Here is a monitoring challenge: suppose you want to do a weekly check on the performance of a small fleet of hotel minibuses. Although you can record the mileage at the end of each week, you will have a lot of error in your fuel measurement because you’ll only know how much fuel was purchased but not when. How can you adjust for the inconsistent fuel tank level at the end of the week?
One method would be to use the trip computer display which will show the estimated remaining miles (see picture). The vehicle in question has a 45-litre tank: at its typical achieved average mpg, it has a range of 613 miles of which it has used 39%, so we can add 45 x 0.39 = 18 litres to our calculated fuel consumption. Note that we will need to deduct an equal amount from next week’s consumption, and this “carry forward” is likely to reduce the error in the adjustment.
This procedure also helps if drivers do not consistently fill to the top. To the extent that they underfill on the last occasion in the week, the shortfall will increase the adjustment volume to compensate. The adjustment can only ever be approximate, however, so it’s better if they consistently brim the tank.
The other advice I would give is to track not miles per gallon (or any similar performance ratio) but to plot a regression line of fuel versus distance. This will pick up, and detect changes in, idling behaviour.
WHEN you use metered fuel to heat a building (or indeed if you use the building’s electricity supply, but have no air-conditioning) it is straightforward to monitor heating performance critically because you can relate energy consumption to the weather expressed as degree days.
Things get difficult if you use electricity for both heating and cooling and everything shares a meter, as would be the case if you use reversible heat pumps (air-source or otherwise). Because the seasonal variations in demand for heating and cooling complement each other (one being high when the other is low), you may encounter cases where the sum of the two appears almost constant every week. Such was the case on this 800-m2 office building:
Without going into detail, this relationship implied a heating capacity of little over 1 kW, which is obvious nonsense as there was no other source of heat. The picture had to be caused by overlapping and complementary seasonal demands for heating and cooling, which is illustrated conceptually in Figure 2:
The challenge was how to discover the gradients of the hidden heating and cooling lines. The answer in this case lay in the fact that we had sufficient information to estimate the building’s heat rate, which is the net heat flow from the building in watts per unit inside-outside temperature difference (W/K). The heat rate depends on the thermal conductivity of the building envelope and the rate at which outside air enters. There is a formula for the heat rate Q:
Q = Σ(UA) + NV/3
Where U and A are the U-values and superficial areas of each building element (roof, wall, window, etc), V is the volume of the building and N is the number of air changes per hour. Figure 3 shows the spreadsheet in which Q was calculated for the building in question (an on-line tool to do this job is available at vesma.com):
In this case the building measurements were taken from drawings, the U-values were found on the building’s Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), and the figure of 0.5 air changes per hour is just a guess.
The resulting heat rate of 955.5 W/K equates to 955.5 x 24 / 1000 = 22.9 kWh per degree day. This is heat loss from the building but it uses a heat pump and will therefore require less input electricity by a factor of, in this case, 3.77 (that being the coefficient of performance cited on its EPC). So the input energy required for heating this building is 22.9 / 3.77 = 6.1 kWh per degree day. This is the gradient of the unknown heating characteristic, the upper dotted line in Figure 2.
Need training in energy management? Have a look at vesma.com
To work out the sensitivity to cooling demand we use a little trick. We take the actual consumption history and deduct an allowance for heating load which, in each week, will be 6.1 times the number of heating degree days (remember we just worked out the building needed 6.1 kWh per degree day for heating). This non-heating electricity demand can now be analysed against cooling degree days and this was the result in this case:
The gradient of this line is 3.5 kWh per (cooling) degree day. It is of similar order to the 6.1 kWh per degree day for heating, which is to be expected; the building’s heat loss and gain rates per degree difference are likely to be similar. As importantly, we now have an intercept on the vertical axis (a shade over 1,200 kWh per week) which represents the non-weather-related demand. Taking Figure 1 at face value we would have erroneously put the fixed consumption at around 1,500 kWh per week.
Also significant is the fact that Figure 4 was plotted against cooling degree days to a base of only 5°C. That was the only way to get a rational straight line and it means there is a finite amount of cooling going on at outside temperatures down to that value. I had been assured that cooling was only enabled “when the weather got hot”. But plotting demand against cooling degree days to, say, 15.5°C (a common default for summer-only use) gave the result shown in Figure 5:
This is not as good a correlation as Figure 4 and my conclusion in this case was that when the outside temperature is between 5 and 12°C, this building is likely to have some rooms heating and some cooling.
Recent changes to legislation means that operators of HVAC chillers and refrigeration equipment should review their equipment and the availability of replacement condenser fans.
In the past few months, we have had several enquiries to supply replacement AC axial fans for air cooled chillers from end users unable to obtain direct replacement fans, or where the cost has become prohibitive. Their predicament is not unusual and the situation is likely to get worse, with many fans no longer being manufactured, or only manufactured in short production runs.
Since 2017, all new condenser fan motors used on new chillers and condensers are required to meet the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) motor efficiency regulations and the Energy-related Products Directive 2015 (ErP). This has pushed manufacturers to look at the overall efficiency of fans and account for the entire fan, including the control electronics, motor, bell mouth and impeller and to define minimum efficiency requirements for the fans.
New Equipment manufacturers cannot use products that do not meet the regulations on new equipment but can continue to sell motors or fans that do not meet the regulations as spares to existing equipment.
Fan manufacturers and OEM’s have benefited from the spares market at the expense of the end user by selling replacement parts at ridiculously high margins. In addition to these high costs imposed on the end user, the end user should avoid trying to repair motors, as rewinds further reduce efficiency.
For many clients, we have removed all the existing AC fans and replaced them with the latest design IE4 Super Premium EC fans which have built in speed controls making them perfect for HVAC applications.
With speed control built into each motor, it allows all the fans on each circuit to operate together, modulating the speed to maintain accurate discharge pressure dependent on the cooling demand and ambient air temperature.
When you consider the CIBSE guidelines HVAC equipment life cycle is 15-25 years and that AC fans typically last 5-8 years it makes the retrofitting of EC fans a viable option to re-life an asset whilst improving efficiency and making use of the latest technology without the disruption and total cost of replacement.
Postscript: condenser cleaning
Dirty condensers can also have a drastic effect on compressor efficiency. To clean an air-cooled condenser correctly the fans should be removed and the coils cleaned in the opposite direction to airflow. This is rarely done due to cost and disruption, but incorrect cleaning in the direction of airflow can bury debris deeper into the coil, further reducing airflow and efficiency.
The correct deep cleaning of condenser coils can economically be undertaken at the same time as fan replacement as access can be gained during fan removal.
Excalibur Energy is willing to provide fully costed proposals with an energy analysis showing how performance can be improved for refrigeration energy-saving projects in connection with ESOS assessments which includes air-cooled chillers and condensers, dry air coolers and evaporative condensers. Contact:
Unit 115 Rivermead Business Park, Swindon SN5 7EX.
ESOS is the UK government’s scheme for mandatory energy assessments which must be reviewed and signed off by assessors who are on one of the approved registers. We are now in Phase 2 with a submission deadline in December 2019, but the Environment Agency is trying to get participants to act now.
I run a closed LinkedIn group for people actively engaged with ESOS; it provides a useful forum with lots of high-quality discussion.