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Get up to speed on when and where chilled beams can have the most impact. Then move into humidity control, supply air, system sizing differences compared to VAV, economizers, and more.
BY PETER RUMSEY, P.E., FASHRAE, AND JOHN WEALE, P.E., LEED® AP
he last ten years have seen a steady increase in the rate of adoption of chilled beams in the United States, as designers and facility owners have become more familiar with the many benefits of this energy-efficient technology. Already a standard design option in Europe, chilled beams are seeing their market in America rapidly approach maturity, with multiple domestic suppliers and a growing catalog of successful installations. Designing and installing active chilled beam systems is very similar to traditional systems, but there are a few key differences to consider in order to achieve the most effective and energy-efficient system. Careful attention to the design details discussed below can allow any engineer to add this efficient system type to his or her design toolbox. OVERVIEW OF CHILLED BEAMS There are two basic types of chilled beams: active and passive. Active chilled beams are a specific configuration of induction diffuser that requires connection to supply air and a hydronic loop or loops, while passive chilled beams are similar to hydronic heating radiators but configured as a ceiling panel with convective airflow providing cooling. An active chilled beam receives forced air from an AHU and hydronic loop water delivered by a piping system to feed its integral cooling and heating coils. The common term “chilled beam” is somewhat misleading, since most beams are used primarily for cooling but can be configured as a four-pipe device with two sepa-
rate coils, one for heating and one for cooling. Primary airflow is introduced at a relatively high velocity through small air jets built into the beam. These jets induce room airflow through the beam’s coil. The induction process produces an airflow through the coil at typically three to five times the volume of the primary air, resulting in forced convection heat transfer to the hydronic loop via the coil. A passive chilled beam relies on a room’s natural convection and has no direct air supply. Warm room air rises to the beam’s coil, which cools the air, causing it to fall into an occupied zone. A passive beam is best suited to cooling-only applications with low ventilation air requirements and low loads. While useful in many specific situations, passive chilled beams are less flexible and offer less capacity. This article will focus on the active chilled beam (referred to from this point on as simply chilled beams). Chilled beams offer a simple design process with superior final efficiency. Designing with chilled beams is very similar to conventional system design. Chilled beams available in the U.S. generally have a 3:1 induction (room air to ventilation, or primary, air) ratio, are capable of 100 to 200 cfm of primary air per 6 ft of beam, and provide from 4,000 Btuh to 8,000 Btuh of sensible cooling per 6 ft of beam. Airflow, cooling, and sound performance vary considerably by manufacturer but are documented and readily available for design calculations in the same manner as performance data for a fancoil or split system unit. A key characteristic of chilled beam systems is that they use medium temperature chilled
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In this way. A central air-handling system provides ventilation and latent cooling. With any mechanical cooling system. (Photo courtesy of EHDD Architecture. the “condensation problem” is no worse than the risk of condensation forming on the supply diffuser of a traditional all-air cooling system. specifically. where required). 32 En gi n e e r e d S y stem s January 2011 . HUMIDITY CONTROL Since chilled beams are commonly supplied with medium temperature chilled water at 55° or higher. which can be produced more efficiently than the standard 44° chilled water used in many traditional hydronic cooling systems. When used with chilled beams. The same decoupling has traditionally been achieved through the use of fancoils and the same well-developed design approaches can be applied. a DOAS provides better air quality. ventilation monitoring. cooling is “decoupled” from ventilation.) water at 55°F or higher. referred to as a dedicated outside air system (DOAS). The ventilation air handler is typically configured as a 100% outside air unit that does not recirculate air. traditional VAV cooling systems. and quantity control than a VAV system while needing significantly less ducting and smaller. chilled beams should provide only sensible cooling (and heating.Practical Implementation Of Chilled Beams For Offices OUTSIDE AIR SUPPLY By design. but it is not an unique design challenge that requires the discovery of new design methods. the DOAS provides FIGURE 1. In a chilled beam system. indoor humidity must be controlled and the chilled beam system is no exception. An example of an active chilled beam. lower first cost air handlers. an increase in cooling demand has no impact on the supply volume of air. Decoupling the cooling load from the airflow rate is a major difference between. and advantage over.
As discussed above. The latent load of occupants can be served by dilution using the outside air provided for the purposes of ventilation. In some cases. SUPPLY AIR TEMPERATURE Elimination of reheat is a major savings in a carefully designed chilled beam system. this approach uses a coil before and a coil after the dehumidification coil in a DOAS air handler. If additional latent loads from the space need treatment. Widely used for many years. usually supplied in cooling at about 72° and heated to 55°. This approach works well for the latent load from people. To realize this savings. In order to harvest the energy benefit of higher chilled water temperatures in the chilled beams. where the latent load is proportional to the amount of outside ventilation air supply required. with additional cooling or heating supplied at the zone by the chilled beams. ventilation air that is dryer than the target space humidity is delivered into the building. a DX compressor can be used in the DOAS air handler to provide dehumidification subcooling. it is critical that the supply air temperature be kept cooling-neutral. Where a ventilation rate higher than the code minimum is being used to meet client or other requests (such as LEED® rating system credit) the dewpoint of the supplied air can be increased and still maintain control of occupant latent loads. esmag a zin e. One strategy that can be used to eliminate reheat energy use in the ventilation air (and ultimately the whole chilled beam system) is the runaround coil. so the lower efficiency of a DX system is offset by the efficiency benefits of a medium temperature chilled water system serving the vast majority of the load. over 80% of annual building cooling loads are sensible cooling loads not latent loads.dehumidification in the form of dry ventilation air as required to control the space. a wraparound heatpipe can perform the same function without requiring any pump. at the DOAS level a runaround loop between a precool and a reheat coil can be used in dehumidifi- cation climates to provide free reheat of the air after dehumidification while maintaining a neutral supply air temperature. for example if the ventilation rate is 20 cfm per person. co m 33 . then 50° dewpoint dry air can be used. Desiccant wheel options can also be pursued to provide subcooling for dehumidification efficiently. where it provides free reheat. The coil in front of the dehumidification section absorbs heat from the incoming outside air to heat water that is then pumped directly to the coil located after the dehumidification section. outside air is the largest latent load and is easily removed: The DOAS dehumidifies the outside air before it enters the building. humid air infiltration to a minimum. A runaround loop of this configuration provides reheat with no need for boiler operation or other heat sources. In most cases. In most climate zones. w w w. The DOAS that are coupled with chilled beams are responsible for removing latent loads and maintaining a suitable building pressurization to keep untreated.
This ability is 1 Annual operating time (hrs) 2 Cooling load as percent of peak load (directly proportional to airflow in baseline VAV systems. A baseline VAV system where airflow is roughly propormizer allows cool water to be produced directly from an evaporative tional to the cooling load.0 520 2.331 1.1 5.1 5.2 6. A rendering of an active beam system. AIR HANDLER AND DUCT SIZING A key benefit of chilled beams is that they require less airflow.0 8. But a chilled first cost. a great deal of the potential fan FIGURE 2.1 5. 50% downsized (kW) 8 Case 3 Chilled beam fan power. Depending on the load in the zone and often the number of chilled beams required.6 13.0 8. (Image courtesy of EHDD savings can be lost.200 9. but 60% smaller air handler and ducts A large 40% fan power savings.040 2.1 133 666 1. use must be carefully balanced. a at significantly lower airflow rates than the ducts and air handler supply air temperature reset is a practical approach to reducing were designed for. This allows much smaller air handlers and ducting systems. similar shell load driving. but the impact on reheat energy consumption in actual beam. 50% downsized (kWh) 26 130 260 390 650 1144 20. To better understand how applying a standard air system design approach can lose fan savings in a chilled beam system.0 8. with a much smaller investment in ducts and air handler.Practical Implementation Of Chilled Beams For Offices the equivalent of a traditional airside economizer and integrates well with the medium-temperature chilled water a chilled beam system utilizes.080 3.328 5.8 8. A bin analysis of three different systems.312 Annual energy use totals (kWh) Case 1: Baseline VAV Baseline for comparison Only 8% fan savings.536 4. in many climates the lower air volumes of a chilled beam system can put it at an energy disadvantage compared to a large traditional VAV system with airside economizer.800 7 Case 3 Chilled beam fan power.1 5. It is important to design a chilled beam Architecture. 34 En gi n e e r e d Sy stem s January 2011 .6 10. 60% downsized (kWh) 208 1.997 3. A waterside econoCase 1. 60% downsized (kW) 6 Case 2 Chilled beam annual fan power. climate.857 13. often a 60% size reduction compared to a traditional VAV system.0 16.330 6.212 5.120 5. %) 100 90 80 70 60 50 3 Case 1 VAV fan power (kW) 4 Case 1 VAV annual fan power (kWh) 5 Case 2 Chilled beam fan power. Without an economizer system.1 5. but if standard VAV design practices are applied to a chilled beam system. which is basically a constant volume air system.0 8. and air handler and ducts still downsized 50% Case 2: Chilled beam designed to standard pressure drop Case 3: Chilled beam sized to lower pressure drop TABLE 1. it is useful WATERSIDE ECONOMIZER to look at a simple bin analysis of three systems (Table 1): A critical component of a chilled beam system in many climates is a waterside economizer (or free cooling) system. A reset based on outdoor air temoperates at or near its full design flow constantly.864 22.) system to have lower pressure drop than a VAV system. where all zones served have similar load profiles. regardless of the perature down to 65° supply air temperature has been found to be load. it is likely that in a VAV system the fan will be operating In some cases.152 20.0 5.158 3. A traditional office VAV system very rarely operates at its full During the design process there is always an incentive to reduce design fan power since shell and ventilation loads vary and are the supply air temperature since doing so can reduce the cooling often never as high as the design condition.620 8. cooling tower with no compressor energy required.0 8. reaping large pressure drop savings. Understanding this difference is critical in sizing the system to reasonable in some cases where the DOAS was serving zones with both minimize first cost and space while still saving energy.
The higher air velocity is an integral part of how the induction process works. but the lower airflow but also a lower pressure drop. it is primed to balance of first cost vs. life cycle cost is different for a chilled beam continue to increase in use as a mainstream system that is small but operating as a constant volume air system. Combined with a high performance shell. MeanThe David and Lucile Packard Foundation has commissioned a newly while. Providing clear documentation beams to achieve a zero energy goal.Practical Implementation Of Chilled Beams For Offices AIR VELOCITY AT OCCUPANT LEVEL A final minor chilled beam design concern is drafts. the dler shrunk by a corresponding 60% reduction. so many designers neglect to check for this issue. beam. ES air handler face velocities of 250 to 400 fpm and slightly upsized ducting are typically a better balance of first vs. the air velocity drops quickly and is not a concern at the occupied level. and designing duct systems to around 0. as achieve a zero energy goal. In particular. Standard design rules of thumb are not The active chilled beam system is a mature sysappropriate. but reducing airflow through a beam reduces the heating Platinum projects. from a thermal storage tank that is charged by a cooling tower at night much of the fan power savings is lost. CA). In heating dominated cli(free cooling) and considerable fan power savings were realized even mates. with the system designed to the and chilled beams are no electrical for the chilled beam. of presdesign approaches. power used by a VAV system serving that load. INSTALLATION OVERVIEW Installation of chilled beams presents few unique issues. operating cost and still much smaller and lower cost than a baseline VAV system. with similar controls and piping requirements. The third column details the fan at the mounting points to permit quicker and simpler alignment. Significant fan power savings are easily achieved by designing the much lower volume chilled beam system for a lower W/cfm CONCLUSION than a typical VAV system. the first engineervariation in response to carbon dioxide monitoring of space occuing firm in the U. More Rumsey is the managing director of Oakland. They require hanging. 36 En gi n e e r e d Sy stem s January 2011 . causing drafts.g. As chilled beam equipment sure drop per 100 ft of duct length. A chilled beam system with a design airflow that is 60% with chilled beams. implicitly assumes a variable has become more widely — and cheaply — volume system that usually operates at flows below design flow.000 gsf office building that relies on chilled beams to not turn down as the load drops from 100% (design) to 50%. With first generation products. and cooling capacity rapidly as induction air also drops. a 50% energy importance and potential of a low pressure drop design.) and meeting with contractors to educate them prior to bid can help avoid bids driven up by contractor inexperience Case 2. alignment with the The first column shows the annual operating hours at the coolgrid could take significant time. but in high density spaces beam placement may become close enough that airstreams collide and drop.600 hr operating year.1 Appendix G standard turndown curve). The with significantly downsized ducting simplifying the architecture and constant volume nature of a chilled beam system increases the interior layout. The David and Lucile Packard Foundation office building uses chilled VAV boxes with reheat coils. controls and piping similar to fancoils or FIGURE 3. turndown is limited. This concern is no different than that presented by any diffuser in the same situation. note reduction in fan power as the VAV system turns down (this power is based upon SAMPLE APPLICATION the ASHRAE 90. to achieve eight LEED® pancy. Comparing the chilled beam with the installation lower than the baseline VAV system. the chilled beam system may even show no savings. A chilled beam system where only a 50% downsizing of the The primary installation differences between a traditional fancoil air handler and ductwork was done.S. temperature water allows for the majority of cooling to be provided If a chilled beam system is sized like a miniature VAV system. can be useful. selecting air handlers for a 500 fpm face tem that requires very few unusual or even new velocity. Chilled beams can have a higher exit velocity than a standard diffuser. need to support a chilled beam from structure while also aligning it to a ceiling grid. The available in the United States. with the ducting and air hantime break down for fancoils. advanced chilled beam systems can operate with some airflow CA-based Integral Group. Not all chilled beam systems are strictly constant volume. The ability of chilled beams to use medium seen in columns 5 and 7. but diffusers are smaller and easier to space out. a familiar device. solution for more efficient system designs. but the majority of chilled beam ing load point shown in the second column for a sample building products now on the market provide slots or adjustable brackets with a 2.08 in w. (Photo courtesy of EHDD Architecture. chilled beam Integral Group (Oakland. In most situations. Case 3. Unless the Weale is a senior associate engineer with the ventilation demand closely follows the total space load. the fan power in the case 2 and 3 chilled beam systems does constructed 40. reduction was realized. but designed to the installation profile of the traditional fancoil is very similar to a chilled same pressure drop as in case 1.
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