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Engineers Newsletter volume 43 2

Chilled-Water Systems Design Issues

Learning from past mistakes

designed as variable primary flow (VPF). [9.0 kPa]. Even if the differential pressure
As with anything in life, you can learn The bypass line (sized the same as the sensor is of high quality, it will be difficult to
HVAC design the hard way, from supply manifold) and valve that allow select one that has the required precision to
painful and costly mistakes, or the
minimum chiller flow rate are located in accurately measure such a small difference
easy way, from veteran engineers who
can help you avoid those mistakes. the mechanical room, as are the air between design flow and minimum flow
The purpose of this EN is to help new handlers. A differential pressure sensor pressure drops.
engineers with the latter. across the evaporator is used to
determine flow rate and to control the Solution 1: Select the proper flow
bypass valve.(Figure 1). sensing technology. Flow meters are
generally more expensive, require more
Background See any red flags? Lets take a look at the calibration, and must be installed per the
problems that occurred on the job and manufacturer's requirements with a specific
The following three cases are how to avoid making the same mistakes. amount of straight piping up- and down-
composite scenarios of various chilled- stream. Despite these limitations, they're
water system design issues we have Issue 1: Flow sensing device is not better suited to monitor flow for this
witnessed over the years. In each accurate enough at the minimum flow system.
scenario, the design issues are rate. As mentioned, the design
highlighted and followed by possible evaporator pressure drop is 5 ft of head Issue 2: Loop volume does not meet the
solutions. [15 kPa]. At the minimum flow rate of chiller unit control requirement. Chiller
1.2 gpm per ton [0.022 L/s per kWr], the unit controls often require a certain loop
By sharing the hard-earned HVAC pressure drop will be about 3 ft of head
design wisdom that comes from trial volume to maintain good chilled-water
and error, we hope to shorten the
learning curve for new engineers. Figure 1. Case 1: New variable primary flow (VPF)

DP 200-ton helical rotary chillers:

minimum flow rate:
56F (13.3C) 40F (4.4C)
Case 1: New Variable 1.2 gpm/ton
design pressure drop:
Primary Flow 5 ft of head
A new system has been designed drive (VSD)
using an increased system chilled-
water temperature difference as
recommended in the ASHRAE
GreenGuide1 and by Taylor2. The 6 in pipe
chillers are selected at low design VSD
evaporator pressure drops (5 ft of head
[15 kPa]) per chiller to minimize pump modulating
AHUs in same
power and energy. To reduce installed control valve
cost and operating costs, the system is for minimum
chiller flow

2014 Trane, a business of Ingersoll Rand. All rights reserved. 1

temperature control and ensure that Many designers will use 4 in [10 cm] line The series chiller layout has two
compressors are not cycled for this flow rate. Then select a valve to significant benefits:
unnecessarily. The loop volume give proper bypass control. While not
includes the fluid in the evaporator required, some consulting engineers The upstream chiller operates at an
bundle, pipes, and coils. In many close- specify a pressure independent valve for elevated temperature and increased
coupled systemsfor example where bypass. efficiency. Very often this
the air handlers and chillers are in the compensates for any increase in
same equipment roomthe loop pump energy.
Issue 4: Flow can't be significantly
volume will not be adequate. The reduced. Chiller design flow rate is 1.5 When chillers are piped in parallel in
required loop volume varies by chiller gpm per ton [0.027 L/s per kWr] and the a VPF system, there is a significant
manufacturer, chiller type, and unit minimum is 1.2 gpm per ton [0.022 L/s flow rate change in the operating
control capabilities. Check with the per kWr]. This means the flow rate can chiller when the second chiller is
manufacturer for each chiller specified. only be reduced 20 percent before added. When the chillers are piped in
In this case, the required loop time reaching minimum. That's not much for series, there is no flow rate transition
was two minutes. So the system water a system that is supposed to be variable when the second chiller is enabled.
volume required is the loop time primary flow. This can greatly simplify system
multiplied by the water flow: control.

2 min. x 300 gpm = 600 gal Solution 4: Put the chillers in series!
It may be beneficial to pipe the chillers in
[2 min. x 60 sec. per min. x 18.9 L/s = With chillers in series (Figure 2), the series if the system
2270 liters] design flow rate per chiller is about 3.0
is designed for variable primary flow,
gpm per ton [0.054 L/s per kWr],
Solution 2: Increase the loop volume allowing significant turndown. Design has a chilled-water design
to the required level. If the loop evaporator pressure drop increases temperature difference of 14F
volume is close to that required, since water must flow through both [7.8C] or larger,
increasing the piping manifolds may be evaporator bundles. This increases has two chillers, and
adequate. Otherwise add a buffer tank, design pump power. However, in many
preferably on the return side of the systems the flow rate is less than design is not likely to require a future
system, and on the chiller side of the flow much of the year, so the resulting expansion.
bypass line. Ensure the system volume pump energy increase may be small.
If the system T is 10F [5.6C], consider
with the tank meets the required loop
To allow for servicing, engineers often increasing it to 14F [7.8C] or larger.
volume. To attain smoother system
control, consider making the tank a design manual bypass lines into the
little larger than the absolute minimum system.
requirement. The additional cost and
space will likely be small.

Issue 3: Oversized bypass line and Figure 2. New variable primary flow (VPF) series chillers
valve do not provide adequate
56F (13.3C) 47.5F (8.6C) 40F (4.4C)
control. The bypass line is the same
size as the pipe manifold. Given this
fact, if a large valve is installed in this
line, control at the minimum flow rate
may be a challenge, since initially install flow meter
opening the valve a little allows increase loop volume by
VSD adding a buffer tank
significant flow to be bypassed.
buffer manual bypass for servicing flow size the bypass line for the
tank meter
largest minimum flow rate
Solution 3: Size the bypass line and
valve properly. In a variable primary
flow system, size the bypass line for
the largest minimum flow rate. In this

200 tons x 1.2 gpm per ton = 240 gpm

[15 L/s]

2 Trane Engineers Newsletter volume 432 providing insights for todays HVAC system designer
Case 2: Conversion from Figure 3. Case 2: After value-engineered conversion to VPF

Primary Secondary to
Variable Primary Flow 54F (12.2C)
44F (6.7C)
VPF conversion plan:
additional 30-tons of heat
The system includes two 500-ton chillers recovery
in a primary-secondary configuration. The Value engineering:
owner wants to convert the system to pumps
variable primary flow (VPF) and add a
- use secondary pumps,
small (30-ton) heat recovery chiller. dont move them

This job is "value engineered" to: - remove primary pumps

$100 DP sensor rather than
use the existing secondary pumps magnetic flow meter
(which can handle the flow and VSD VSD
pressure drop requirements),
switch out the high quality differential valve
pressure sensor, which costs $1500,
to a $100 sensor, and
connect the heat recovery chiller in Add a matched pair of temperature and repeatability required to operate a
parallel with the existing chillers sensors to monitor the system return- variable primary flow system.
(Figure 3). water temperature and the chiller Unfortunately this seems to occur often.
return-water temperature. We suggest you resist the temptation to
Issue 1: The pumps are positioned reduce costs when value will be lost. A
Control the primary pump VSDs to
incorrectly to allow bypass for VPF system operates on flow rate, so
maintain the chiller return-water
minimum flow. Water cannot flow accuracy is critical.
temperature a degree or two lower
from right-to-left in the bypass line, so than the system return-water
minimum flow cannot be maintained. temperature. This ensures there is Solution 2: Specify and install an
always a little more chilled water being accurate, reliable and repeatable flow-
Solution 1: Rather than converting to produced than demanded. sensing device. It's very important that
full variable primary flow, consider the flow-sensing device is accurate,
If the temperature control results in reliable, and repeatable. Another benefit
converting to variable primary/variable
chiller flow dropping below its of a higher quality sensor is that, in
secondary. As its name implies, a
minimum flow rate, increase the general, it requires less calibration. The
variable primary/variable secondary
pump speed to maintain the required cost of a proper flow-sensing device will
system (Figure 4) employs variable
minimum chiller flow rate. often be closer to $1000 than $100.
primary (chiller) flow as well as variable
secondary (coil) flow. In retrofitting a Informative Appendix E of ASHRAE
system, the use of the existing pumps Issue 2: It is likely the flow-sensing Guideline 22-20083 provides an example
already installed is generally simple. In device is not accurate enough. A $100 of flow measurement accuracy and
contrast, converting to primary secondary differential pressure sensor is very precision specification language.
requires significant piping changes, and unlikely to provide the accuracy, reliability
the present secondary pumps must be
moved and possibly increased in size. Figure 4. Convert to variable primary-variable secondary

To convert to variable primary/variable 54F (12.2C) 44F (6.7C) Solution:
secondary: keep primary pumps and add VSDs
Contact the chiller provider to ensure VSD add DP and T sensors
that chiller unit controls can tolerate control primary pump VSD speed to
variable evaporator water flow. If not, maintain T of 1-2F
update the unit controls. VSD if necessary, override temperature

control to maintain minimum flow

Add variable-speed drives (VSDs) to rate
the primary pumps (make sure the
pump motors are compatible).
Add a high quality differential VSD VSD
pressure sensor across each

providing insights for todays HVAC system designer Trane Engineers Newsletter volume 432 3
Issue 3: Poor heat recovery chiller Figure 5. Value-engineered conversion heat recovery
location. Flow and control issues can DP Issues:
54F (12.2C) 44F (6.7C)
result when a smaller chiller is piped in
flow balance between
parallel with larger chillers. When dissimilar chillers
evaporators are piped in parallel, the
inability to fully load the heat
chillers are loaded to equal VSD
recovery chiller due to mixed
percentages. This does not allow the return water temperature
heat recovery chiller to be preferentially VSD Solution:
loaded or to deliver the desired hot

put heat recovery chiller in
water temperature and quantity. "sidestream position
load using either condenser-
Solution 3: Pipe the heat recovery leaving or chilled-water
chiller in the sidestream position. temperatures
The sidestream configuration (Figure 5)
-allows the heat recovery chiller to: control
Be preferentially loaded, since it
receives the warmest return water
Operate as a heater to make the Misconception 1: Existing coils cannot What is the coldest (or lowest)
desired leaving condenser water be reselected at higher temperature chilled-water supply temperature
temperature. The chilled water differences. possible before condensation
produced reduces the load on the forms within the pipe insulation?
central chillers. Solution 1: Coils are heat transfer media Often with existing pipe insulation,
that can be selected at many supply water temperature reduced
Meet its needed evaporator flow to 40F [4.4C] can be successful,
conditions. Table 1 shows a coil
requirements independent of other but perhaps not 36F [2.2C].
originally selected for a 10F [5.6C] chilled
chiller operation.
water T reselected to produce the same If coil control valves were oversized
cooling capacity. This can be done if the at a 10F [5.6C] T, they are even
entering water temperature is lower and more oversized at a higher T and
Case 3: Conversion of a results in a lower flow rate and higher lower flow rate. Valves may need to
Parallel-piped System to chilled-water T. This change has no effect be changed to allow good control.
on the airside of the system, but a
Series, and from substantial impact on the waterside.
Conventional to Misconception 2: Use of three-way
The advantages of series chillers (Figure 6) valves as the method of bypass can
Increased T. use more pump energy.
to produce the higher chilled-water T was
This 400-ton system includes two discussed earlier in Case 1.
water-cooled chillers piped in parallel. Solution 2: Yes, but this is mitigated
The chillers and air-handling coils were When making supply water temperature by a number of factors.
both selected with water temperatures and flow rate changes to existing systems,
consider the following factors: First, the system flow rate dropped
of 5444F. The system serves a by nearly 38 percent because of
school, which does not have a trained Many coils in air-handling units have the wider T across the coils and
plant operator on sitesimplicity is adequate heat transfer area to perform reduced water flow rate. This lower
beneficial. similarly to the data in Table 1. On the flow rate results in lower system
other hand, if a coil has limited heat pressure drop and pump power.
The school officials would prefer air- transfer capability (e.g., small, two-row
cooled chillers to eliminate cooling fan-coils), reselecting at a In many constant flow systems, its
tower maintenance requirements. They higher T is unlikely to work well. difficult to retrofit a separate
have decided to use 50 percent glycol
to keep the fluid from freezing in the Table 1. Air-handler coil reselection using low entering-water temperature
winter. No changes are to be made to original selection reselection
the airside of the system. In addition, capacity (MBh) [kW] 504 [148] 504 [148]
energy usage reductions are desired.
entering water temperature (F) [C] 44 [6.7] 41 [5.0]

For this scenario, lets examine some flow rate (gpm) [L/s] 101 [6.37] 63 [4.0]
common misconceptions that might foil leaving water temperature (F) [C] 54 [12.2] 57 [13.9]
a new engineer. water T (F) [C] 10 [5.5] 16 [8.0]

4 Trane Engineers Newsletter volume 432 providing insights for todays HVAC system designer
bypass, control valve and controller Figure 6. Retrofit VPF series chillers
Retrofit changes:
into the system. Leaving enough
three-way valves to allow the 57F (13.9C) 44F (6.7C) new chillers in series

required minimum chiller flow rate send 41F water to existing

can be a simple, cost-effective way coils to increase T

to convert a system from constant new pump with VFD

to variable flow. leave 3-way valves equal to
chiller minimum flow rate
Minimum pump speed can be set 50% glycol
add differential pressure
to attain the minimum flow rate
sensor at remote AHU to
with all converted two-way valves control pump speed
add 50 percent glycol to the
DP system for freeze protection
Using three-way valves as a method of
bypass is a good compromise between
simplicity and performance.

Misconception 3: More glycol is

better. When antifreeze is added to a
system, fluid viscosity and pump
power are often considered. However, Freeze vs. Burst Protection
these impacts may be small compared
As the temperature drops below the glycol For a chilled-water VAV system, since the
to the effect on chiller and coil heat
solution's freeze point, ice crystals begin to cooling coil is typically shut off during sub-
transfer capability and capacitywhich form. Because the water freezes first, the freezing weather, burst protection is usually
can be degraded by 30 percent or remaining glycol solution is further sufficient. Freeze protection is mandatory in
more. concentrated and remains a fluid. The those cases where no ice crystals can be
resulting ice crystals and fluid combination permitted to form (such as a coil loop that
make up a flowable slush. The fluid volume operates during very cold weather).
Solution 3: Add only the level of increases as this slush forms and flows into
antifreeze necessary. In general, use available expansion volume. When an air-cooled chiller is used, an
the smallest amount of antifreeze to alternative approach is to use a packaged
Freeze protection indicates the concentration condensing unit (condenser and compressor)
adequately protect the system. This of antifreeze required to prevent ice crystals located outdoors, with a remote evaporator
minimizes first cost of the antifreeze from forming at the given temperature. Burst barrel located in an indoor equipment room.
itself, plus minimizes the first cost and protection indicates the concentration The two components are connected with
operating cost impact on the heat required to prevent damage to equipment field-installed refrigerant piping. This
(e.g., coil tubes bursting). Burst protection configuration locates the part of the system
transfer surfaces and pumps. When
requires a lower concentration of glycol, that is susceptible to freezing (evaporator)
adding antifreeze to an existing which results in less degradation of heat indoors and still uses an outdoor air-cooled
system, ensure the chiller and coil transfer. condenser.
capacities are adequate given the level
of antifreeze. Concentration required for freeze protection vs. burst protection

ethylene glycol propylene glycol

concentration volume (% volume) concentration volume (% volume)
temperature freeze burst freeze burst
Final Thoughts F (C) protection protection protection protection
20 (-7) 16 11 18 12
While it's often more memorable to
experience issues in the field, it's 10 (12) 25 17 29 20
cheaper and much less painful to learn 0 (-18) 33 22 36 24
from others! -10 (-23) 39 26 42 28
-20 (-29) 44 30 46 30
We can all listen to those with
experience, ask probing questions, and -30 (-34) 48 30 50 33

attempt to learn. By doing so the -40 (-40) 52 30 54 35

industry can be elevated, deliver higher -50 (-46) 56 30 57 35
performing systems that result in more -60 (-51) 60 30 60 35
satisfied building owners and
Source: Dow Chemical Company. 2008. HVAC Application Guide: Heat Transfer Fluids for HVAC and Refrigeration Systems

providing insights for todays HVAC system designer Trane Engineers Newsletter volume 432 5
This article is based on a seminar presented by
Mick Schwedler, Trane and Jason Atkisson,
Affiliated Engineers,during the 2013 ASHRAE
annual meetings in Denver. The acknowledgment
Learn HVAC design strategies and earn credit
of Mr. Atkisson in this newsletter in no way
implies the endorsement of a specific system
provider or manufacturer by either Affiliated
Engineers or Mr. Atkisson. You can find this and
previous issues of the Engineers Newsletter at To
comment, e-mail us at

[1] American Society of Heating, Refrigerating
and Air-Conditioning Engineers. 2010. ASHRAE
Green Guide: The Design, Construction, and
Operation of Sustainable Buildings, 3rd ed.
Atlanta, GA: ASHRAE.
Air conditioning clinics. A series of Application manuals. Comprehensive
[2] Taylor, S. 2011. Optimizing Design & Control educational presentations that teach HVAC reference guides that can increase your
of Chilled Water Plants; Part 3: Pipe Sizing working knowledge of commercial HVAC
fundamentals, equipment, and systems. The
and Optimizing . ASHRAE Journal. systems. Topics range from component
series includes full-color student workbooks,
which can be purchased individually. Approved combinations and innovative design
by the American Institute of Architects for 1.5 concepts to system control strategies,
[3] American Society of Heating, Refrigerating
and Air-Conditioning Engineers. 2008. (Health, Safety and Welfare) learning units. industry issues, and fundamentals. The
ASHRAE Guideline 22: Instrumentation for Contact your local Trane office to sign up for following are just a few examples. Please
Monitoring Central Chilled Water Plant training in your area. visit for a
Efficiency, Appendix E. Atlanta, GA: ASHRAE. complete list of manuals available to order.
Engineers Newsletter Live. A series of 90-
Central Geothermal Systems discusses
minute programs that provide technical and
educational information on specific aspects of proper design and control of central

2014 HVAC design and control. Topics range from geothermal bidirectional cascade systems
that use borefields. This manual covers
water- and airside system strategies to
ASHRAE standards and industry codes. central geothermal system piping, system

Newsletter Contact your local Trane office for a schedule

or view past programs by visiting
design considerations, and airside
considerations. (SYS-APM009-EN, February
LIVE! 2011)
For event details and registration
contact your local Trane office. On-demand continuing education credit Chilled-Water VAV Systems discusses the
for LEED and AIA. These 90-minute on- advantages and drawbacks of the system,
May demand programs are available at free of
charge. The list of HVAC topics includes many
reviews the various components that make
up the system, proposes solutions to
Applying Variable LEED-specific courses. Check out the latest common design challenges, explores several
Refrigerant Flow courses: Single-Zone VAV and All -Variable- system variations, and discusses system-
Speed Chilled-Water Plants. All courses level control.
(VRF) available at (SYS-APM008-EN, updated May 2012)
Water-Source and Ground-Source Heat
October Engineers Newsletters. These quarterly
Pump Systems examines chilled-water-
system components, configurations,
Chilled-Water articles cover timely topics related to the
options, and control strategies. The goal is to
design, application and/or operation of
Terminal Systems commercial, applied HVAC systems.
provide system designers with options they
can use to satisfy the building owners
Subscribe at
desires. (SYS-APM010-EN, updated
November 2013)

Trane, Trane believes the facts and suggestions presented here to be accurate. However, final design and
A business of Ingersoll Rand application decisions are your responsibility. Trane disclaims any responsibility for actions taken on
the material presented.
For more information, contact your local Trane
office or e-mail us at

6 Trane Engineers Newsletter volume 432 ADM-APN051-EN (May 2014)