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VAV Systems

VAV

Typical Multi-zone VAV System


Image courtesy of ESMagazine.com

Introduction: Centralized HVAC systems weren't always a standard installation on buildings in this country. Once they became more widely used deficiencies in existing systems became more obvious. Not all rooms in a building are subjected to the same heating/cooling loads. Rooms on different sides of the building or in the building's core experience vastly different loads based on sun exposure, room equipment, occupation, etc. Enter the VAV (Variable Air Volume) system. This system recognizes the differences of load in each zone or room and delivers the amount of air required to meet the requirements of each individually. There are several variations of the VAV system based on the size of the system, climate, budget, and application. VAV system can be quite complex and are the epitome of the class definition of a system. There are numerous components that "talk" to each other in order to reach a certain harmony achieved by a smoothly operating system.

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VAV Systems

Image courtesy of TampaBayTrane.com

Typical Multi-Floor VAV System

Advantages:
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Totally flexible and adaptable. Due to variable speed elements in system, adding zones is simple. Energy efficient. No need for changeover, system provides heating and cooling. System adjusts optimally to meet demands quickly and efficiently. High quality air resulting from quick contamination removal.

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VAV Systems

Complexity of a Multi-Zone Floor of a Class A Office Building


Image Courtesy of HKU.HK

Disadvantages:
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Systems can be very complex and require very skilled labor. High initial cost. Air change rates may not reach expectations when VAV box dampers are applied. VAV boxes must always be in an completely accessible location, limiting design. Due to localized dampers and possibly fans, additional electrical wiring is required. VAV boxes require maintenance unlike most terminal units.

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VAV Systems
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Fan powered VAV boxes can be noisy if additional sound attenuation units not installed and loads are high. Certain weather conditions create a situation where humidity control is very poor.

Analysis of VAV Systems: Before we go any further, it's important to understand what a VAV system is regulating, what the components are in a VAV systems and how they interact with each other. Take a look at the diagram below:

VAV System with a Direct Control Return Fan


Image Courtesy of Trane.com
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Air Velocity: Careful control of air velocity ensures comfort and quicker body cooling through increased evaporation.
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Gas Content: Certain gasses can be very harmful while others can cause allergic reactions or release unwanted odors. These gasses must be filtered out.
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Humidity: Control of humidity in balance with temperature avoids a dry feeling in the winter and a balmy feeling in the summer.
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VAV Systems

Particulates: Similar to gasses, particulates must be controlled to ensure sufficient air quality.
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Pressure: In an effort to control infiltration, a specific zone's pressure can be carefully regulated.
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Radiant Temperature: The amount of radiant heat in a building varies by season and time of day. The system adjusts as required to maintain the predetermined settings of each zone.
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Temperature: Each zone's temperature is independently controlled to ensure a comfortable environment. How It Works VAV System Components and Description (italicized words are system components defined further down the list)
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Flow-Measuring Intake (outside air) Damper - This damper adjusts the amount of air brought into the system from outdoors based on the load of the building's zones and the amount of air in recirculation. The OA damper and the recirculating damper are controlled by the same sensor and often "talk" to each other.
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Preheater - Just before the outdoor air reaches the mixed air plenum, it can be heated up slightly. This is done generally during the winter or any time when the outside air is much cooler than the desired indoor temperature.
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Mixed Air Plenum - This plenum is located just before the air handler or in the air handler. This is where the return air mixes with the outside air.
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Air Handler - A unit responsible for the filtering, heating/cooling, and distributing of air throughout the building.

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VAV Systems
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Filters - The first part of the air handler that air passes through. A variety of filters are available in order to deal with the most extreme (HEPA) air purity requirements to the basic everyday air filtration requirements. Filters are responsible for removing unwanted gasses and particulates by trapping them. Over time the filters "clog" and must be replaced.
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Coils - Heating and cooling coils receive cold/hot water or hot oil/cold Freon (or substitute coolant) from boilers and chillers located outside of the air handler. They function independently of each other and should not operate at the same time. What is typical of a VAV system is that the coil temperature remains relatively constant for a period while airflow is regulated at the individual zones to achieve the desired temperature.
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Humidifier - Located right after the coils, a humidifier increases the humidity of the air only when required. Humidifiers can also be located locally as opposed to or in addition to centrally.
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Variable Speed Supply Fan - A supply fan is responsible for delivering the air processed by the air handler throughout the building. Its power depends on the volume per minute it must supply as well as how fine the filters are. Supply fan speed is varied when load varies.
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Sound Attenuating Devices - These chambers can be located in a VAV box or in supply ducts prior to distribution to a zone. They most often consist of perforated, metal-lined chambers and are filled with sound absorption materials such as glass fiber.
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Pressure Sensor (annotated as "2" in the above figure) - The pressure sensor monitors static pressure in the supply-duct and instructs the supply-fan to either speed up and increase capacity or slow down and decrease capacity.
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Thermostat (annotated as "3") - Located in each zone or room, the thermostat monitors the dry bulb temperature and regulates the supply air accordingly.
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VAV Systems

VAV Box - Controlled by the thermostat, the VAV box's primary purpose is to regulate the supply air through the use of a damper. The VAV box can also consist of a fan, sound attenuating device, filters, and reheaters. The contents and shape of a VAV box vary dramatically based on the volume of air supply, the kind of environment being supplied, and the quality levels of air and ambient noise to be achieved. Click here to see 3 different VAV boxes.
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Local Exhaust Fans (annotated "4") - Help to remove some air from occupied spaces. These are very common in rest rooms and labs.
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Variable Speed Return Fan - Depending on the information received from the return pressure sensor, the return fan adjusts its capacity. The fan only operates when the supply fan does to pull air from occupied space resulting in a higher air-change rate.
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Return Air Plenum - A split in the return duct that exhausts the air outside or sends it back to the air handler.
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Return Pressure Sensor (annotated "5") - Located in the return air plenum, this pressure sensor adjusts the capacity of the variable speed return fan.
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Differential Pressure Sensor (annotated "6") - This sensor is responsible for regulating the building pressure. The sensor receives data from outside and inside the building and adjusts the relief damper to reach a pressure set-point.
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Relief Damper - Regulates the amount of air exhausted from the building in order to control building pressure. It receives its instructions from the differential pressure sensor.
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Recirculating Damper - Operating directly with the OA damper, it controls the rate of flow of the return air to hold the proportion of return to OA desired.
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VAV Systems

VAV System with Central Relief Fan


Image Courtesy of Trane.com

Applications: VAV systems are ideally suited for commercial and large scale applications. This is because the systems are high in efficiency, can independently control many zones, and offer comfortable environments through superior air quality. These zones can be completely independent of each other which lends well to use in a hospital. The ability to control separate zones also functions well with skyscrapers and other such high rises where loads change dramatically from the ground floor to the top. Suitable applications for VAV Systems are schools, factories, libraries, office buildings, high rises, apartment buildings, dorms, airports, hospitals, hotels, laboratories, etc. Any building with multiple rooms or one large room flanked by smaller rooms is perfect for a VAV system. VAV systems are typically not suited for small residences and buildings with one room (warehouses). The high initial cost of a complex system in a home would take far too long to turn in a savings, if ever. Also, the openness of a typical home would make it hard to regulate the zones unless all the doors are closed. A single room building would find the benefits of a VAV system useless as there would be only one zone.

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VAV Systems

Image Courtesy of HKU.HK

Acoustic Air Handling Room on a Mechanical Floor of an Office Building

Parameters: Since VAV systems are used for such a wide variety of enclosed spaces, specific parameters are hard to come by. The following are tables detailing the relationships between loads and the type of system specified. VAV Box Sizes
Height Length up to 1500 sq ft 8-11" 12-24" up to 7000 sq ft 11-18" 24"-60"

Allen, Edward & Iano, Joseph. "The Architects Studio Companion, Second Edition." John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Ney York.1995.

Specifications For Six Common VAV Systems


Model Type Cooling-Only Parallel Fan Powered Electric Reheat Parallel Fan Powered Type PAR PAR UNIT HEATER None ELEC Primary Cfm 600-3200 600-3200 Fan Cfm 400-2000 400-2000

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VAV Systems

Hot Water Reheat Parallel Fan Powered Cooling-Only Series Fan Powered Electric Reheat Series Fan Powered Hot Water Reheat Series Fan Powered

PAR SER SER SER

1RHW/2RHW None ELEC 1RHW/2RHW

600-3200 300-3200 300-3200 300-3200

400-2000 400-3000 400-3000 400-3000

Table Courtesy a Trane Catalog Via http://www.pages.drexel.edu/~st9657qz/HVAC/index.htm

Example of the Computer Setup for VAV Monitoring


Image Courtesy Halinacd.co.kr

The following is a chart from Engineeringtoolbox.com detailing the kind of HVAC system to use for a particular building type and the typical heating and cooling loads that correspond with them. The essential purpose of the chart is to select the most efficient system for each of the five building types represented. These are, of course, all generalizations and should all be taken with a grain of salt when designing a building as specific design calculations will be required.
Ventilation principles and Ventilation system Typical rooms and cooling loads (W/m2) Cooling loads (W/m2) Mixing Displacement CAV 0-20 10-30 Normal offices without 0-30 automatic VAV 20-60 20-60 Normal offices with automatic 30-50 Fan-coil 40-70 Conference rooms 20-75 Cooling ceiling 60-100 60-100 Data rooms >60 CAV VAV Fan-coil 0-20 20-50 20-50 10-30 20-50 Guest rooms, normal standard Guest rooms, high standard 0-25 25-50

Type of building Offices

Hotels

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VAV Systems

Hospitals

CAV VAV Cooling ceiling

0-20 20-60 60-100 0-20 20-60 0-20 20-80 40-100

10-30 20-60 60-100 10-30 20-60

Patients rooms Treatment rooms Intensive rooms Conference rooms Theatre, cinema Restaurants Class rooms Food Normal

0-20 20-60 >50 20-75 40-60 30-70 20-50 20-40 30-60

Public buildings

CAV VAV

Department stores

CAV VAV Fan-coil

The following chart from Trane.com illustrates the relationship between static pressure and airflow when considering and outlet fan or a supply fan. These graphs are critical during system design as they help determine the power of the fans under the loads considered.

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VAV Systems

Credits: Some information above was found at the following resources: www.trane.com/commercial/ equipment/vav2.asp http://www.trane.com/commercial/equipment/vav.asp http://www.trane.com/commercial/library/vol31_2/index.asp http://www.arch.hku.hk/teaching/cases/centplaz/central-plaza-en.html
http://www.mep.tno.nl/wie_we_zijn_eng/organisatie/afdelingen/koudetechniek_warmtep/Air_Cycle/Air_Cycle.html

www.barcol-air.co.uk/ variable_air.htm www.cyberus.ca/~twp/ exch4-1.htm

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