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Chiller Plant Control

A chiller plant typically includes chillers, chilled water pumps, cooling tower

pumps, and cooling towers with fans. A chiller plant with constant-speed

primary chilled water pumps and variable speed secondary chilled water

pumps is shown below.

Tevaporator = 10 F

Tcondenser = 10 F

Tchilledwatersupply = 42 F

Tcoolingtowerreturn = 80 F

The total energy use of the chiller plant includes the energy use by the

chiller, pumps and cooling tower fans. Historically, as energy efficiency

became more important, attention was originally focused on improving

chiller efficiency since the chiller was the single biggest energy user in the

chiller plant. As a consequence, chiller energy use declined over the last

thirty years from over 0.75 kW/ton to less than 0.50 kW/ton today.

As chiller efficiency improved, the energy use by supporting fans and pumps

became a larger fraction of chiller plant energy use. In addition, designers

and operators became increasingly aware of interaction effects between the

components, and the potential to drive energy use even lower by optimizing

the system rather than components. This chapter discusses chiller plant

1

control to reduce total system energy use. Specifically, it considers how the

design guidelines shown above could modified to enhance energy efficiency.

Source data: Trane, 2000, Chilled Water System Design and Operation,

CTV-SLB005-EN.

Cooling tower fan energy use can be reduced by reducing the friction loss as

air flows through the cooling tower and by reducing the flow rate of air.

Friction losses are much smaller in induced flow-cooling towers than forcedflow cooling towers. In addition, improved packing designs increase

evaporative contact area while reducing friction losses. Low-friction cooling

towers can be identified by comparing rated fan motor power per rated

cooling capacity.

Cooling tower fan energy use can also be reduced by better air flow control.

The temperature of the water leaving a cooling tower is typically controlled

by varying the air flow rate through the cooling tower. In older cooling

towers, air flow rate was varied by cycling the cooling tower fan on and off.

A more energy efficient method of control is to vary the fan speed since

friction pressure drop is lower at lower air flows; the fan affinity law of fluid

work varying with the cube of flow applies to cooling towers as well duct

systems. Two speed cooling tower fan motors approximate this type of

speed with a variable-frequency drive.

The table and graph below show simulated cooling tower fan electricity use

for a constant-speed on/off and variable-speed 10-hp fan motor running

continually in Dayton, OH with a 10 F temperature drop and an 80 F

condenser supply temperature. The constant-speed fan is on 47% of the

year, while the variable speed fan runs at 37% of full speed. During hot,

humid weather, the fraction energy savings from variable-speed cooling

tower fan control are less since the cooling tower fan must operate at close

to full load. However, during cool, dry conditions, the fraction energy

savings from variable-speed cooling tower fan control are significant. Overall,

fan energy was reduced by about 64%.

After cooling tower fan energy use is addressed, energy savings from

reducing cooling tower water flow rate can be explored. Cooling towers are

typically designed to operate with a fixed flow rate of water. A typical flow

rate for cooling towers is 3 gpm per rated ton of chiller capacity. However,

reducing the water flow rate reduces pumping costs and improves cooling

tower effectiveness. Moreover, if system is originally designed for less flow,

smaller pipes and pumps can reduce first costs. Consider the following

example.

Example

A cooling tower is originally designed and operated with 5 gpm of water per

ton with a 10 F temperature gain through the condenser. The required

elevation head is 10 ft H20 and the friction head is 20 ft H2O. The pump is

70% efficient and the pump motor is 90% efficient. The water flow rate is

then reduced to 3 gpm per ton. If the wet-bulb temperature of the air is 60

F, determine a) the water temperature leaving the cooling tower at 5 gpm, b)

the water temperature leaving the cooling tower at 3 gpm, c) the pumping

power at 5 gpm per ton, d) the pumping power at 3 gpm per ton, and e) the

fraction reduction in pumping power.

a) From the cooling tower performance chart for a tower operated at 5

gpm/ton, the temperature of water leaving a cooling tower is about 80 F

when the temperature range is 10 F and the wet-bulb temperature of the air

is 60 F.

b) If the tower flow rate were reduced to 3 gpm/ton, the new temperature

range can be found from an energy balance on the condenser.

Qcond = V1 p cp Tcond1 = V2 p cp Tcond2

Tcond2 = (V1 / V2) Tcond1 = (5 gpm/ton / 3 gpm/ton) 10 F = 16.7 F

From the cooling tower performance chart for a tower operated at 3 gpm/ton,

the temperature of water leaving a cooling tower when the temperature

range is 16.7 F and the wet-bulb temperature of the air is 60 F is about 78 F.

Thus, the temperature of water leaving the cooling tower declines with the

lower flow rate. As long as the temperature of water to the condenser is

greater than the minimum temperature required by the chiller, reducing the

temperature of water to the condenser improves the efficiency of the chiller.

c) The initial pump head is:

h1 = helev + hfric = 10 ft H2O + 20 ft H2O = 30 ft H2O

P1 = V1 h1 / [ 3,960 (gpm-ftH20/hp) Epump Emotor ]

P1 = 5 gpm/ton 30 ftH20 / [3,960 (gpm-ftH20/hp) 0.70 0.90] x 0.746 kW/hp

P1 = 0.0449 kW/ton

d) Reducing the flow rate to 3 gpm/ton reduces the pump work to overcome

friction according to the pump affinity laws. The fluid work to overcome

friction at 5 gpm/ton was:

Wf1 = V1 hf1 / 3,960 (gpm-ftH20/hp)

Wf1 = 5 gpm/ton 20 ftH20 / 3,960 (gpm-ftH20/hp) = 0.0253 hp/ton

According to the fan affinity law, the fluid work to overcome friction at 3

gpm/ton is:

Wf2 = Wf1 (V2 / V1)3 = 0.0253 hp/ton (3 gpm/ton / 5 gpm/ton)3 = 0.00546

hp/ton

The fluid work to overcome the elevation head is:

We2 = V2 he / 3,960 (gpm-ftH20/hp) = 3 gpm/ton 10 ftH20 / 3,960 (gpmftH20/hp) = 0.00758 hp/ton

Assuming the efficiencies of the pump and motor remain the same, the total

electrical power to the pump motor at 3 gpm/ton is:

P2 = (Wf2 + We2) / (Epump Emotor)

P2 = (0.00546 hp/ton + 0.00758 hp/ton) / (0.70 x 0.90) x 0.746 kW/hp =

0.0154 kW/ton

e) Thus, reducing the flow rate from 5 gpm/ton to 3 gpm/ton reduced the

electrical power to the pump motor by

(0.0449 kW/ton - 0.0154 kW/ton) / 0.0449 kW/ton = 66%

The result in the example above indicates the savings potential from

reducing the flow rate of condenser water through the cooling tower. In

practice, this can sometimes be achieved by measuring temperature

difference of water across the condenser, and reducing flow if the

temperature difference is consistently small.

Chiller efficiency improves with lower condenser water temperature.

However, cooling tower fan energy use increases to deliver lower condenser

water temperature. This suggests an optimum condenser water temperature

may exist which would minimize total cooling tower fan plus chiller energy

use.

The affect of condenser water temperature on total cooling tower fan plus

chiller electricity use can be modeled by solving a system of equations that

includes cooling tower and chiller performance. Input values must be known

for:

Qevap (tons) = actually cooling load

Qcap (tons) = cooling capacity of chiller

Twb (F) = ambient wet-bulb temperture

Tcsp (F) = set point temperature of cold water leaving cooling tower

DWF (gpm/ton) = design water flow rate to cooling tower

To solve the system using successive substitution, start by assuming a

temperature range Tr, across the cooling tower and then solving the

following set of equations. The chiller fraction loaded, FL, is:

1) FL = Qevap / Qcap

The minimum water temperature delivered by the cooling tower, Tc, is given

by:

2) Tc = a + b Twb + c Tr + d Twb2 + e Tr2 + f Tr Twb

However, cooling tower fans cycle on and off to maintain the water leaving

the cooling tower at a set temperature Tcsp. Thus, to incorporate cooling

tower control, Equation 2 must be followed by the following algorithm. From

an energy balance, the fraction of time the cooling tower fan runs, Fon, and

the actual entering and leaving cooling tower water temperatures Th and Tc

are:

3)

If Tc >= Tcsp then

fan runs continuously

Fon = 1

Tc = Tc

Th = Tc + Tr

Else if Tc < Tcsp then

fan cycles on and off to maintain Tcsp

Th = Tcsp + Tr

Fon = (Tcsp Th) / (Tc Th)

6

Tc = Tcsp

End if

Compressor input power per ton of evaporator cooling, KWPT, is given by:

4) KWPT = a + b FL + c FL2 + d Tc + e Tc2 + f Tc FL

Then, from an energy balance on the chiller, compressor input power,

Wcomp, heat rejected by the condenser, Qcond, volume flow rate of water

through the condenser, Vw, and temperature rise across the condenser, Tr,

are given by :

5)

6)

7)

8)

Qcond = Wcomp + Qevap

Vw = DWF Qcap

Tr = Qcond / (Vw pw cpw)

where pw is the density of water and cpw is the specific heat of water. The

value for Tr can then be substituted back into the start of the algorithm and

the algorithm repeated until Tr converges. After convergence, cooling tower

fan power, Wctf, can be calculated as:

Wctf = Fon RHP FML / Emotor x 0.746 kW/hp

Where RHP is cooling tower fan rated horsepower, FML is fraction motor

loaded, Emotor is the efficiency of the motor. The total power of the cooling

tower fan and compressor is:

Wtot = Wctf + Wcomp

Example

Consider a 500-ton chiller operated at 300 tons with a 30-hp cooling tower

fan and design water flow rate of 3 gpm/ton. The fan motor is 90% efficient.

The outdoor air wet-bulb temperature is 60 F. Calculate total cooling tower

fan plus compressor electrical power for cooling tower water set point

temperatures of 80 F, 70 F and 60 F.

Use of the algorithm shown above produces the following results. The

minimum total cooling tower fan plus compressor electrical power (192 kW)

occurred at a cooling tower water set point temperature of 70 F, which is 10

F greater than the outdoor air wet bulb temperature. This suggests that

total cooling tower fan plus compressor electrical power might be minimized

over an entire year by resetting the cooling tower water set point

temperature according to outdoor air wet-bulb temperature.

the affect of condenser water temperature set point on total cooling tower

fan plus chiller electricity use can be tested. For example, the following

results shown below are for a 500-ton chiller operated at 300 tons with a 30hp cooling tower fan and design water flow rate of 3 gpm/ton in Dayton, OH,

and a cooling tower water set point temperature of 60 F.

The results below show total cooling tower fan energy use for both a

constant speed fan Ecsf and variable speed fan Evsf, compressor energy use,

Ec, and total energy use for various cooling tower set-point temperatures.

These results indicate that chiller plus cooling tower fan energy use can be

reduced from a design condenser water temperature of 80 F by setting the

cooling water temperature equal to the minimum condenser temperature

recommended by the chiller manufacturer. Chiller plus cooling tower fan

energy use can then be further reduced by varying cooling water

temperature with outdoor air wet-bulb temperature.

Tcsp

(F)

80

70

60

50

Twb + 10 F

Ecsf

(kWh/yr)

52,296

93,217

134,651

173,341

1,498,886

Evsf

(kWh/yr)

5,541

48,493

99,355

151,437

94,166

Ec

(kWh/yr)

1,739,450

1,542,125

1,406,825

1,328,278

1,350,674

Ecsf + Ec

(kWh/yr)

1,791,746

1,635,342

1,541,476

1,501,619

1,500,559

Evsf + Ec

(kWh/yr)

1,744,991

1,590,618

1,506,180

1,479,715

1,444,840

These results are similar to an analysis by Trane, which showed that varying

condenser water temperature with outdoor air wet-bulb temperature resulted

in lower total energy costs than the design condenser water temperature or

the minimum condenser water temperature that the chiller could accept.

Source data: Trane, 2000, Chilled Water System Design and Operation,

CTV-SLB005-EN.

Traditionally, cooling plant pumps, fans and chillers were driven with

constant speed motors. Load following capability was provided by bypass,

mixing, staging and on/off control. Today, load following capability can be

provided by varying the flow of the pumps, fans and chillers with variable

frequency drives. Variable flow control can significantly reduce energy use

over traditional constant flow systems. The figure below shows an all

variable-speed cooling plant. Variable-speed cooling plants have been

documented to use as little as 0.5 kW/ton at high loads and 0.3 kW/ton at

low loads (Erpelding, Ben, 2008, Monitoring Chiller Plant Performance,

ASHRAE Journal, April, pp. 48-52.)

10

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