conditions (humidity levels) and high outdoor-air requirements. In other situations,
the important variables that drive the economics should be carefully evaluated. There are,
however, a few applications where the technology's benefits have been so extensively
demonstrated that no detailed analysis is required: storage spaces, ice arenas, most
supermarket applications, military commissaries, hospital operating rooms, and as an add-on
to existing air conditioning systems with inadequate dehumidification capacity.
DESICCANT TECHNOLOGY
There are three basic types of gas cooling technologies: absorption system, gas engine chiller
systems and desiccant cooling cycle and the regenerative cycle.
In the dehumidification/cooling cycle the moist (humid) return air from the storage area and
some makeup air from outside is filtered and then passed through the very slowly rotating
fluted desiccant media [rotor/wheel] which adsorbs moisture.
Heat Desiccant
This air comes out of the
Exchanger Matrix
A 90 80 70 60 50 40
30 210 wheel/rotor as warm dry
100 28 195 air which is then passed
26 180
90

24
through the air handling
165

HUMIDITY RATIO
30
80 22
150
unit to be cooled and
C B A 20 distributed back to the
70 135
18
60
16
120 storage area. The
20
105 regenerative cycle is
50 A 14
12 90
40
75
basically regenerating the
10
30
8 60 moisture laden section of
10
20
B 6 45 the desiccant wheel so
10
C
30
6
4 that as it rotates back into
2 15
2

0
the supply air stream it is
0
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 ready to extract moisture
from the process air. Air
30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 110 120
TEMPERATURE is taken from outside and
heated by gas to be hot
Basic Air Desiccation Process with enough to remove the
Heat Exchange moisture from the wheel,
resulting in warm moist
air that is returned back outside.
Using psychrometrics the properties of the air can be followed through the system. In the
conventional system it is seen that the air is cooled to the Apparatus Dew Point (ADP)
temperature so that the moisture can be removed, then the air is reheated to the desired
temperature – resulting in wasted energy where as the Desiccant based systems removes the
latent load from the HVAC system thus saving energy.
One must understand that both the latent load an important role in designing of an air-
conditioning system. The advantage of the desiccant system is that it removes the latent load
by the use of a lower cost 30 210
80 60 40 30 20 15 10 8 6
100 energy alternative, i.e. gas. 28 195

26 180
90 As the process air is 4
24 165
80 already been dry only Desiccant Process 22
150

sensible cooling is
Vapor Compression Process 20
135
HUMIDITY RATIO

70
3
18

60
required, so the evaporator 16
120

105
50
coils can be operated at 14
90

40
higher temperatures. Thus, 2 12
75
Regeneration 10
30 Air hybrid systems with a 8
60
Room Air
20 combination of the 1 6
45

10
desiccant wheel and the 4 30

2 15
existing air conditioning
Freezing Limit of Evaporator
0 0
0 10 20 30 system operates on less
40 50 60 70 80 90 100

30 50 70 90 energy input than the


110 130 150 170 190 210
TEMPERATURE
conventional system.
Comparison of Desiccant and Vapor Compression
Dehumidification Processes DESICCANT BASICS
A desiccant material
naturally attracts moisture from gases and liquids. The material becomes saturated as
moisture is adsorbed or collects on the surface; but when heated, the desiccant dries out—or
regenerates—and can be used again. Conventional solid desiccants include silica gel,
activated alumina, lithium chloride salt, and molecular sieves. New solid desiccant materials
like zeolites are designed to be more effective for cooling applications. Liquid desiccants
include lithium chloride, lithium bromide, calcium chloride, and triethylene glycol solutions.
In a dehumidifier, the desiccant removes moisture from the air, which releases heat and raises
the air temperature. The air is then cooled by heat-recovery units and cooling devices such as
indirect evaporative coolers or the cooling coils of a conventional air conditioner.
In a stand-alone desiccant cooling system, air is first dried, and then cooled by a heat
exchanger clubbed with evaporative coolers. This system is free of ozone-depleting CFC and
HCFC refrigerants. In most systems, a wheel containing desiccants continuously
dehumidifies outside air entering the cooling unit. The desiccant is then regenerated by
thermal energy supplied by natural gas, waste heat, or the sun. A desiccant system can also
supplement a conventional air-conditioning system; the desiccant removes the humidity load
while the evaporator of the air conditioner lowers the air temperature.
DESICCANT COOLING SYSTEM OPERATION
The dehumidifier is the heart of a
Evaporative Heat Desiccant Exhaust
Cooler desiccant cooling system. It
Exchanger Wheel Air

F G H I
E
Indoor
Air efficiently removes the moisture
(latent load) from the process air;
Heat
Input
the temperature (sensible load) of
D C B A
Evaporative
the dried air is then reduced to Outdoor
Air
Cooler
the desired comfort conditions by
80 60
30 210
40
sensible coolers (i.e., rotary heat
30 20 15 10 8 6
100
28 195 exchangers, direct and indirect
I
26 180
90
24 165
evaporative coolers, cooling 4

80 22 150
coils). The latent and sensible
HUMIDITY RATIO

20 loads are handled more


70 135
3
18
60
A
16
120 efficiently than in vapor
F 105 G H
50
14 compression cooling equipment
90
E 12 because the components are 2
40 75
10
D
30
8
60 optimized to independently
20
C
6 45 remove these separate loads. The
B 1

10 30
4 desiccant in the dehumidifier is
2 15
0 0
regenerated (reactivated) when
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100 heat is applied to release the
30 50 70 90 110 130 150 170 190 210
moisture, which is exhausted
TEMPERATURE outdoors. The heat for
Ventilation Mode Desiccant Cooling regeneration can be provided
from a number of energy sources
such as natural gas, waste heat, solar, and off-peak electricity.
The process air to be dried is passed through a fluted desiccant media. Water vapour is
adsorbed into the fluted desiccant media driven by the vapour pressure differential between
the process air and the desiccant surface. When the desiccant is nearly saturated, hot air is
passed through the bed to release the moisture. The desiccant media typically takes the form
of a rotor (wheel) so that it may be conveniently rotated between the process and
regeneration airstreams.
Desiccant cooling systems are energy efficient, cost effective, and environmentally safe.
They can be used as stand-alone systems or with conventional air-conditioning to improve
the indoor air quality of all types of conditioned spaces. In such systems, the desiccant
removes moisture from the air, which releases heat and increases the air temperature. The dry
air is cooled using either evaporative cooling or the cooling coils of a conventional air
conditioner. The adsorbed moisture in the desiccant is then removed (the desiccant is
regenerated to its original dry state) using thermal energy supplied by natural gas, electricity,
waste heat, or the sun. Commercially available desiccants include silica gel, activated
alumina, natural and synthetic zeolites, titanium silicate, lithium chloride, and synthetic
polymers.
ADOPTING DESICCANT COOLING OPTIONS
Conventional vapour-compression cooling systems are not designed to handle temperature
and humidity loads separately. As
Outdoor

A
a result, oversized compressors
Air Evaporative
Cooler
Heat
Exchanger
Desiccant
Wheel Exhaust
Air
are often installed to dehumidify
F G H I
Indoor
Air
E
the incoming air. Also, vapor- Heat

compression systems are often Input

D operated for long cycles and at


Evaporative
C B A
Outdoor Air
Cooler
low temperatures to meet
80
30
60
210 humidity requirements, which
40 30 I 20 15 10 8 6
100
28 195 reduces their efficiency and
26 180
90
24 165
requires reheating the dry, cold 4
HUMIDITY RATIO

80
22 150 air to achieve some degree of
20
70
F
135 comfort. Both methods are
G H
3
18
120
60
A
16
expensive.
105
14
50

12
90 Desiccant systems, however, can 2
E
40
D 10
75 supplement conventional air
60
30
8 conditioners.
B
Working in
20 6 45 1

10 C
4 30
conjunction, the systems can
2 15 handle temperature and humidity
0 0 loads separately and more
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
efficiently.
30 50 70 90 110 130 150 170 190 210
HVAC designers and consultants
TEMPERATURE
can thus design systems which
Total Ventilation Mode Desiccant Cooling will reduce compressor size and
eliminate excess chiller capacity.
Another emerging application of the desiccant cooling systems is the increasing use of
combined cooling, heating, and power (BCHP) systems for buildings. Facilities with BCHP
systems recover waste heat from generators, turbines, or engines and use it for heating and
cooling to maximize overall facility efficiency. Desiccant systems use these large quantities
of low-temperature heat to provide dry, cool, comfortable fresh air to building occupants.
FROSTLESS FREEZERS AND HEALTHY AIR
Desiccant technologies can be used to great advantage in many applications like super
markets, ice arenas, etc. Though,
Desiccant Heat
Evaporative
Exchanger

I
desiccant systems are not yet the all-
Wheel

H G F
Cooler

in-all solution for all cooling and E


Outdoor
Air
Heat
humidity problems but certain areas
B
Input

C
Indoor
Air
A
are particularly well suited for
desiccant applications, based on both
Evaporative
Cooler

D
technical merits and cost.
80
30 210
60
Many supermarkets in the US use
I
40 30 20 15 10 8 6
100
28 195
them to reduce frost buildup on
26 180
90
24 165
refrigerated cases and frozen 4

80 22 150 products, extending product shelf


20
70
F 18
135 life, as well as the intervals between
G
H 3

120
60 16 expensive, energy-consuming defrost
105
50
E14
90
cycles. Desiccants contribute to a
A 12 2
40
10
75 drier, cleaner, more comfortable
D
60
30
8 environment in stores of all kinds.
6 45
10
20

30
For example, supermarkets must
B
1

C 4
2 15 control moisture levels in freezer
0 0 display cases, but “antisweat” heaters
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
consume considerable energy. A
30 50 70 90 110 130 150 170 190 210
commercial desiccant
TEMPERATURE
dehumidification system has helped
Recirculation Mode Desiccant Cooling many supermarkets save on energy
costs by controlling humidity
independent of temperature. The desiccant system reduces frost build-up on frozen products
and refrigerated cases. Additionally, the system extends product shelf life and contributes to
a drier, more comfortable store environment for shoppers and employees.
The American Hotel and Motel Association has reported that repair of mold and mildew
damage to wallpaper, paint, carpet, and other materials caused by high humidity levels could
cost hotels and motels $68 million annually.
Desiccant systems can lower the humidity levels in these spaces, saving millions of dollars in
unnecessary repairs. Desiccant systems also improve indoor air quality, improve ventilation
rates, and remove air pollutants and odors—benefits demonstrated in two hotels in Florida.
Similarly restaurants, schools, and hospitals can use desiccants to remove moisture, odors,
and pollutants for a healthier, more comfortable and productive environment. New building
standards (e.g., ASHRAE 62R) that require more outside air for ventilation are also
increasing demand for dehumidification products.
Highlights
* Independent humidity control.
* Improved presentation of frozen foods and refrigerated products.
* Lower temperature in refrigeration cabinets.
Currently in the United States, desiccant cooling and dehumidification systems are being
used successfully in industrial and many commercial applications with technology
advancements which has helped to improve the performance, reliability, and cost-
effectiveness of desiccant equipment.
Because desiccant systems perform differently from vapour-compression systems,
performance-rating procedures, test methods, and standards are being developed to permit
HVAC-system designers to compare various desiccant systems with competing technologies.
Separate procedures are being developed by the ASHRAE(American Society of Heating,
Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Inc.), and the ARI(Air-Conditioning and
Refrigeration Institute) to revise conventional comfort standards based primarily on
temperature to include humidity and indoor air quality.
GENERATING AWARENESS IN THE COUNTRY
The need of the day is to generate awareness, identify barriers to wider acceptance and
finding solutions through commercialization of the technology in the country.
Collaboration between government and industry is necessary to develop cost-effective,
marketable systems that are energy efficient and environmentally safe. To make desiccant
systems more marketable, the industry along with the government must work as partners to
* Adopt advanced desiccant materials, components available in the country to
design systems with lower costs and improved performance
* Demonstrate desiccant systems in real-world environments
* Develop markets for desiccant systems that will improve indoor air quality and
reduce environmental pollution.
The information and data generated through this collaboration should be disseminated to the
HVAC industry, the desiccant community, architects, engineers, builders, utilities, and other
end users through industry and professional society meetings, publications, conferences, and
workshops.
In conclusion, the main goals of a Desiccant Cooling Program in India should typically focus
on
* Reduction of energy consumption
* Reduction of carbon dioxide emissions
* Initiate training programs to educate design, engineering, and architectural firms
and natural gas end users about the desiccant technology and its benefits.
* Convert designers and consultants of conventional air-conditioning systems to opt
for Desiccant based Systems