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HVAC Peak Load Calculation Methods – History and Comparisons

HVAC Peak Load Calculation Methods – History and Comparisons
by Bill Smith, president of Elite Software
Copyright © 2011

This article discusses both commercial and residential HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) load calculation methods, and explains why results are often so different between methods. This article is intended to be understood by both the lay person and the HVAC professional. To help the lay person, some definitions are in order. When most people hear the word "load" they naturally think of a load of firewood they carry into the house, or a load of dirt in a dump truck, or maybe even a load held up by a beam or structural member. All of those loads are a "weight" to be carried or supported in some way. Such loads are measured in pounds, kips, or kilograms, depending on the units involved. So what are heating and cooling loads? As pertains to heating and cooling equipment (an HVAC System), a load is a rate of heat transfer. Not a single quantity of heat, but an amount of heat that must be continually (at least for the worst case hour) removed or added to maintain the desired indoor temperature. In the coldest time of winter, the peak heating load is the amount of heat that must be added over an hour’s time to keep the space warm. In the U.S. imperial units system, this rate of heat transfer is in Btu’s per hour which is commonly abbreviated as Btuh. In the metric system the equivalent unit is a watt and one watt is equal to 3.41 Btuh. In the hottest time of summer, the peak cooling load is the amount of heat that must be removed in an hour to maintain a comfortable room temperature. Again, the cooling load unit is either Btuh or watts. What causes heating and cooling loads? A summer cooling load is a heat gain to the building. The sun provides all of the heat that comes in through the exterior of the building. And within the building itself, heat is generated by people, lights, equipment, and appliances. A winter heating load is a heat loss that is caused by loss of heat from the warm physical mass of the building to the cold air surrounding the building. Heat is lost through the walls, windows, roof, and through cracks and crevices where cold air seeps into the building. It is important to know the peak heating and cooling loads on a building so that the HVAC equipment can be adequately sized. An undersized HVAC system will not be able to maintain the desired indoor temperatures. An oversized HVAC system will be inefficient, and struggle to maintain comfort conditions, particularly with humidity control during summer months. Differences in HVAC Load Calculation Methods 1/10

there are various issues with HB. residential HVAC load calculations procedures have traditionally been much less sophisticated than commercial procedures. were believed to be more simple in construction and usage. www. another major factor that has influenced load calculation methods over the years is the use of computers. Many procedures to this day still have simplifications for the reason of making hand calculations possible. And it can be used on buildings of all types. Residential buildings. For these reasons. Commercial Load Calculation Methods In the calculation of commercial building peak heating and cooling loads. This led to HVAC load calculation methods that were designed only for residential or commercial buildings. discussed later. that make it less popular to use for peak load calculations than many of the less sophisticated methods that are designed only for residential or commercial buildings. if each calculation is done with the same outside and inside temperatures.elitesoft. Home owners were traditionally considered to be less demanding than commercial building owners. Besides separate methods for commercial and residential buildings.7/28/13 HVAC Peak Load Calculation Methods – History and Comparisons HVAC load calculations are most often done using computer programs. such a generalized method has been developed in recent years. in particular.. simple procedures were even more important to have. either residential or commercial in nature. many methods have been developed over the years. people. Many people are often alarmed to learn that various computer programs and hand calculations can differ so widely on calculation results. The calculations are so involved that researchers have been forced for years to create various simplified procedures that are doable by hand or within reasonable calculation time on a personal computer. and the environment is quite complex. especially since commercial buildings usually cost far more than houses. and it is called the Heat Balance (HB) method. etc. equipment. as doing calculations by hand is slow and tedious. In fact.html 2/10 . although some methods are still able to do be done by hand. The cost of these simplifications from the theoretical best math models is accuracy. The most current and best math models of this problem require significant input data and thousands of calculations in an iterative process. HB (Heat Balance) and RTS (Radiant Time Series). Early HVAC researchers learned that simplifications in calculation methods could be made if generalizations about the subject buildings could be assumed. areas and quantities of roofs. However. same building material types. glass. one generalized HVAC load calculation procedure should work for all types of buildings. lights. an updated variation of the ASHRAE CLTD method. In theory. occupants. Before personal computers were widely available. why should the results ever differ by more than a few percent? Complex Problem The physics involved in the transfer of heat and energy between buildings. TFM (Transfer Function Method). After all. ASHRAE has TETD (Total Equivalent Temperature Difference). CLTD (Cooling Load Temperature Difference). ACCA has the Manual N method. There would be no need for separate procedures for different types of structures.

the energy analysis methods. government. The current ACCA residential method is commonly called MJ8. As ACCA upgrades its procedures. ASHRAE introduced both the Residential Load Factor (RLF) method and the Residential Heat Balance (RHB) method. All the various computer programs such as EnergyPro. and others that are based on the DOE (Department of Energy) 2. ASHRAE used the Design Equivalent Temperature Difference (DETD) approach. WF and HB. the question becomes. Residential Load Calculation Methods ACCA has a residential load calculation procedure called Manual J. Over time. eQUEST. and from 1989 through 2001 the procedures were called the residential CLTD method. both commercial and residential. In 2005. In general. these various methods have been applied to the same buildings. The name stays as Manual J and only the edition number changes.760 hourly analysis. Although the WF and HB methods were primarily intended for 8. it is easy to understand why there will often be significant differences in results from those procedures. Result Differences Once you realize that significant simplifications have been made in all the popular HVAC load calculation methods.elitesoft. which results are the most accurate? The greatest difference between calculation methods always happens when one method is www. Unlike ACCA. It uses the Heat Balance (HB) method. and is now on its eighth edition. Inevitably. As explained above for the commercial procedures. As of the time of this writing in April 2011. it does not create new names for the procedures. the sophisticated WF (weighting factor) and HB (Heat Balance) methods used in several building energy analysis programs can also be used for calculating peak loads on residential buildings. ASHRAE has offered residential load calculation procedures for many years as well. and is called EnergyPlus. In fact. the ASHRAE Handbook of Fundamentals (HOF) in 2005 and 2009 supplies tables and shows an example calculation using only the RLF method. ASHRAE creates a new name for a procedure when it undergoes a major change or replaces an earlier procedure. the ASHRAE 2009 HOF states that RHB is a research-oriented implementation of the HB method and that it is expected that RHB will one day be incorporated into third-party software.7/28/13 HVAC Peak Load Calculation Methods – History and Comparisons There are two other calculation methods primarily used for 8. there is no software available that implements the ASHRAE RHB method.1e program use what is known as a weighting factor (WF) method. EnergyGauge USA. with results sometimes differing by as much as 40%. such as TETD and CLTD. While ASHRAE introduced two new residential methods in 2005. they can also find peak heating and cooling loads during the course of a year for all types of hour-by-hour annual energy analysis that are also sometimes used for peak load calculations.S. REM/Rate.html 3/10 . The most current and sophisticated energy analysis program was developed by the U. It has been updated over the years. are more sophisticated than most of the methods used just for peak heating and cooling loads. In 1985.

there is no problem at all in acknowledging which results are more accurate. This is easily understandable. result differences between MJ8 and RLF will vary much less than between disparate methods such as RTS and RLF. but every wall in the world must fall into one of the seven categories that is primarily distinguished by the thermal mass of the wall. The same thing happens for roofs under the CLTD method. Some load calculation procedures have very obvious differences in methods. The MJ8 method is derived from the CLTD method.elitesoft. The method using the more advanced technique is usually more accurate. etc. These finite "type" selections cause abrupt differences in loads calculated for a roof or wall of the same U-factor and same indoor-outdoor temperature differences. More Reasons for Result Differences There are many difficulties in trying to compare HVAC load calculation methods. wall. and that all indoor and outdoor design temperatures are equal. allow for smooth and infinite variations of wall types with different thermal mass. Additionally. Many of the tabular based methods make great simplifications. For example. temperatures and other data have been entered as equally as possible.7/28/13 HVAC Peak Load Calculation Methods – History and Comparisons misapplied. entering a complex building like a hospital as equally as possible into an ASHRAE RTS computer program and into an ACCA MJ8 program will yield hugely different results. and the MJ8 program uses simplified weighted average factors for roof and wall loads. Will the results from these procedures differ? Absolutely! Assuming all areas. and glass areas. In such an example. However. with the RTS loads being much higher. The above two examples illustrate relatively straight forward reasons for differences in results between methods. The ASHRAE RLF method has even more limited selections for roofs and walls. many real world walls could be legitimately selected as either of two CLTD wall type categories. the fewer the "type" categories provided for roofs and walls. as the RTS program calculates hour by hour. lights. as they are not clearly in one category or another. where only 13 roof types are provided.html 4/10 . When using the CLTD method. The more simple the load calculation method. equipment. There is also a chance for great disparity on glass loads because there is both a transmission and solar component to deal with. while the RLF method uses averaged load factors (no unique hourly load factors) for all exterior building surfaces. Let's consider a more realistic case where the ACCA MJ8 procedures are used on the same house as the ASHRAE RLF procedures. including glass.) are made equal. In this case you have two residential specific procedures used appropriately on their intended type of building. a house. and thus has similar limitations on the roof and wall categories. Assuming that all quantities of load components ( You can assign what ever U-factor you like to a wall. For example. there is still a great deal of variability for many other input items. both procedures are based primarily on the use of lookup tables such that the calculations are still doable by hand. loads will still tend to be higher with MJ8 because it has hourly load factors on glass (but not on roofs and walls). www. one method like the CLTD procedure offers only seven types of walls in categories AG. Other methods like HB. number of people.

7/28/13 HVAC Peak Load Calculation Methods – History and Comparisons especially with the solar gains. wall. there are judgment calls on building material type selections that experts can disagree on. Since so many economic decisions are made as to whether to use certain building materials or not. not peak load analysis. A designer must be prepared to enter more data and more details for all the load components. glass. The CTS series for a material describes that reaction to heat. Even when expert load calculation software users compare results on the same building there will be differences. This is time consuming. and glass areas. and requires more thought and engineering judgment. the RTS method is only available as an ASHRAE sponsored method primarily for use on commercial buildings. The RTS method is robust enough Sometimes there are just outright mistakes on roof. the RTS method relies heavily on the conduction time series (CTS) concept. ASHRAE provides about 35 suggested CTS values for mostly commercial building material www. and yet can defend their selections with equal validity. or rather "balanced. which helps to model the time lag of heat transfer for various building materials. Same goes for the count on people. However. etc. As discussed above. and equipment. The Radiant Time Series (RTS) method is the closest in accuracy to the HB method while still providing component load details. There is no way to see how much effect there was from the windows or the people or the lights. which HVAC load calculation method is most accurate? There is unanimous agreement that the Heat Balance method most accurately reflects the true physics involved in heat gains and losses to buildings. Confusion over how to handle fresh air in terms of ventilation or infiltration causes significant differences as well. Very light poorly insulated materials can transfer all the heat from a test heat "pulse" in as few as four hours. First. whereas well insulated heavy materials might need a full 24 hours to transfer all the heat from a test pulse. etc. More than actual calculation method differences. There are two main reasons HB is not yet widely used in HVAC peak load calculation software. there is the complexity of the HB method. and most importantly.elitesoft. All non-HB load calculation methods preserve this ability. only a single number as a gain or loss in heat results. And yet at this time. like the HB method. HVAC designers often find it imperative to be able to review component details of an HVAC load calculation. lights. Second. it could theoretically be used on both commercial and residential buildings.html 5/10 . there is no dedicated residential or commercial peak load computer program that uses the HB method. is that the HB procedures "blend" all the component loads (roofs wall. Even fairly sophisticated methods can show significant differences on glass solar gains.) together during the calculation process. At the end of the calculation process. Everything is blended. the most common reasons for differences in load calculation reports from different computer programs on the same building are from quantity discrepancies. Only the EnergyPlus software uses the Heat Balance method and EnergyPlus is used primarily for building energy analysis. At this point in time. Which Method is Most Accurate? The first question many people often ask is.." before a final result is obtained.

both residential and commercial. but those methods are not fully developed for use on residential buildings. and this has not yet been done. Both types of HVAC professionals generally have a long history with their preferred method and know how to adjust the method for various types of projects. The ACCA Manual J method has been honed for many years on residential structures. often like to use the ACCA MJ8 method on all their projects both commercial and residential. Unlike with commercial methods. For residential buildings. Comparison of Residential Methods It is not uncommon for individual HVAC designers to have a favorite HVAC load calculation method that they use on all buildings. Consulting engineers often like using ASHRAE commercial methods on all their projects. I have developed a high confidence in Manual J. the ACCA Manual J 8th edition method is the best overall method. where there is more competition amongst the methods. I am going to go out on a limb and state some broad generalizations that are based purely on my own anecdotal experiences and what I have heard from thousands of HVAC designers served by Elite Software for over 31 years.html 6/10 .elitesoft. what then are the most accurate practical peak load calculations methods available today? For commercial buildings. the current MJ8 method is what I will compare all other residential methods to. as well as the ACCA Manual N commercial method. the ACCA MJ8 method produces the most accurate equipment sizing information for houses. and with no attempt to influence the results. Good results can be obtained from older and simpler methods such as the ASHRAE CLTD and TFM methods. it is this writer’s opinion that the ASHRAE RTS method is the best overall method. It is important to understand that these generalizations have no scientific basis and could be completely wrong. HVAC contractors. It definitely lacks in sophistication compared to the ASHRAE HB and RTS methods.7/28/13 HVAC Peak Load Calculation Methods – History and Comparisons combinations. but has the drawbacks mentioned above that make it so rarely used for peak load calculations. Skilled users of any load calculation method are able to adjust inputs in subtle ways that can steer results high or low. An experienced designer using those methods may very likely calculate more accurate results with those methods than a novice using the RTS method. even though it uses one of the more simplistic methods (a simplified variation of CLTD). as high accuracy is obtained while also preserving the details of load contributions from all the various internal and external components. and has a very successful track record. All of my observations are based on a knowledgeable user entering data as equally as on the other hand. The feedback I have from the very few people who have done ASHRAE RLF comparisons with www. With many successful users of Manual J over many years. For the RTS method to be used properly for residential peak load calculations. the Manual J method has been extremely dominant over the years with its number of users versus anything else. In my opinion. Thus. If the HB method is the acknowledged most accurate method. CTS values would need to be generated for more residential roof and wall materials. So stating a preference for the RTS method is in no way saying that the other methods should be avoided.

and pencil and paper. like insulated concrete forms. new materials is where MJ8 surpassed MJ7. and glass material types than MJ7. As a final note on residential methods. They know the ASHRAE commercial methods have built-in assumptions for commercial buildings. So while overall results on projects that both methods can address aren't huge. many MJ8 calculations were coming out higher than MJ7 for the same house. Besides material issues. wall. infiltration and duct gains and losses were made more accurate in MJ8 as well. After further testing. Addenda C of MJ8 added additional duct inputs that tended to reduce the duct heat gains.elitesoft. The HB method is not used in any dedicated commercial peak load calculation program at this time. and RTS. It is actually a simplification of the TFM method much in the same way that RTS is a simplification of the HB method. MJ7 simply can’t calculate well for those. However. indicates reasonable closeness of results. with RLF usually being slightly lower. while MJ8 can. Consulting engineers are often conflicted about this. those two commercial methods tend to be 15-25% higher than MJ8. The basis for the TFM method was first published in the 1972 ASHRAE HOF. It turned out that the way users were interpreting duct inputs in MJ8 caused those loads to go much higher than MJ7. The three most popular commercial methods are ASHRAE CLTD. with MJ8 sometimes being lower and higher than MJ7. and was first introduced back in the 1977 HOF. the TFM method is more math intensive than CLTD. When MJ8 is compared to the ASHRAE CLTD or RTS method on a house. When MJ8 was first released in 2003. MJ8 includes hundreds of more roof. the CLTD method was able to be used by designers with slide rules. In the case of peak residential load calculations involving a DOE2 based program on a house and using the weighting factor method. It was further explained in the 1979 ASHRAE GRP-158 manual. the MJ8 method will tend to be 15-20% but they wonder whether that matters much. there is more controversy over which method is best than there is with residential methods. Being a simplified method derived from TFM and able to be tabularized. but it is used in the EnergyPlus energy analysis program. which is a variation of the CLTD method. ACCA has a commercial method called Manual N. The WF method used in all the DOE2 derivative programs is also used by a small percentage of designers for the calculation of peak loads The ASHRAE CLTD method is the oldest of the current popular commercial methods. so all comments concerning the ASHRAE CLTD method are applicable to the ACCA Manual N method. TFM. MJ8 was still a big improvement over MJ7. it was found that MJ8 and MJ7 tended to agree within plus or minus 5%. With some modern material types.7/28/13 HVAC Peak Load Calculation Methods – History and Comparisons MJ8.html 7/10 . It was also www. Many engineers prefer using the higher loads from the ASHRAE commercial methods and believe there is no problem with using those methods on houses. which is sometimes used by a very small percentage of designers as a peak loads program. While MJ8 results compared closely with MJ7 results on equivalent building materials. early calculators. a lot of questions come up about how MJ8 compares to MJ7. Comparison of Commercial Methods In the comparison of commercial load calculation methods. so it took much longer to develop into useable a form for HVAC designers. MJ8 tends to be higher in the same range. The same thing happens when compared with the Heat Balance method.

com/web/newsroom/loadcalcs. In the mid 90’s. but also opened the door for accepting other improved methods that could not be easily hand verified. the calculations were so involved that there was no practical way for a designer to manually verify them. In the 2001 ASHRAE HOF. As time passed. and Elite Software became the first software company to implement the RTS method in commercially available software in 2004. The CLTD method enjoyed popularity right from 1977.elitesoft. anecdotal confidence in the accuracy of the RTS results was high. HVAC designers became more comfortable accepting results that could not be manually verified. the CLTD method has tended to calculate overall higher than TFM. This helped increase the popularity of TFM. sometimes as much as 40% lower than CLTD. Besides questions about glass solar load accuracy. should be trusted over CLTD in those cases. and either method can be plus or minus 5-10% of each other. As mentioned previously. but many engineers believed that the reduced TFM solar loads. the HB and RTS methods were introduced. were not believable. Elite Software never adopted the TFM method. it was discovered that glass load results from RTS did not differ as much from CLTD as TFM differed from CLTD. Elite Software studied these methods and learned why two methods were introduced simultaneously. as there were a lot of discrepancies with CLTD results on glass solar loads. typically about 10-15%. A designer was still able to verify by hand the calculations of any computer program that used the CLTD method. the HB method is theoretically the most accurate method of peak load calculations. Some people argued that TFM. another reason so many HVAC designers continued to prefer the CLTD method was that it was manually verifiable. being more math oriented.7/28/13 HVAC Peak Load Calculation Methods – History and Comparisons simple enough that it could be automated on very early small 64k memory personal computers (called microcomputers in those days). Thus. Carrier exclusively adopted TFM into its software. And just as important. This close agreement happens when making close matches of CLTD material types with RTS www. The CLTD and RTS methods compare fairly closely. shouldn't a true TFM method become more popular than CLTD? In my opinion. Results from a computer program using the TFM method were essentially "black box" results that had to be accepted on faith alone. Elite Software was the first to implement CLTD on personal computers back in 1979. Elite Software was able to determine that RTS was preferred by most consulting engineers. personal computers gained enough memory and computational capability that the TFM method was able to be implemented. In discussion with various developers of the HB and RTS methods. especially with the south orientation. This controversy was large enough that Elite Software never implemented the TFM method into its software.html 8/10 . HB was developed for maximum accuracy while RTS was derived from HB to preserve component load contributions in the final results that the HB method does not preserve. As mentioned before. while Trane offered it as an option along with CLTD and other methods. the TFM method did not become more popular than the CLTD method. something ASHRAE had never done before. specific glass solar calculations could be higher by as much as 40%. and if it was derived from TFM. With the TFM method. In my observations over the years and across a broad spectrum of projects and locations.

TFM. people. To me.e. RTS allows so much variation and sensitivity on material variations that you can’t always get a good match with a CLTD material. Many designers don’t make sure the outside design temps are equal when comparing peak loads from an energy program to a dedicated peak loads program. as the peak winter heat loss can easily occur in the dark of night with no one at home and no lighting or equipment operating. Perhaps a completely new theory will be developed that is more accurate than HB and with preservation of component loads. wall. emittance. Delta R. etc.elitesoft. lighting and equipment loads to help offset winter heat losses. In my opinion.) reporting. i. and RTS is harder to understand. and glass loads at the worst case outdoor design conditions. as it provides both high accuracy and component load contribution (roof. first selecting a CLTD building material. This is very easy to explain for winter heating loads. Whatever the reasons for these differences. The effects of these factors are built into the CLTD tables and are not specific user inputs as they are with RTS. wall. the ACCA MJ8 procedures remain the most popular residential sizing www. Perhaps someone will develop an approach in the future that allows the HB method to retain component loads in the final results. Perhaps designers may evolve to where component load details are not so important to them. CLTD. usually in the range of 10-25% lower. and RTS. many designers do not trust sizing HVAC equipment based on the peak heating and cooling loads obtained from software primarily developed for building energy analysis.html 9/10 . A major benefit of RTS over CLTD is the provision for absorptance. This concern is valid for equipment sizing in both residential and commercial Why the energy programs using WF and HB methods tend to always calculate low on peak cooling loads compared to MJ8.7/28/13 HVAC Peak Load Calculation Methods – History and Comparisons material types. I agree with that concern. If you go in the other direction from RTS to CLTD. glass. One reason that it is hard to analyze is that the energy programs don’t give a good break out of the individual component loads. The specific peak load methods are more conservative and do not give credit for any offsetting loads to winter heat losses. The energy programs tend to use less extreme outdoor temperatures and this reduces the peak loads they calculate. The energy analysis programs when used as peak load programs always take credit for any solar gains. TFM. the ASHRAE RTS method is the best overall commercial peak load calculation method available today. as there is a high risk of under sizing HVAC equipment when it is sized based off the peak load calculations from various energy analysis programs. it always seems to me that those methods calculate lower than CLTD. So you can’t compare differences in the roof. Another reason I believe there are frequent differences in the peak loads of energy programs is that it is harder for a designer to control what the extreme upper and lower outside temperatures are.. the conservative approach is justifiable. Summary In the residential world. I believe RTS is the best overall commercial HVAC peak load calculation method available today. and then matching it to an RTS material. When compared to peak loads obtained from the DOE2 WF method and the EnergyPlus HB method. But until then. and H-outside coefficients.

Mr. And MJ8 is certainly not as advanced as the methods able to do both residential and commercial peak loads and energy analysis such as the WF and HB methods. the ASHRAE RTS method is a great method in that it employs only a small compromise from the HB method in order to maintain component load contributions. As ACCA continues to refine its procedures. Elite Software was the first company to sell an ACCA Manual J program based on the 6th edition in 1984. Smith welcomes your email about this article. Smith wrote the first commercially available load calculation program using ASHRAE CLTD procedures in 1979. This has allowed the development of hundreds of load factor tables that represent very well what happens in peak HVAC loads on residential structures. Mr. I think the Manual J method will see big changes in the coming years as it catches up on calculation theory with the more advanced commercial and energy analysis methods. I think the RTS method has a very long future. But what MJ8 has going for it is years of dedicated specific residential structure heat transfer analysis. Smith invites your comments on this www. About the Author: Bill Smith is the Mr.elitesoft. As mentioned before. with only small refinements needed. and founder of Elite Software.7/28/13 HVAC Peak Load Calculation Methods – History and Comparisons method. owner. and will continue to update it as more developments occur. .html 10/10 . The MJ8 procedures are not technically advanced compared to the dedicated commercial methods such as TFM and RTS.