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The following article was published in ASHRAE Journal, April 2003.

© Copyright 2003 American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-

Conditioning Engineers, Inc. It is presented for educational purposes only. This article may not be copied and/or distributed electronically or in
paper form without permission of ASHRAE.

By Robert Besant, P.Eng., Fellow ASHRAE, and Carey Simonson, Ph.D., P.Eng., Associate Member ASHRAE

W hen is it cost effective to include air-to-air energy exchange?

Most HVAC engineers know that air-to-air devices for heat and
one or more air-to-air exchangers as well
as conventional components for ventila-
tion and comfort control.
moisture exchange (e.g., heat exchangers and energy wheels) can be This type of design is well-known in
used to significantly reduce utility cooling and heating loads and costs. chemical process design as process en-
However, engineers often are not sure how the devices function and ergy integration for minimum utility
costs. 2,3 It is achieved by exploiting
how they can be assembled and sized for an HVAC system for maxi- waste thermal or sensible energy from
mum savings. In addition, what energy savings can be expected and one part of a process for use in another
part using heat exchangers placed and
will these devices increase or decrease the total equipment cost?
sized to minimize utility costs. These
These are not simple questions because to-air heat and moisture exchange be- optimal designs identify heat exchang-
many factors and constraints need to be tween supply and exhaust air. The article ers near the critical “pinch point” in the
considered in the design of HVAC sys- discussed how to integrate one air-to-air process that maximizes savings. In in-
tems, and because the answers imply exchanger (e.g., heat exchanger or en- dustrial applications, the cost savings
more than a system that just functions ergy wheel) into an HVAC system, main- due to energy reductions from reclaim-
reliably to meet the peak summer and tain part-load control, do a net annual ing waste hot and cold fluid streams in
winter loads. An HVAC system designed total cost analysis and achieve a maxi- optimal or near optimal heat exchanger
for maximum benefit clearly implies us- mum benefit. This article is an extension
About the Authors
ing waste energy, trade-offs, high-perfor- to this discussion. It includes all air-to-
Robert Besant, P.Eng., is professor emeritus
mance devices, and optimization. air devices, which economically exploit
and Carey Simonson, Ph.D., P.Eng., is assis-
Besant and Simonson1 discussed air- the waste energy sources in a building tant professor at the University of Saskatchewan’s
to-air devices and topics related to air- into an HVAC system that may contain Department of Mechanical Engineering.

42 ASHRAE Journal April 2003


designs often exceeds 30% of the original energy used. airstreams in Figure 1, except for those used in the design
Supply air processing in HVAC systems for ventilation and example, which are associated with the locations defined in
comfort often has fewer components than chemical processes. Figure 2.
However, it is more complex than chemical process design Figure 1 shows a schematic of one of these devices with
since both air temperature and humidity must be controlled to supply and exhaust airflows and Stations 1 to 4.
maintain thermal comfort and the HVAC system must function For cp = constant, we can write:
well over a range of operating conditions. ms ∆t s
εs = (2)
Ventilation air is required for all indoor spaces that are likely mmin∆t max
to be occupied.4 Some recent studies show strong linkages The value of es , which must lie between zero and one (0 £ es
among indoor air quality (IAQ), temperature, humidity and £ 1.0) increases with the exchanger surface area and decreases
occupant productivity.5,6 These studies imply that only meet- with the face velocity. For HVAC applications with balanced
ing the minimum ventilation requirements may not be in the supply and exhaust airflows, values above 0.85 may not be
best interest of the building owner/operator, whose annual pay- economically justified. Table 1 shows typical ranges of es for
roll cost may be 20 times greater than the HVAC costs. Using each type of heat exchanger. For a given air-to-air heat ex-
various air-to-air exchangers, it is now possible to maintain changer, es is determined in an independent testing laboratory
good IAQ and comfort conditions while lowering the HVAC according to a specified standard.7
system utility costs and the capital costs compared to conven- The pressure drop across an air-to-air heat exchanger does
tional HVAC design. not need to be the same for the supply and
This article reviews various air-to-air ex- 4 3 exhaust airstreams. It needs to be specified
changers and shows the best way to integrate for both airstreams for each face velocity and
them into an HVAC system. inlet temperature. Typical values are shown
for each type of heat exchanger in Table 1.
e Air-to-Air
Heat Exchangers: Plates, Pipes, Wheels These values should be determined in an in-
and Runarounds dependent laboratory.
Heat exchangers transfer sensible energy The exhaust air transfer to the supply air is
1 2
due to a temperature difference across the characterized by the exhaust air transfer ratio
exchanger. Air-to-air heat exchangers have Supply Air (EATR), which represents the fraction of ex-
been used in HVAC applications for more than haust air that is transferred (recirculated) into
100 years. Several types of air-to-air heat ex- Figure 1: Air-to-air energy the supply air through the exchanger. A
exchange between supply smaller EATR is better than a larger one. How-
changers commonly are used for HVAC ven- and exhaust air.
tilation applications: cross flow plates, heat ever a moderate EATR may be acceptable in
pipes, regenerative rotary heat wheels and aqueous glycol coil- many HVAC applications where the air supplied to a space is a
coupled runaround coils. Physically these low-cost devices, mixture of outdoor and recirculated air, though this may re-
listed in Table 1, are characterized by large heat exchange quire that the ventilation air volume be increased to provide
surface areas per unit volume (i.e., 100 to 4000 m2/m3 [30 to the desired ventilation effect. The EATR essentially increases
1,200 ft2/ft3]) and are manufactured using low-cost materials the fraction of recirculated air supplied to the building space.
that do not react with exhaust air or water vapor condensation. Therefore, in cleanrooms of hospitals and research labs, an
Several constant or nearly constant factors are used to char- EATR above 0% may be unacceptable. For balanced mass flows,
acterize their performance for heat rate, pressure drop, exhaust it is defined as:
air transfer into the supply air, and supply air leakage lost. The c −c
EATR = 2 1 (3)
heat rate is characterized by the sensible effectiveness, es , 7 c3 − c1
which is defined at steady state as the ratio of heat rates: where ci is the inert tracer gas concentration in airstream i
Cs ∆t s (Figure 1). It is best measured in an independent laboratory set
εs = (1) up to do testing according to the accepted standard.7 Typical
Cmin ∆t max
where values of EATR are listed in Table 1.
Cs = mcp The outside air correction factor (OACF) for the supply air
= supply (s) [or exhaust (e)] mass flow rate of air times accounts for any leakage from the supply air duct at the air-to-
the specific heat air device. For balanced mass flows, it is defined as:
C min = minimum of Cs and Ce m
OACF = 1 (4)
Dts = t1 – t2 m2
Dtmax = t1 – t3 that for constant supply air density equals the ratio of volume
Subscripts 1, 2, 3 and 4 refer to the airstreams numbered in flow rates (Figure 1). Typical values of OACF are listed in Table
Figure 1. All the numeric subscripts in this paper refer to the 1 when there is no leakage from the exhaust into the supply. If
April 2003 ASHRAE Journal 43
Exhaust Power Exhaust Heat Power
Air Air
12 11 10 9 8
e a h m h a
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
F C H Space F C H
Supply Space
Ventilation Power Cool Heat Ventilation
Air Power Cool Heat
e Energy Exchanger F Fan
a Air Exchanger (Recirculation Air) m Rotary Drying Wheel F Fan
C Cooling Coil
a Air Exchanger (Recirculation Air) C Cooling Coil
h Heat Exchanger H Heating Coil
h Heat Exchanger H Heating Coil

Figure 2 (left): Air, heat and moisture exchange. Figure 3 (right): Air, heat and moisture exchange using a rotary desiccant dryer.

OACF is greater than 1, air is transferred from the supply inlet The coefficient of performance (COP) often is used to repre-
side to the exhaust outlet side and the supply of outdoor air sent the performance of regenerative desiccant-coated dehu-
must be increased accordingly to provide adequate outdoor midifiers. COP is a ratio of the latent energy removed from the
ventilation to the building space. supply airstream to the energy supplied to heat the exhaust
Condensation and/or frosting can occur in any air-to-air airstream. Typical values range from 0.4 to 1 as shown in Table
energy exchanger under cold weather operating conditions 2. In addition, it is possible to define a performance factor in a
though different technologies can be more or less resistant.8 If form similar to heat exchangers. The moisture transfer effec-
condensation may occur under system design conditions, a tiveness, em, of regenerative dehumidifier wheels is given by
condensation drain should be provided. If frosting would un- ms ∆Ws
εm =
acceptably compromise ventilation, or if equipment would be mmin∆Wmax (5)
damaged by frost, a frost control scheme should be provided.
Frost control can be achieved using several different methods where DWs = W1 – W2 = decrease in humidity ratio in the
including supply air bypass or throttling, preheating the sup- supply airflow stream and DWmax = W1 – W3 = maximum hu-
ply or exhaust air inlet flow, and speed control on rotary wheels. midity ratio difference in the exchanger (Figure 1). Since a
The manufacturer should address the issue of frost control for large temperature difference exists between airstreams, mois-
units sold for use in cold climates. ture transfer effectiveness can exceed 100%, but significant
energy is required to achieve this as evidenced by the low
Regenerative Moisture Exchange COP.
Desiccant-coated regenerative wheels for dehumidifying The other performance factors for heat exchangers (i.e., pres-
moist air were patented first in 19749 and have been exten- sure drop, EATR and OACF) should also be used to fully char-
sively used in HVAC applications where waste heat can be acterize these exchangers. Table 2 presents typical values for
used for regeneration. Waste hot air, exhausted at temperatures these factors.
near or above the boiling temperature of water, is usually well- Desiccants are known to have a strong affinity for many
suited for regenerating a rotary dehumidifying wheel.10 A va- different gases and vapors in addition to water vapor. 11 They
riety of desiccant coatings can be used, with each having can be used in regenerative wheels for stripping some undesir-
inherent advantages and disadvantages. Two common desic- able supply airborne contaminants such as volatile organic
cants are 4A molecular sieve and silica gel. compounds and perhaps some toxic gases and vapors. Select-
In warm, humid weather, the first emphasis is put on water ing materials used in the desiccant coating becomes more com-
vapor adsorption from the building supply air and desorption plex because the effectiveness for the removal of each gas or
or rejection of this water to the outside in the hot regeneration vapor chemical depends on the type of desiccant and regen-
exhaust airstream. A small purge section may be used to limit eration conditions. For some applications, more than one type
any heat transfer into the supply airstream from the hot air- of desiccant may be used for the regenerative wheel coating,
stream. These desiccant-coated regenerative wheels adsorb so that it works well for both water vapor and some other gases.
water vapor rather slowly. They are rotated at speeds usually If this is done, a unique effectiveness (eci similar to Equation
less than 1 rpm, and they require a large exchanger surface area 5) should be defined for each airborne chemical concentra-
per unit mass flow rate of supply air. 10 tion, ci , which is to be removed from the supply air. By anal-
The hotter the regenerative air, the smaller the surface area ogy it can be written as:
needed for regeneration, so it often occupies a smaller fraction ms ∆cis
εci =
of the whole wheel face. mmin∆ci,max (6)

44 ASHRAE Journal April 2003


Heat and Moisture Exchange 30.7°C 20.7°C 25°C 25°C

A single rotary wheel exchanger that trans- 16 g/kg 11 g/kg 11 g/kg Power 11 g/kg
ferred both heat and moisture between the sup- Exhaust Air
ply and exhaust airstreams was first patented m& 12 = 1 kg/s 12 11 10 9 8
in 1978.12 Since the prime focus of HVAC sys- m& 8 = 2 kg/s Return
e a h Air
tems is the control of indoor temperature and m& 7 = 2 kg/s
humidity while providing adequate ventila- Supply m1 = 1 kg/s
Ventilation Air F C H
tion, such a regenerative wheel could cool and 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Space
dehumidify the supply air in summer and heat 18 g/kg
Power Cool Heat
and humidify air in winter using exhaust air as 24°C 15°C
the sink or source for heat and moisture. The 13 g/kg 6 g/kg
22.3°C 10.8°C 15°C
potential savings for cooling and dehumidify- 12 g/kg
12 g/kg 6 g/kg 6 g/kg
ing the supply air in summer using a total en-
ergy wheel is often sufficiently large to reduce Figure 4: Temperatures and humidities at summer design conditions.
not only the utility costs but also the capacity
required for the chiller and boiler. –13°C 11°C 23°C 23°C
The rotational speed of most desiccant- 1.3 g/kg 3.5 g/kg 3.5 g/kg Power 3.5 g/kg
coated energy wheels ranges from 20 to 60 rpm, Exhaust Air
which is necessary to obtain a good heat trans- F
m& 12 = 1 kg/s 12 11 10 9 8
fer effectiveness (i.e., 60 < es < 85%). There- m& 8 = 2 kg/s Return
e a h Air
fore, the desiccant coatings must be able to
= m& 7 = 2 kg/s
absorb moisture nearly 100 times faster than Supply m& 1 1 kg/s
Ventilation Air F C H
for similar desiccant dehumidifying wheels –21°C 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Space
that operate near their optimal speed of less 0.6 g/kg
than 1 rpm. Power Cool Heat
3°C 16°C
Table 2 includes the performance factors for 2.8 g/kg 3.1 g/kg
energy wheels. These include all five for heat 7°C 7°C 7°C 16°C
exchangers and two more for latent energy or 3.1 g/kg 3.1 g/kg 3.1 g/kg 3.1 g/kg
moisture and total energy or enthalpy effec- Figure 5: Temperatures and humidities at winter design conditions.
tiveness, giving a total of seven factors (i.e.,
three effectivenesses, two pressure drops, EATR,
and OACF). A further complicating consideration is that the permeable exchange plates are known. The first type, which is
three effectivenesses will, in general, each have a different made from treated paper, allows water to pass through the sur-
value. These values will differ somewhat with each operating face as a gas or liquid due to the partial vapor pressure differ-
condition. To avoid confusion, ARI Standard 106013 specifies ences in the supply and exhaust airstreams. It usually has a
one operating condition for summer testing and another for moderate latent effectiveness (e.g., 30% to 40%). The second
winter. These operating conditions are used for testing all cer- type uses hydrophilic chemicals within a very thin permeable
tified exchangers. plastic sheet to achieve a higher latent effectiveness. Ranges
For testing energy wheels, use the revised ANSI/ASHRAE of these performance factors are shown in Table 2.
Standard 84-1991, Method of Testing Air-to-Air Heat Exchang-
ers and the ARI certification test conditions to minimize the System Integration
errors that can easily occur. 14 For comparison with rotary de- In the past, conventional HVAC systems usually contained
humidifiers, a recovered efficiency ratio (RER) is presented in no air-to-air exchangers. All of the supply air heating, cooling
Table 2 for energy wheels. The recovered efficiency ratio (RER) and moisture removal (or addition) was achieved using utility
is defined in a similar manner to the energy efficiency ratio energy. Today, well-designed HVAC systems often integrate
(EER) as used for chillers — that is, RER equals the recovered one or more air-to-air exchangers into processing the supply
energy rate for the exchanger at ARI test conditions13 divided air. Examples of such systems are shown in Figure 2 using
by the sum of the total electrical power input for the fans, energy (e) and heat (h) exchangers and Figure 3 using a heat
auxiliary motors and heaters. Values of RER range from 40 to (h) exchanger and a rotary desiccant dehumidifier for mois-
100 for typical energy wheels. ture (m) exchange. In Figure 2 the only useful source of waste
Plate exchangers that can transfer water vapor as well as heat airflow and energy is assumed to be the space return and ex-
have been available for many years. Two different types of haust air while Figure 3 implies an external hot waste air is
April 2003 ASHRAE Journal 45
also available to regenerate the dehumidifier. Other sources of savings in cooling and heating equipment capacity, and cal-
waste flow energy such as process hot water or steam or chim- culate the expected annual energy savings as outlined in the
ney exhaust air may also be exploited, but they are not in- first three steps of Table 3. Costing of all the installed compo-
cluded in this discussion. Return air (a) recirculation is included nents and computing the optimal design for the weighted mini-
in both figures because it is often necessary to achieve com- mum first cost and life-cycle cost are not included due to the
fortable supply air temperatures and at flow rates that results in need to use more data.
good mixing in each space. Humidifi-
cation and evaporative cooling some-
times are used because they are
cost-effective, but they are not consid-
ered here because they are less com-
mon and are not air-to-air devices.
In Figure 2, the exchange of heat and
moisture in (e) and heat in (h) are as-
sumed to be controllable with flow di-
rections that depend on the potential
difference for temperature and water
vapor pressure. The utility input power
to fans (F), cooling (C) or heating (H)
equipment are controlled to meet the
required supply air delivery mass flow
rate ( m& ), temperature and humidity at
Point 7. Dampers control the required
supply air ventilation mass flow rate
(m& 1 ). Of course, in any particular sys-
tem and for any operating condition,
not all of these components will be
used. Some components may not be Advertisement in the print edition formerly in this space.
necessary at all because they will not
be used at any time or comfort condi-
tions in the space can be met by other
means (e.g., direct space heat).
The HVAC system design process is
sequential and iterative starting with
the building requirements and the sum-
mer and winter design conditions for a
particular location. This design se-
quence is shown in the sidebar, “HVAC
System Design Process,” and it includes
the design objectives of minimum life-
cycle and first costs. The tradeoff or
weighting between the life-cycle and
first costs is a decision that should be
made by the building owner.

The system design process is best il-
lustrated using a simple example. For a
particular new building in a specified
location, we will estimate the first de-
sign iteration, size the air-to-air ex-
changers, calculate the expected
46 ASHRAE Journal April 2003

Analysis for the System in Figure 2

1. Building location: Chicago HVAC System Design Process
(a) Outdoor design conditions: 1. List all building requirements for the HVAC system and
constraints including each utility cost. Design a process for the
summer t1 (1%) = 34°C (93°F)
supply air that fully exploits the waste energy flows from the
t1 wb = 23°C (73°F) exhaust air and other flow sources.
winter t1 (99%) = –21°C (–6°F) 2. Estimate the properties at each station and the peak heat
t1 wb = –21°C (–6°F) and moisture exchange energy rates benefit at the summer and
(b) Supply air conditions: winter design conditions using typical performance factors for
mass flow m& 7 = 2 kg/s (3531 scfm) the air-to-air exchangers as in Tables 1 and 2. From these results,
m& 1 = 1 kg/s (1766 scfm) estimate the remaining utility peak energy rates.
summer t7 = 15°C (59°F), f7 = 0.60, where f 3. Estimate the utility annual energy loads and costs using an
estimate of part load and operating condition time duration.
is the relative humidity
4. Estimate the first or installed cost of all components from
winter 15 £ t7 £ 23°C (59 £ t7 £ 73°F) known data.
f7 ³ 0.15 5. Iterate on Steps 2, 3 and 4 using the above estimates and
(c)Return air conditions: manufacturer’s quoted prices, certified equipment performance
mass flow rate m& 8 = 2 kg/s (3,531 scfm) data, utility energy rate data, and perhaps simulation studies to
m& 12 = 1 kg/s (1,766 scfm) meet the design objectives of a weighted minimum life-cycle and
summer t8 = 25°C (77°F) f8 = 0.55 first costs.
winter t8 = 23°C (73.9°F) f8 = 0.20
(d) Space heat load (supplied by baseboard heaters) equals
two times the ventilation air heat load without heat recovery, (e) Selection of the air-to-air exchanger performance fac-
but with a break-even temperature for the building equal to t1 tors for energy exchange from Table 1. High, but realistic,
= 10°C (50°F) (i.e., heating is required when t1 £ 10°C [50°F]). effectivenesses are selected to maximize the potential energy
es,e = (sensible effectiveness of energy exchanger) = 0.75
em,e = (latent effectiveness of energy exchanger) = 0.75
es,h = (sensible effectiveness of heat exchanger) = 0.75
2. (a) Calculate the sensible and latent heat exchange rates
for the supply air using the definitions for energy exchange
q& s ,e = ε s ,e m& 1C p (t11 − t1 ) (7)
= energy wheel sensible heat rate
q& e , w = ε m ,e m& 1h fg (W11 − W1 ) (8)
Advertisement in the print edition formerly in this space. = energy wheel latent heat rate
q& s ,h = ε s ,h m& 5C p (t 9 − t 5 ) (9)
= heat wheel sensible heat rate
(b) During summer design conditions, the critical air tem-
perature at the cooling coil outlet, t5, is determined by the
space supply air temperature and humidity. This is:
t5(t7 = 15°C [59°F], f7 = 0.60) = 10.8°C (51.4°F)

(c) Determination of properties in winter and summer: the

remaining temperatures and humidity ratios at each station in
Figure 2 are determined using energy balance equations. The
results for the winter and summer design conditions are in
Figures 4 and 5. It is assumed that t6 = 15°C (59°F) in summer
implying that the heat exchanger (h) will be controlled so this
temperature is maintained. In winter, t6 is allowed to increase
but remain in the range 15 £ t6 £ 23°C (59 £ t6 £ 73°F). It is also

April 2003 ASHRAE Journal 47

Rotary Runaround Rotary Permeable
Fixed Plate Heat Pipe Energy Wheel
Heat Wheel Coil Loop Dehumidifier Plate
es(ms = me) 0.5 to 0.8 0.5 to 0.85 0.45 to 0.70 0.40 to 0.65 es(ms=ms) 0.5 to 0.85 0.5 to 0.8
DPs = DPe(Pa) 100 to 1000 100 to 300 150 to 500 150 to 500 em or e1 0.5 to 0.85 0.3 to 0.8
EATR (%) 0 to 5 1 to 10 0 to 1 0 et 0.5 to 0.85 0.4 to 0.8
OACF 0.97 to 1.06 1 to 1.2 0.99 to 1.01 1.0 COP/ RER 0.4 to 1 40 to 100 20 to 80
Face DPs = DPc(Pa) 100 to 300 100 to 300 100 to 300
1 to 5 2 to 5 2 to 4 1.5 to 3
Velocity, m/s EATR (%) 0 to 1 1 to 10 1 to 5
–60 to –55°C to –45°C to OACF 1 to 1.02 1 to 1.1 0.97 to 1.06
Temp. Range –40°C to 40°C
800°C 800°C 500°C · Exchanger · Exchanger · Exchanger
· Exchanger · Exchanger · Exchanger Only Only Only
Only Only Only · Exchanger in · Exchanger in · Exchanger in
· Exchanger · Exchanger · Exchanger in Typical Mode of Case Case Case
· Coils Only
Typical Mode in Case in Case Case Purchase · Exchanger · Exchanger · Exchanger
· Complete
of Purchase · Exchanger · Exchanger · Exchanger and Blowers and Blowers and Blowers
and Blowers and Blowers and Blowers · Complete · Complete · Complete
· Complete · Complete · Complete System System System
System System System · Compact
· Exhaust · Compact Large Sizes · Compact
· No Moving Airstream Large Sizes · Low Pressure Large Sizes
Parts Except Can Be · Low Pressure Drop · Low Pressure
· Compact Advantages
· No Moving Maybe an Separated Drop · Availability on Drop
Parts Active Control From Supply · Ability to Use All Ventilation · No Moving
· Low Tilt Air Waste Heat System Parts
· Low
Advantages Pressure · Fan Location · Fan Platforms
Drop Not Critical Location Not · Requires Hot · Supply Air · Supply Air
· Easily · High Critical Air Source Requires Requires
· Easily
Cleaned Allowable · High Supply Air Further Cooling Further Cooling
Cleaned Limitations
Pressure Allowable · Requires or Heating in or Heating in
Differences Pressure Sensible Some Some
Differences Energy Cooling Applications Applications
· High · Bypass · Bypass
· Some
Effectiveness Heat and Moisture Dampers and Dampers and · Bypass
Pressure · Some · Effectiveness
Often Rate Control Wheel Speed Wheel Speed Dampers
Deformation EATR Limited by
Limitations Requires an Control Control
of Plates for Without Pressure Drop
Some Purge and Cost Table 2: Comparing air-to-air heat and moisture exchangers.
· Bypass · Bypass · Tilt Angle
· Bypass
Heat Rate Dampers Dampers Down to 10% (Still heat is needed to satisfy the space-heating load.) The
Valve or
Control and Ducting and Wheel of Maximum
Pump Speed heat exchanger (h) need have been only 30% effective to in-
Schemes for Supply Speed Heat Rate or
Control crease the temperature at Station 5 to the required supply air
Air Control Bypass
Table 1: Comparison of air-to-air heat exchangers. inlet temperature of 15°C (59°F) in summer. Similarly, only a
55% effectiveness is required in the winter. Therefore, this heat
exchanger (h) must be controlled for part load during the en-
assumed that the fan power input has a negligible effect on the tire summer operational time and part of the winter.
temperature of the air. The humidity ratio, W12 = 1.3 g/kg in winter, likely will lead
(d) Determination of energy rates in winter and summer. to slight frosting problems because the saturation humidity
From the equations in (a) we get the winter and summer peak ratio is 1.2 g/kg at t12 = –13°C (8.6°F). The energy wheel would
heating and cooling rates shown in Table 3. not likely have any operational problems at this condition
Table 3 shows significant reductions in the required chiller unless the outside air were supersaturated, in which case a
and boiler capacities when air-to-air energy exchangers are defrost strategy would be required.
installed. The saving in boiler capacity due to the air-to-air (e) The remaining auxiliary heating and cooling for the
exchangers exceeds the required boiler capacity to heat the design conditions are implied in Table 3. The last column gives
ventilation air at the design conditions. This means that at the reduction in installed capacities for the design example. In
both the winter and summer design conditions no heat is re- winter the boiler capacity can be reduced by 44% compared to
quired to heat the air before it is supplied to the building space the base case with no air-to-air exchangers. In summer the
at 16°C (61°F) (winter) and 15°C (59°F) (summer). Thus, the chiller capacity can be reduced by 52%.
heating coil can be eliminated from the air handling system. 3. The annual energy loads are calculated using the inte-

48 ASHRAE Journal April 2003


Base Loads Without Air-to-Air Exchanger Base Energy Use Air-to-Air Exchanger
Ratios Ratios
Exchangers (q) Savings (qAE) Without Exchangers (q) Savings (qAE)
Space Space Space Space
Ventilation Total Total
Heating Heating Ventilation
Air Boiler/ Total q AE Heating Ventilation
Heating Ventilation
q AE
or or Air q or Air or Air q
(T7 = 15°C) Chiller Chiller
Cooling Cooling Cooling Cooling
Winter Winter
q& Boiler 62.4 46.3 108.6 1.0 46.3 47.3 0.44 qBoiler 74600 60400 135000 15000 60400 75400 0.56
(kW) (kWh)
Summer Summer
q&Chiller 26.8 53.4 80.1 10.7 30.9 41.6 0.52 qChiller 61000 81200 142000 29600 13900 43500 0.31
(kW) (kWh)
Summer Summer
q& Boiler 4.2 4.2 8.4 4.2 4.2 8.4 1.0 qBoiler 16300 16300 32600 16300 16300 32600 1.0
(kW) (kWh)
Table 3: Peak energy rates (t1 [1%] = 34°C, t1 [99%] = –21°C). Table 4: Energy data shows savings of air-to-air exchangers.

gral of the time duration of each operating condition during boiler space heat load provided the supply air remains less
the entire year. That is, without air-to-air exchange the annual than 23°C (73°F). Table 4 includes these savings.
heating energy for ventilation air is given by: The net extra fan power required with total fan efficiencies
of 50% as a result of introducing exchangers (e) and (h) and
q&vent (t1 )dt
8760 hours
qvent =∫ 0 eliminating the auxiliary heater (H) are about 180 W for the
where supply air motor and 540 W for the exhaust. Without part load
&qvent = m& 1Cp(t 7 − t1 ) for t7 > t1 by-pass for the exchangers, this extra power is essentially con-
Besant and Simonson1 show how this can be readily done stant for all the operating hours, giving an annual energy use
once the typical year outside air temperatures are rearranged of about 6,300 kWh for the specified flow rates and assuming
so that t1 increases monotonically from its lowest to its highest a pressure drop of 200 Pa (0.8 in. w.g.) for each airstream across
value as a function of time duration. each exchanger. The auxiliary power to rotate the energy and
Table 4 presents the results of such calculations for both heat wheels would be about 200 W and over the year the an-
temperature and enthalpy for each of the ventilation air, the nual energy use would be 1,750 kWh. The ratios of all the
space heating and cooling energy saved over the year di-
needs and the totals. It shows ‘HVAC systems with air-to-air exchangers vided by the extra energy in-
that the total heating energy need to be carefully designed for the loca- put for the fans and auxiliary
can be reduced by 56% in win- motors gives a seasonal recov-
ter and 100% in summer for a tion of each device in the system, the winter ery efficiency ratio (SRER) of
total reduction of yearly heat- and summer design performance of each de- 18.8.
ing energy of 64%. The total These significant reductions
chiller cooling energy can be vice, and the total annual energy saved by in energy use can be related to
reduced by 31%. Table 4 the HVAC system.’ annual operating cost savings
shows, similar to Table 3, that using typical energy cost data.
the air-to-air exchangers are able to eliminate the need to heat If we assume net total heating energy costs provided to the
ventilation air in the winter and reheat the ventilation air in building are $0.05/kWh and the cooling energy costs are
the summer. Therefore, the energy savings for ventilation air $0.15/kWh, then the total annual energy costs will be $8,380
heating are equal to the energy required to condition ventila- and $2,980 for the boiler without and with the air-to-air ex-
tion air throughout the year in this example where the supply changers. For the chiller these corresponding costs will be
temperature is 16°C (61°F) in the winter and 15°C (59°F) in $21,300 and $14,800.
the summer. Since the supply air is always brought into the It can be observed from these results that:
space at temperatures above 16°C (61°F) during the heating (1)The energy gained by allowing the supply air tempera-
season, the baseboard space heating will drop compared to the ture to increase from 15°C to 23°C (59°F to 73°F) as it is recov-
case of 16°C (61°F) space supply air temperature such that the ered from the exhaust air is significant (i.e., 20% of the total
total thermal energy input will be fixed for any outdoor air recovered energy).
temperature. In this manner, supply air heat gained while the (2)The energy saved for cooling would be only 31% of the
outdoor temperature is less than 10°C (50°F) reduces the total total energy used for cooling without air-to-air recovery in

April 2003 ASHRAE Journal 49

spite of the fact that the cooling capacity reduction is ex- manufacturers’ claims of exhaust-to-supply air exchange com-
pected to be 52% (Table 3). This result, which is a conse- ponent performance can be verified through ARI’s Standard
quence of the fact that, for cooling energy recovery, the 1060 Certification Program.13
outside air enthalpy must be higher than the inside air en- HVAC systems with air-to-air exchangers need to be carefully
thalpy, means that a chiller, used in conjunction with air-to- designed for the location of each device in the system, the win-
air recovery, would operate over a much narrower range of ter and summer design performance of each device, and the total
operating conditions and would likely have a higher average annual energy saved by the HVAC system. When this is done,
COP or SEER. the example system in Chicago shows large reductions in the
required capacity of the boiler (44%) and chiller (52%) and the
Discussion elimination of any auxiliary heating in the supply air duct. The
In the example of the calculation of air-to-air energy recov- resulting annual energy savings of 64% for the boiler and 31%
ery in the HVAC system shown in Figure 2, one could ask for the chiller lead to significant operating cost savings.
many “what ifs.” What if the heat exchanger was not included?
What if the system was 10 times bigger? What if the effective- References
ness of the exchangers was 10% lower? What if there was a 1. Besant, R.W. and C.J. Simonson. 2000. “Air-to-air energy
failure of one of the exchangers? The answers to these ques- recovery.” ASHRAE Journal 42(5):31–42.
tions are implied in this article and the example. 2. Linnhoff, B., et al. 1982. “A user guide on process integra-
The air-to-air heat exchanger plays an important role for tion for the efficient use of energy.” Institute of Chemical En-
both winter and summer operation just as the energy exchanger gineers.
does. Systems of any size are implied in this example, but 3. Hewitt, G.F., G.L. Shires and T.R. Bott. 1993. Process Heat
small systems may have a long payback period. Transfer, pp. 841–855, London: CRC Press.
If either air-to-air exchanger has a significantly lower effec- 4. ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 62-2001, Ventilation for Accept-
tiveness than what was specified in the design, the system will able Indoor Air Quality.
not perform as expected and the peak design loads will not be 5. Fang, L., G. Clausen, and P.O. Fanger. 1998. “Impact of
met. To avoid such equipment problems, the designer should temperature and humidity on the perception of indoor air qual-
specify that only certified equipment should be used. If an air- ity.” Indoor Air 8:80–90.
to-air exchanger fails it will be akin to the boiler or chiller 6. Wargocki, P., D.P. Wyon and P.O. Fanger. 2000. “Productiv-
failing — it must be repaired or replaced if ventilation is to be ity is affected by the air quality in offices.” Proceedings of
maintained, especially if the outside air conditions are near Healthy Buildings 2000 1:635–640.
the peak winter or summer conditions. 7. ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 84-1991, Method of Testing Air-
In the above example, the least installed first cost will most to-Air Heat Exchangers.
likely include the energy (e) and heat (h) exchanger as shown 8. Phillips E.G., et al. 1992. “Freeze-control strategy and air-
in Figure 2 and exclude the heating coil (H). Therefore, the to-air energy recovery performance.” ASHRAE Journal
answer to the first question of the article (“When is it cost 34(12):44–49.
effective to include air-to-air exchange?”) is “always” for 9. Macriss, R.A., W.F. Rush and S.A. Weil. 1974. Desiccant
systems of equal or larger size than this example system in System for an Open Cycle Air Conditioning System, U.S. Patent
Chicago, provided the air-to-air exchangers, like the boilers # 3844737, Oct. 29, 1974.
and chillers, perform at least as well as specified. 10. Harriman, L.G., et al. 1999. “Evaluating active desiccant
Buildings in other climates and smaller capacity systems systems for ventilating commercial buildings.” ASHRAE Jour-
may require a more detailed cost analysis. Total life-cycle nal 41(10):28–37.
cost optimization for this system may allow the HVAC de- 11. Ruthven, D.M. 1984. Principles of Adsorption and Ad-
signer to increase slightly the air-to-air exchanger effective- sorption Processes, Toronto:Wiley.
ness and/or the outside airflow rate ( m & 1 ) to further increase 12. Marron, A.J. and W.J. Markowski. 1978. Total Heat En-
the annual savings and/or the indoor air quality. ergy Exchangers, U.S. Patent # 4093435, June 6, 1978.
13. Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute. 2001. ARI
Conclusions Standard 1060-2001, Rating Air-to-Air Energy Recovery Ven-
Several types of air-to-air heat and energy exchangers are tilation Equipment.
available for HVAC applications. The performance factors for 14. Simonson, C.J., D.L. Ciepliski and R.W. Besant. 1999.
these devices are documented and can be accurately deter- “Determining the performance of energy wheels: Part I — ex-
mined following the recently revised ANSI/ASHRAE Standard perimental and numerical methods.” ASHRAE Transactions
84-1991 for exhaust-to-supply air energy exchange. Further, 105(1):174–187.

50 ASHRAE Journal April 2003