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Applied Thermal Engineering xxx (2004) xxxxxx


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Review

HVAC dehumidication systems for thermal comfort:


a critical review
Pietro Mazzei *, Francesco Minichiello, Daniele Palma
DETEC, University of Naples Federico II, P.le Tecchio 80, 80125 Napoli, Italy
Received 29 November 2003; accepted 25 July 2004

Abstract
This paper, on the basis of the main literature indications, deals with moisture control in buildings during the summer season; so, the dehumidication of the air is analysed. Dehumidication is considered as a
key feature of HVAC systems for thermal comfort. Initially, the principles of mechanical and chemical
dehumidication are shown. The rst one utilises mechanical meanscompression refrigeration systemsto cool the air and so to dehumidify it; the latter removes the water vapour from the air by transferring it towards a desiccant material (adsorption or absorption). In the mechanical dehumidication eld,
a proper control of ambient temperature and humidity can be obtained by means of an air handling unit
(AHU) which treats outside air alone, while recirculating air is treated by a simple cooling coil. Various
possible AHU congurations are examined. Afterwards, HVAC systems for a theatre and for a supermarket are analysed. The use of hybrid systems with desiccant wheel for these applications has provided the
following main results: remarkable savings in operating costs and higher plant costs (a simple payback time
of 23 years for supermarket); a notable reduction of the power electric demand; a better control of ambient
humidity.
 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: HVAC systems; Dehumidication; Chemical desiccants

Corresponding author. Tel.: +39 081 7682301; fax: +39 081 2390364.
E-mail addresses: mazzei@unina.it (P. Mazzei), minichie@unina.it (F. Minichiello).

1359-4311/$ - see front matter  2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.applthermaleng.2004.07.014

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Contents
1.

Introduction and background . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2


1.1. Mechanical dehumidification . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
1.2. Chemical dehumidification . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

2.

HVAC dehumidification systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12


2.1. HVAC systems with mechanical dehumidification. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
2.2. Hybrid HVAC systems with chemical dehumidification . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18

3.

Some applications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

24

4.

Conclusions. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

26

Acknowledgement . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

27

Appendix A. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

27

References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

28

1. Introduction and background


Why dehumidify? Narrowing the eld down to the air-conditioning of buildings and assuming
that the aim is to maintain comfort conditions, it is clear that the air to be supplied (for simplicity one can refer to the supply of the outdoor air ow alone in the minimum quantity, that is the
amount indispensable to guarantee the requirements of air quality) should have a lower humidity ratio 1 compared with that of indoor air so as to balance indoor moisture production (principally due to the occupants metabolism and thus to the main activity in which they are
engaged). However, in summer the humidity ratio of outside air is normally higher than the indoor humidity ratio: and thus the need to dehumidify (see Appendix). The design of HVAC systems for thermal comfort requires increasing attention, especially in the light of recent
regulations/standardisation on ventilation [18], so that an optimal level of indoor humidity
may be reached and maintained to ensure a comfortable and healthy environment 2 and to avoid
condensation damage for building envelope and furnishings. Since the paper focuses on dehumidication issues, the fundamental concepts referred to mechanical and chemical dehumidication are briey exposed.

1
Humidity ratio of a given moist air sample is dened as the ratio of the mass of the water vapour to the mass of dry
air contained in the sample.
2
ASHRAE Standard 622001 [3] addresses the need to control indoor humidity: relative humidity in habitable
spaces preferably should be maintained between 30% and 60% relative humidity to minimize growth of allergenic and
pathogenic organisms.

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P. Mazzei et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering xxx (2004) xxxxxx

Nomenclature
cp
constant pressure specic heat, J/(kg K)
by-pass factor,
Fbp
h
specic enthalpy of the humid air, J/kg
vaporization specic enthalpy, J/kg
Dhlv
m_
air mass ow rate, kg/s
MCDB mean coincident dry bulb, C
MCWB mean coincident wet bulb, C
N
number of occupants,
O.A. outdoor air fraction in the mixed air ow,
p
pressure, Pa
q
specic thermal power, W/(kg/s)
_Q
thermal power or thermal load, W
SHR sensible to total Heat load Ratio,
T
temperature, C
DT
temperature dierence, C
Tdb = DB dry bulb temperature, C
wet bulb temperature, C
Twb
Tdp = DP dew point temperature, C
cooling coil surface mean temperature, C
Tsur
_V
air ow rate, m3/s
v
velocity, m/s
D
dierence between values,
/
relative humidity of the humid air,

q
volumic mass (density) mean value, kg/m3
x
specic humidity (humidity ratio), kgv/kga (or gv/kga)
A
state of the air leaving cooling coil
AHU air handling unit
CC
cooling coil
COP coecient of performance
CVAAS constant volume all air system
DBTCS control system based on dry bulb temperature
DC
dehumidicator capacity
DEC direct evaporative cooling
DW desiccant wheel
HC
heating coil
HTX heat exchanger
HVAC heating ventilating air conditioning
IAQ indoor air quality
IEC
indirect evaporative cooling
NC
normally closed (damper)
NO
normally opened (damper)

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PID proportional, integral, dierential controller


RHCS control system based on re-heating
VAV variable air volume
Subscripts
a
referred
cc
referred
DE
referred
hc
referred
in
referred
LAT referred
m
referred
new
referred
o
referred
old
referred
out
referred
r
referred
s
referred
sat
referred
SEN referred
T
referred
u
unitary
v
referred
vent referred
w
referred
z
referred
1
referred

to
to
to
to
to
to
to
to
to
to
to
to
to
to
to
to

dry air
cooling coil
dehumidicator
heating coil
inlet conditions
latent load
mixed air
a new value
outdoor air
an old value
outlet conditions
indoor/recirculation air
supply air
saturated humid air
sensible load
total load

to
to
to
to
to

humid air vapour


ventilation air or ventilation load
water
zone
state 1

Superscript
d
referred to design conditions
1.1. Mechanical dehumidication
Mechanical dehumidication is widely known to be based on cooling [9]. The humidity of the
air to be treated is characterised by dew point temperature, Tdp,1, Fig. 1. If the air comes into contact with a cooling coil whose mean surface temperature, Tsur, is less than Tdp,1, condensation of a
part of the water vapour, and thus dehumidication, is obtained. With reference to Fig. 1, the unitary thermal power to be subtracted (ignoring condensate energy) is taken as:
qcc;T Q_ cc =m_ a h1  h2 h1  h3 h3  h2 qcc;LAT qcc;SEN :

For the cooling coil the following parameter is really important:


SHRcc qcc;SEN =qcc;T :

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P. Mazzei et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering xxx (2004) xxxxxx

SHRcc

h2

h3

qcc,LAT

qcc,SEN

humidity ratio

h1

qcc,T

dry bulb temperature

Fig. 1. Mechanical dehumidication: cooling and dehumidication.

Its maximum value is one (the cooling coil has no dehumidifying eect: only sensible cooling),
the minimum is zero (the cooling coil has no cooling eect: only dehumidication) [10].
For example, referring to an all-air system with constant ow rate serving one zone (CVAAS),
the calculation of thermal loads for design conditions leads to the evaluation of the parameter:
SHRdz qz;SEN =qz;T :

These loads can be balanced according to the two processes reported in Fig. 2. In process (a) the
cooling coil is placed downstream of the point where outdoor and recirculated airow rates mix;
in process (b) mixing of outdoor and recirculated airow occurs, if necessary, after the outdoor
airow has been dehumidied. From Fig. 3 it may be deduced that the values for parameter
SHRcc of the dehumidication coils employed in the two processes dier signicantly: that of
the cooling coil dedicated to outdoor air ow is much smaller, so that an ad hoc design would
probably be necessary. It should be remembered that to obtain low values of SHRcc cooling coils
are needed which may be: fed by refrigerants at low temperature and/or at high velocity, 3 and/or
with a high number of ns, 4 and/or with moderate air speed, 5 and/or with a not too excessive n
density 6 [11]. To increase dehumidication capacity it would be better to reduce the by-pass factor 7 by increasing the depth of the cooling coil rather than n density.
1.2. Chemical dehumidication
Desiccants are materials with a high anity for water vapour and may be solid or liquid.
Adsorption is when the physical or chemical nature of the desiccant, generally solid, remains un-

Typical values for refrigerated water cooling coils are Tin = 57 C, Tout = 1012 C, v = 1.2 m/s.
As depth increases (in the direction of ow) air moves closer to saturation. Depth increases with the number of
rows (common values of number of rows are between 2 and 8).
5
In the comfort eld typical values are in the range 2.02.5 m/s.
6
The density is often indicated as ns per inch (fpi): common values are between 8 and 14 fpi (315551 ns/m). Too
high density can obstruct the condensation: suggested values [11] to maximise the dehumidication are in the range
315236 ns/m.
7
Taking sat as the state of saturated humid air at mean coil temperature, the by-pass factor may be expressed as
follows: Fbp = (houthsat)/(hinhsat).
4

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P. Mazzei et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering xxx (2004) xxxxxx

Outside air

Supply air

+
Re-heating

Cooling/
dehumidification
coil

coil

Return air

(a) dehumidification downstream of the mixing chamber

Outside air

Supply air

Cooling/
dehumidification
coil

Re-heating
coil

Return air
(b) dehumidification of the outdoor air before the mixing chamber

Fig. 2. Mechanical dehumidication: dierent positions of the cooling coil for an all air system.

m
r

humidity ratio

dry bulb temperature

Fig. 3. Mechanical dehumidication: cooling and dehumidication in the two cases of Fig. 2 (re-heating coil not
enabled).

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P. Mazzei et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering xxx (2004) xxxxxx

changed in the dehumidication process; absorption conversely is when a change occurs, generally
with liquid substances [12,13].
A common adsorption solid is silica gel, which behaves like a sponge. In fact, its structure is
extremely porous; its internal surface per volume unit is immense, approximately 250 m2/cm3.
Its pores have a diameter of nanometers and their volume accounts for approximately half of
the total volume. Attracting forces between vapour and solid depend on the particular solidvapour pair and on physical structure of the solid. An initial layer of adsorbed molecules is formed
and the force of attraction decreases as surface density of adsorbed molecules increases. This process grows as the number of layers increases. As with normal liquefaction, thermal energy is released also for adsorption; the two values are of the same size. The amount adsorbed at
equilibrium conditions may be expressed as mass or (normal) volume of gas per unit of mass
of the solid without gas. Adsorption desiccants are typically chemical compounds, such as synthetic polymers, silica gels, titanium silicates, natural or synthetic zeolites, activated aluminas,
silica +, etc. [9,1418].
Common absorbents are various solutions of water and ethylene glycol, LiCl, LiBr,
CaCl2.
In the context under examination regenerative systems are being dealt with, that is those for
which the mechanism of moisture removal is continuous.
Air to be treated before supplying in indoor ambient is called process air. Chemical dehumidication [9,12,19,20] is based on the migration of water vapour from process air towards the surface of the desiccant due to the dierence in partial vapour pressure (the value of pv is greater in
humid air). It may be observed that the pressure gradient is orientated in this direction because the
desiccant is dry and cool; should the material become warm and moist the pressure gradient is
inverted and water vapour migrates from the desiccant to humid air. The typical cycle of the desiccant is made up by three steps, Fig. 4.
AB. In A the desiccant is cold and dry; removing water from the process air, the surface pv
grows reaching the pv value of the surrounding air; the equality is reached in B state: the migration of the vapor stops.
BC. The desiccant is removed from the process air, heated and exposed to a dierent air ow
(regeneration air, which is then discharged in atmosphere): the gradient changes its direction
and the migration of the water vapour occurs from the desiccant towards the air current. In
state C the humidity content has the starting value (A), but the pv is much greater because
of the high temperature reached by the material.
CA. The material is cooled until the starting temperature. The values of humidity content and
pv are restored. The cycle can be repeated.
From the description of the cycle it may be deduced that the cyclic process ABC requires
thermal power: heating between BC (regeneration or reactivation) and cooling between CA.
It can be noted that the typical desiccant cycle made up by three steps, shown in Fig. 4 and previously described, is currently reported as representative of the phenomenon in literature references [9,12], but it could be represented also as made up by four steps, since desorption step
BC can be subdivided, for some applications (see the absorbtion system shown in Fig. 5), in
two separated stages: heating and properly said desorption.

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e

tur

a
per

t te

an

cc
esi

C
Desiccant cooling

Desiccant surface vapor pressure

De
s
(D orpt
reg esic ion
en can
era t
tio
n)

on/
pti on
r
o
i
s
Ad sorpt
Ab

Desiccant moisture content

Fig. 4. Chemical dehumidication: typical desiccant cycle.

Dry air

Cooling
fluid

HEAT
EXCHANGER

Process
air

Wet air

Heating
fluid

HEAT
EXCHANGER

Regeneration
air

CONDITIONER

REGENERATOR

Fig. 5. Absorption dehumidication system (liquid desiccant).

For the regeneration of liquid absorbents either low pressure vapour or warm liquid water is
used; for solid adsorbents thermal energy is used made available generally by combustion (direct
or indirect gas-red heaters). In both cases, if possible, waste heat may be used (heated water from
solar panels, from condensers of traditional refrigerating machines, from cogenerators, from
under-used heaters, etc.).
With reference to Fig. 5, a typical apparatus for the dehumidication of an air ow based on
absorption is described. The liquid desiccant is distributed on ll material similar to that used in

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Equilibrium humidity ratio [g/kg]

20
18
16
14
12
10

Water saturation curve

20% LiCl

8
6

30% LiCl

4
2
0
-10

40% LiCl
-5

10

15

20

25

Dry bulb temperature [C]

Fig. 6. Absorption dehumidication: equilibrium chart for a waterlithium chloride solution.

cooling towers, whose function is to increase the contact surface area where air and desiccant meet
in order to improve thermal and mass transfer. Process air ows countercurrently to liquid desiccant. Beside the air conditioning tower, the heat exchanger cools the solution to remove absorption heat and any other thermal input towards the solution. A second tower is present for
regeneration. As the solution absorbs the vapour it dilutes and thus the pv of the water increases.
Fig. 6 [9] shows the equilibrium diagram, at standard atmospheric pressure, for a waterlithium
chloride solution, in a format similar to that of the psychrometric chart. It shows, for each temperature, the drop in equilibrium specic humidity as the concentration rises, and, for each concentration value, a rise in equilibrium specic humidity as temperature rises. Hence the necessity
to re-concentrate the solution. This occurs in the regeneration tower: the solution is heated by the
heat exchanger beside the tower in order to increase the pv of the water and force the vapour to
migrate from the solution towards an air current, which is then discharged in the atmosphere. A
closed circuit continuously recirculates the solution between the drain pans of the two towers.
When temperature and concentration of the solution are well controlled, process air leaves the
tower in the psychrometric conditions required for it to be supplied into the room. As we shall see,
the same does not apply to the process of adsorption, which requires cooling after dehumidication. Various absorption dehumidication lines can be obtained, with an outlet air temperature
nearly equal than inlet, unlike mechanical and adsorption dehumidication.
The pressure gradient may be inverted by diluting the solution (so humidication of the air may
be obtained).
Systems of the type described have been used for large size buildings in the tertiary sector [19],
the extra costs of which are reasonably compensated by energy saving. As humidity control in the
building becomes established a signicant growth, also on a lower scale, is expected: smaller units
(some thousands of m3/h) have already entered the market.
Also as regards adsorption dehumidication, as mentioned earlier, the desiccant must be periodically regenerated. This technology, long employed in the industrial sector, has now provoked
renewed interest and has been extended towards the non-industrial sector, both because of more

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P. Mazzei et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering xxx (2004) xxxxxx

Fig. 7. Air dehumidication by adsorption and post-cooling.

stringent IAQ 8 requirements, and the gradual reduction of the regeneration temperature required
by new desiccant materials.
The moisture contained in humid air partially condenses in the desiccant: it is adsorbed because
of the vapour partial pressure dierence between process air and desiccant surface. So the process
air temperature increases because of the conversion in sensible heat of both condensation heat and
heat due to the adsorption process. After all, outlet process air specic humidity decreases while
temperature increases, Fig. 7. Before supplying into the room, process air must be cooled, Fig. 7,
by means of one or more of the following components: direct expansion or chilled liquid (generally water) cooling coil (CC); indirect evaporative cooling (IEC); rotary or static heat recuperator
(HTX).
A rst type of system is the dual desiccant bed adsorption dehumidier, Fig. 8: the air to be
dehumidied passes through a bed of granular desiccant and is dehumidied; as the desiccant
must be periodically regenerated with the introduction of warm air to make the process continuous a second bed is necessary to substitute the rst during regeneration. The functions of the two
desiccant beds are alternated simply by valves, as shown in Fig. 8. The equipment is simple though
rather bulky. 9 Moreover the conditions of the dehumidied air at the outlet are less and less uniform as the desiccant approaches saturation point.
These drawbacks have been overcome by a system with solid desiccant inserted in a rotating
exchanger [1922], called desiccant wheel (DW), more common than the previous system, especially in the non-industrial air-conditioning sector. In Fig. 9 a typical desiccant 10 wheel is shown
[13]. The structure, very similar to that of an enthalpy wheel, is usually realized by wrapping an
element made up of a corrugated lamina and a plane. The lamina is brous and impregnated 11
8

Comparing the outdoor air requirements of the two versions of the ASHRAE Standard (621981 and 622001)
Ventilation for Acceptable IAQ [2,3], it can be observed an increase of 24 times; for example: (units in l/s per person)
from 7.5 to 15 for hotel rooms, from 3.5 to 8 for auditorium, from 3.5 to 10 for meeting rooms, from 2.5 to 10 for
oces.
9
To avoid the pulverisation of the desiccant and a not uniform distribution of the air, the air speed must be
moderate. So, this type of system is not able to handle high ow rates, as usually required in typical HVAC
applications.
10
Typically the thickness varies between 5 and 45 cm, the diameter between 10 and 420 cm.
11
Stronger the connection between substratum and desiccant, less the discharge of desiccant pieces in process air; so,
the pollution of the process air and the reduction of the wheel performance are avoided.

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11

Inlet regeneration air


Heating
coil

Packed
tower

Exit
process air

Packed
tower

Desorption

Adsorption
Exit
regeneration air

Cooling
coil
Inlet
process air

Fig. 8. Packed tower adsorption system.

Fig. 9. Typical desiccant wheel.

with desiccant. Air passes through the channels that are formed between the lamina layers, arranged parallel to the wheel axis. The device rotates slowly (620 rev/h) [23] between the two
air uxes: moisture is removed from process air through the desiccant; after a partial rotation,
the portion of saturated wheel is regenerated by warm, dry air (regeneration air) so it may

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P. Mazzei et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering xxx (2004) xxxxxx

be reused. A xed element with a exible gasket separates the two airows. Occasionally a small
ow (purge) is removed from process air and cools the regenerated desiccant, after which it is
mixed with incoming regeneration air.

2. HVAC dehumidication systems


2.1. HVAC systems with mechanical dehumidication
The importance of the parameter SHRcc (2) for the cooling coils can be stressed by considering
the ventilation load:
Q_ vent m_ o ho  hr :

Considering a unitary volumetric airow rate (4) may be taken as


o ho  hr :
Q_ vent;u q

Fixing the indoor conditions Tdb = 25 C and / = 50%, in Fig. 10, for six European sites and for
two dierent outdoor design conditions, the unitary summer ventilation loads, subdivided into
sensible and latent components, are reported. It may be observed that the latent component is
very often the greater, particularly when peak dew point temperature data (ASHRAE 1% DPMCDB) are employed, with values up to 90% of the total load. What this means is that a dehumidication coil capable of dealing with such loads would need a particularly low values of
parameter SHRcc (2), which seldom occurs. 12
Regarding the CVAAS system it is worth highlighting the problem of ambient moisture control
in partial load conditions. In actual fact HVAC plants are designed to deal with peak loads, while
for most of the working time the loads are smaller.
From the energy balance equation in steady state for a general zone, the followings are
obtained:
Q_ z;SEN m_ a cp T db;z;r  T db;z;s ;

Q_ z;LAT m_ a Dhlv xz;r  xz;s :

As the plant works at a constant air ow rate, a reduction of the sensible load requires a corresponding increase in supply air temperature.
Should the control system be based (DBTCS) on a comparison between dry bulb temperature
of the local thermal sensor and the setpoint, and on the consequent modulation of the power of
the coil (i.e. of the temperature of supply air), as the ambient load diminishes the mean surface
temperature of the coil increases and its dehumidication capacity drops. To understand the size
of this problem Table 1 shows the number of hours in which outdoor temperature [24] is less than
indoor design temperature (Tdb,r = 25 C), for three Italian sites, while the opposite occurs with

12

Typical values for refrigerated water cooling coils are greater than 0.75.

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30
GENOA

BARCELONA

25
ATHENS

20
PARIS

15
10

Latent
Sensible

LONDON

1% DP-MCDB

1%DB-MCWB

1% DP-MCDB

1%DB-MCWB

1% DP-MCDB

1%DB-MCWB

1% DP-MCDB

1%DB-MCWB

-10

1% DP-MCDB

-5

1%DB-MCWB

1% DP-MCDB

1%DB-MCWB

Unitary ventilation load [kW/(m/s)]

MILAN

13

Fig. 10. Unitary summer ventilation loads for six European sites (Milan, Genoa, Barcelona, Paris, London, Athens)
and for two dierent outdoor design conditions.

humidity ratio (xr = 9.9 gv/kga). In Rome, for example, on a total of 2928 h for the summer season, this happens for the 60% of the hours.
ASHRAE 1% DB-MCWB design data [9] on outside air (Table 2) show that for Rome the calculation of thermal loads of the building is performed assuming Tdb,o = 30 C. Since, at the peak
of dew point temperature (25 C), the corresponding dry bulb temperature (MCDB) falls to 27 C,
in these conditions a substantial reduction of the sensible thermal load of the building will occur,
while latent load (due mainly to the occupants) remains unchanged. This suggests that supply air
temperature must increase and that factor SHRz diminishes. Thus what follows for the DBTCS
system is an increase in ambient relative humidity.
A control technique aimed at overcoming these obstacles is based on re-heat (RHCS). The
cooling coil is designed in such a way as to ensure that the air outow can satisfy simultaneously maximum sensible and latent loads in the ambient. As the sensible load diminishes an
ambient temperature sensor progressively activates a heating coil 13 (re-heat), which heats the
air in such a way as to balance this load. The temperature sensor works on the heating coil
alone, while the cooling coil is designed to balance maximum loads and is regulated to balance
latent load.
Naturally this control system is not energetically ecient. With reference to the building-plant
whole, steady state energy balance may be given as
Q_ cc Q_ z;SEN Q_ z;LAT Q_ hc Q_ vent :

Thus energy use related to the re-heating coil weighs heavily not only for the generation of hot
thermal carrier uid, but also for the generation of cold thermal carrier uid. The increase in costs

13
With more than one zone, instead of a single re-heating coil placed in the AHU, the number of coils (placed in the
ducts near the rooms) should correspond to the number of zones.

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Table 1
Number of hours during which To < Tr and xo > xr for three Italian sites Tdb,r = 25 C; /r = 50%; xr = 9.9 g/kg
Total hours: 2 0 928

Period: 1 June30 September


x [g/kg] Tdb [C]
Site: Crotone
18.5
17.5
16.5
15.5
14.5
13.5
12.5
11.5
10.5
9.5

13.5

14.5

0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
4

0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
2
9

15.5

16.5

0
0
0
0
0
0
0
2
10
12

0
0
0
0
0
0
0
10
23
14

17.5
0
0
0
0
0
0
2
41
26
27

18.5

19.5

20.5

21.5

22.5

23.5

0
0
0
0
0
4
45
42
35
16

0
0
0
0
1
23
46
54
40
22

0
0
0
3
9
36
52
34
41
33

0
0
1
22
30
34
49
47
41
30

0
0
11
24
30
37
41
40
36
29

2
5
11
13
21
24
27
37
42
37

0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
7

0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
5
32

0
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
35
46

0
0
0
0
0
0
0
32
75
24

0
0
0
0
0
0
16
93
42
31

0
0
0
0
0
5
54
94
44
21

0
0
0
0
2
32
71
81
47
17

0
0
0
1
17
51
75
60
36
16

0
0
2
8
26
38
61
43
39
15

0
0
9
12
25
21
35
34
28
25

0
2
6
9
13
31
33
32
32
26

Total
Percentage on total

0
2
17
30
83
178
345
470
383
260
1 0 768
60.4%

Total
Percentage on total
Site: Milan
18.5
17.5
16.5
15.5
14.5
13.5
12.5
11.5
10.5
9.5

2
5
23
62
91
158
262
307
296
233
1 0 439
49.1%

Total
Percentage on total
Site: Rome
18.5
17.5
16.5
15.5
14.5
13.5
12.5
11.5
10.5
9.5

N. hours

0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
86

0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
48
82

0
0
0
0
0
0
0
12
83
34

0
0
0
0
0
0
0
89
75
17

0
0
0
0
0
0
37
102
32
22

0
0
0
0
0
12
68
62
40
18

0
0
0
0
12
44
76
43
30
13

0
0
0
4
31
59
57
47
26
12

0
0
1
10
32
52
33
37
21
11

0
0
3
14
31
40
33
36
24
6

0
2
5
15
12
25
24
21
23
14

0
2
9
43
118
232
328
449
402
315
1 0 898
64.8%

Table 2
Summer design conditions of outdoor air for some Italian sites by UNI 10339 and ASHRAE data
ASHRAE 1%

DB-MCWB

WB-MCDB

DP-MCDB

DB-MCWB

WB-MCDB

DP-MCDB

DB
(C)

/
(%)

WB
(C)

DP
(C)

DB
(C)

MCWB
(C)

WB
(C)

MCDB
(C)

DP
(C)

MCDB
(C)

DB
(C)

MCWB
(C)

WB
(C)

MCDB
(C)

DP
(C)

MCDB
(C)

30
31
32

60
51
48

23.8
23.0
23.3

21.4
19.7
19.6

29.8
30.8
31.6

22.4
23.3
22.8

24.7
25.1
24.2

28.1
28.4
29.7

23.6
24
23.0

27.6
27.4
28.2

28.8
29.5
30.3

22.4
22.6
22.3

24.0
24.1
23.5

27.3
27.8
28.7

22.9
22.9
22.1

26.3
25.8
27.0

30.5

50

22.4

18.9

32.0

23.4

25.1

30.0

23.4

28.6

30.8

23.0

24.1

29.3

22.2

26.3

30.5

50

22.4

18.9

30.8
32.7

22.4
22.4

24.0
24.4

28.8
28.6

22.5
23.1

25.6
26.9

29.5
31.1

21.9
21.9

23.1
23.5

27.7
28.4

21.8
21.9

25.2
25.6

33.0

43

23.0

18.8

33.8

23.7

24.9

31.6

23.0

28.2

32.2

22.9

24.1

30.3

22.1

27.0

31.5
30.5
31.0

55
40
55

24.2
20.5
23.8

21.4
15.4
20.9

31.9
33.2
30.8

22.4
21.0
23.3

24.5
22.9
26.1

28.8
30.4
28.6

23.1
20.6
25.2

26.7
26.0
28.1

30.4
32.0
29.8

21.8
20.7
23.2

23.7
22.0
25.4

28.1
29.1
27.9

22.2
19.8
24.5

25.5
24.3
26.8

32.0
31.5
33.5
31.5

45
60
48
60

22.7
25.1
24.5
25.1

18.6
22.8
20.5
22.8

33.2
32.0
34.9
33.2

22.8
23.0
22.1
21.8

26.0
26.5
26.0
26.6

29.5
29.0
29.4
29.5

25.0
25.9
25.1
25.9

28.6
28.6
27.9
29.2

31.9
30.2
33.0
31.1

22.6
23.5
22.6
22.8

25.1
25.9
25.3
26.1

29.1
28.4
29.1
28.9

24.0
25.0
24.1
25.1

26.7
27.2
26.9
27.9

ARTICLE IN PRESS

Genoa
Venice
Milan
Linate
Milan
Malpensa
Turin
Ronchi
Legionari
Bologna/
Borgo
Pisa
Perugia
Rome
(Fiumicino)
Naples
Brindisi
Catania
Palermo
(P. Raisi)

ASHRAE 0.4%

P. Mazzei et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering xxx (2004) xxxxxx

UNI 10339

15

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16

P. Mazzei et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering xxx (2004) xxxxxx

does not regard operating costs alone but also investment costs (an increase in power of the refrigerating machine, for example). It is worth pursuing energy recovery (thermal energy from condensation, for example) to avoid heating coil energy use.
Modulation of cooling coil power may also be related to a moisture sensor in the ambient: as
long as local / is kept below setpoint value, cooling coil power is controlled by the local thermostat; should / exceed setpoint value, the humidistat takes over and the thermostat, if necessary,
requires re-heat.
It is clear that the best results would be obtained if the control parameter of the cooling coil was
the dew point temperature, rather than relative humidity. The former is actually a measure of
humidity ratio while the latter varies, moisture content being equal, with Tdb. Any Tdb uctuation,
moisture content being equal, may lead to unreliable control actions. Dew point temperature sensors aside, modern automated systems enable the Tdp calculation to be made from the usual Tdb
and / sensors.
Two techniques of energy recovery are worth citing here.
An extremely rational and simple technique involves the use of a regenerative thermal
exchange 14 (recuperator) as shown in Fig. 11. Two gasliquid exchangers transfer heat from
air owing into the dehumidication coil to air owing out. The liquid employed is actually
water, slightly glycolated if necessary, which is pumped around a closed circuit. The energy saving obtained is clear: the power needed by the cooling coil is less, its dehumidifying capacity
improves, re-heat rarely requires an external energy source. Control may be exerted via the
pump or a three-way valve.
Enthalpy wheel. 15 It is a rotary exchanger (regenerator) normally made up of a cylinder
lled with a desiccant-coated aluminium matrix. 16 Return air ows across half the wheel
and outside air (countercurrent) over the other half. High-speed rotation (7002400 rev/h)
[23] causes thermal and mass transfer. In summer, heat and moisture pass from outside
air towards return air; thus the former undergoes initial cooling with dehumidication;
the reverse occurs in winter. If the two ow rates are equal, indicating with o and r
the states of the two currents, outdoor air downstream of the wheel will fall, on the psychrometric chart, within the segment which joins o to r. A wheel has an 80% latent eciency when the variation of humidity ratio of outside air equals 80% of Dxor. Similarly
sensible eciency (based on DTor), enthalpic or total eciency (based on Dhor) are dened.
Regulation is simply obtained varying rotation speed (using a variable speed motor). If the
aluminium matrix is bare, thermal transfer alone occurs and the wheel operates as a sensible
recuperator.
With variable air volume (VAV) systems the comparison between the signal of the local sensor
of Tdb and setpoint modulates airow supplied at constant temperature: as sensible load

14

Currently indicated as run-around-coil.


Also called passive desiccant wheel.
16
For more details on the vapour transfer it can be seen the following paragraph on the adsorption
dehumidication.
15

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P. Mazzei et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering xxx (2004) xxxxxx

17

Expansion
tank

Pump

CC

18.3 C Downstream
recovery
coil

27.2 C

11.7 C

chilled
supply water

Upstream
recovery
coil

33.9 C

Outside
air

chilled
return water

Fig. 11. Mechanical dehumidication: run-around-coil heat recovery system.

diminishes compared with design value the airow supplied also decreases thanks to the action of
the VAV diuser. In addition, the Air Handling Unit (AHU) supply fan must be modulated to
maintain static pressure constant as airow varies.
If, at partial load, the air is supplied at constant dew point temperature, it is evident that the
reduction of airow supplied, latent load being equal, will cause an increase in local humidity ratio (see Eq. (7)). One solution might be to modulate the dew point temperature of the supply air
using a moisture sensor; constant dry bulb temperature of the air in the supply duct may be
achieved with a re-heating coil or a regenerative exchanger.
To oset the inconvenience of a possible reduction in pollutant dilution when airow falls signicantly, it is possible to combine the system of motorised coupled dampers of the outside air/
recirculating air mixing chamber of the AHU with a CO2 sensor (as an IAQ indicator). The outside air/recirculating air ratio must be increased as supply airow decreases due to the action of
the VAV diusers.
Direct control on ambient Tdb and / is also possible with an AHU to treat outside air alone,
while recirculating air is treated by a simple cooling coil (without dehumidication) [23,2528].
Control of the two devices is independent. The power of the dehumidication coil, which works
on outside air, is controlled by a room humidistat to keep humidity values below setpoint. Cooling coil power, which works on recirculation air, is controlled by a local thermostat to keep temperature values below setpoint.
Referring to the ambient, from the water mass balance in steady state, it follows:
xs xr 

m_ v
;
m_ a

which provides the humidity ratio value of the air to be supplied in order to balance latent load, a
task for only the AHU dedicated to outside air. In normal circumstances (moisture is largely generated by the occupants alone; conditions to be maintained inside: Tdb = 25 C and / = 50%) the
dew point temperature of the supply air is about 12 C (xs  9 gv/kga).
In a multi-zone area xs values would be dierent for each zone:

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18

P. Mazzei et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering xxx (2004) xxxxxx

m_ v;z1
;
m_ a;z1
m_ v;z2
xr 
;
m_ a;z2

xs;z1 xr 

10

xs;z2

11

...
m_ v;zn
:
12
m_ a;zn
However, since the AHU treating the outside air is generally one, the value of xs at the entrance
to the n zones must be one as well: of the n values obtained for xs, the higher value is selected
(xs,z2, for example). In this way, setting this xs also at the entrance of the other zones, it is necessary that the other ow rates m_ a to be supplied increase over and above the value initially estimated on the basis of air exchange needs alone. For example:
xs;zn xr 

m_ a;z1;new

m_ v;z1
m_ v;z1
> m_ az1;old
:
xr  xs;z2
xr  xs;z1

13

Thus, selecting maximum humidity ratio for supply air means maximising airow rate in each
zone: if this solution was not adopted, in some zones to balance latent load the supply airow rate
would be less than required for needs of air exchange.
The results of an extensive simulation with an HVAC system based on the employment of an
AHU dedicated to outside air have been presented in [25]. Comparing the three congurations outlined in Fig. 12, the third conguration turns out to be more protable, as regards energy use and
power installed. The rst conguration includes: a liquid regenerative exchanger placed near the
cooling coil, a heating coil for heating in winter and co-operating with the exchanger in summer
if necessary, a humidier for winter. In the second conguration, an enthalpy wheel placed upstream
of the cooling coil dehumidies and cools the outside air in summer; in winter it heats and humidies
the outside air, and so the humidier is unnecessary. In the third conguration, the sensible rotary
exchanger takes place of the liquid regenerative exchanger and makes the heating coil unnecessary.
Air-and-water systems use centrally cooled water to feed the terminals, designed to balance sensible load, installed within the building. Sensible load may be removed: 17
(a) cooling and distributing recirculation air by means of fan-coils;
(b) by means of convection and thermal radiation, maintaining at low temperature the oor or
ceiling radiating panels.
The second method is widespread in Europe and is gaining ground in the US [29].
2.2. Hybrid HVAC systems with chemical dehumidication
The diagram of Fig. 9 shows that the humidity of outlet process air is a function of its inlet state
and of regeneration air temperature; its value decreases:
17
Inducers are terminals that, through nozzles supplying primary air at high pressure, drive the recirculating air to
ow through the cooling coil. The mixing air is supplied in ambient. These terminals are practically not more in market.

ARTICLE IN PRESS

P. Mazzei et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering xxx (2004) xxxxxx

100% O.A.

Upstream
recovery
coil

Downstream
recovery
coil

CC

19

Supply air

+
Humidifier

HC

Configuration 1: conventional cooling, heating and humidification with run-around heat recovery

Return air

100% O.A.

Upstream
recovery
coil

Supply air

Downstream
recovery
coil

Pre-heating Enthalpy
CC
HC
coil
wheel
Configuration 2: enthalpy wheel heat recovery and run-around re-heat
Return fan
Return air

Supply fan
Supply air

100% O.A.

+
Pre-heating
coil

Enthalpy
wheel

CC

Sensible heat
recovery

Configuration 3: two wheels system (enthalpy wheel and sensible one)


Fig. 12. Mechanical dehumidication: dedicated outdoor air handling unit congurations. Conguration 1:
conventional cooling, heating and humidication with run-around heat recovery. Conguration 2: enthalpy wheel
heat recovery and run-around re-heat. Conguration 3: two wheels system (enthalpy wheel and sensible one).

when humidity and temperature of entering process air diminish,


when the temperature of regeneration air increases,
when the process air velocity decreases.

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20

P. Mazzei et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering xxx (2004) xxxxxx


20
MILAN

18

GENOA

BARCELONA

PARIS

LONDON

ATHENS

in

humidity ratio [g/kg]

16
14
12
10
Angelantoni

out

ASHRAE

4
2
0

Fig. 13. Typical performances of a desiccant wheel, for six European sites and for ASHRAE 1% DP-MCDB outdoor
design conditions (data obtained from performance charts of Fig. 14, cap. 22, 2004 ASHRAE HandbookHVAC
Systems and equipment [64], and from performance charts kindly provided by Angelantoni Industrie S.p.A. for the
desiccant wheel model RU-060 6/4, for a regeneration temperature of 60 C).

In Fig. 13 the performances of a desiccant wheel, for six European sites and for ASHRAE 1%
DP-MCDB outdoor design conditions, are reported. Fig. 13 is based on standard data and on
data related to a particular wheel working at a low regeneration temperature (60 C). It has been
found that the level of humidity reached by the second wheel is not suciently low for usual airconditioning applications. This could be solved by increasing slightly regeneration temperature or
by pre-cooling the process air.
Fig. 14 shows an interesting use of the desiccant wheel combined with a vapour compression
refrigerating machine: process air is rst cooled and dehumidied as it passes through the evaporator (AB), and then dehumidied further through adsorption (BC); regeneration air is heated
by the condenser (DE), and then ows through the wheel (EF). Energy input within the system
is thus only electric. The desiccant wheel must be made of desiccant regenerable at low temperatures, available on the market.
In the eld of the summer air conditioning for non-industrial applications, the chemical dehumidication can be applied instead of the traditional mechanical dehumidication; 18 often the
two technologies are integrated (hybrid HVAC systems): the rst to balance the latent load,
the second one to balance the sensible load.
Hybrid HVAC systems with chemical dehumidication distinguish themselves essentially for
the following reasons.

18
For Italian climates, in winter season the latent load balancing can be obtained also by supplying outdoor air,
usually characterised by a humidity ratio less than the value required in ambient.

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P. Mazzei et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering xxx (2004) xxxxxx

21

Fig. 14. Example of utilization of a desiccant wheel inserted in a cooling cycle (Econosorbfor kind permission of
Angelantoni Industrie S.p.A.).

(a) Traditional refrigeration systems are not suitable to control separately latent and sensible
thermal loads: often, in order to adequately control ambient relative humidity, it is necessary
to cool air up to low temperatures and then to reheat. Consequently COP reduction and high
energy use take place. Handling sensible loads by means of a traditional refrigeration plant
and latent loads by means of desiccant, especially in presence of a low sensible/total load
ratio, can signicantly enhance the system eciency. With this kind of hybrid system re-heating is not necessary. This advantage is particularly evident in partial-load conditions [22].
(b) In operating conditions, hybrid systems based on chemical dehumidication permit to control
separately both temperature and humidity (the DW is connected to a humidity sensor, the CC
to a temperature sensor). On the contrary, in traditional cooling systems only temperature is
generally directly controlled (DBTCS), while humidity can vary.
(c) Systems based on chemical dehumidication allow to reduce humidity even when required
dew point temperature is very low, so allowing an easier balance of high latent loads. On
the contrary, conventional systems can dehumidify air stream generally only for required
dew point temperatures higher than 4 C.
(d) Hybrid systems assure a better thermal comfort, since humidity can be accurately controlled,
and also a better air quality [3033]. In fact, the absence of condensed water strongly reduces
the presence of microorganisms as bacteria, viruses and fungi. So these systems are particularly recommended in application in which severe hygienic conditions must be maintained
(medical facilities and laboratories).
(e) Since in hybrid systems the CC task is only sensible cooling of the air stream, the cooling
uid temperature can be higher (for example, the typical 57 C of the chilled water can
be changed up to 14 C and over), with a consequent increase of the refrigerating machine
COP.

ARTICLE IN PRESS

22

P. Mazzei et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering xxx (2004) xxxxxx

(f) Hybrid systems allow to reduce the vapour compression refrigerating machine power because
latent load is already balanced by the desiccant system. The smaller size allows to reduce
energy use, required electric power and starting investment capital.
(g) The technology based on chemical dehumidication, reducing electric power and energy
requirements and the CFC and HCFC refrigerant uids use, is characterised by a low environmental impact.
(h) The chemical dehumidication can be applied also to existing traditional HVAC systems
(retrotting) which are not able to balance latent load, for example when outdoor air percentage is increased in order to conform the plant to the present standards.
(i) Installing cost of an hybrid system with chemical dehumidication is generally higher than a traditional system, but it can be balanced, in some applications, by lower operating costs [3440].
(j) It is possible to use available thermal energy [41,42] to regenerate the desiccant.
The main disadvantages connected to hybrid HVAC systems with chemical dehumidication
are the following:
it is possible that, in presence of solid adsorbent materials, solid particles could be dragged by
the air stream, but such inconvenience is decreasing while technology improves;
thermal energy necessary to the regeneration process is a considerable amount and it increases
with the dehumidication requirements and with the regeneration temperature. Only the last
generation of adsorption desiccants allows to obtain regeneration temperatures between
40 C and 80 C, so it is possible to satisfy the reactivation needs with low temperature thermal
recoveries. However, the payback not always attains acceptable values [43];
the scarce familiarity with such technology and the lack of information about performances
and cost/benet ratio hamper the spreading of hybrid desiccant systems [44], even if today
chemical dehumidication technology can compete with conventional systems also for residential and commercial applications.
In the technical literature various hybrid system with desiccant wheel congurations are proposed [12,13,20,30,35,37,39,42,43,4562].
A detailed description and some possible classications of these congurations are reported in a
previous authors paper [63]. For example, in Fig. 15 a possible system conguration (with partial
recirculation) is shown. It can be observed the presence of an enthalpic economizer (linked to
three coupled dampers) that varies the outdoor air stream percentage: when outdoor air conditions allow it, partial recirculation mode gives the place to the temporary more convenient allexternal air mode. In Fig. 16, considering the hybrid system of Fig. 15, qualitative treatments
of process and regeneration air on the psychrometric chart are reported for a typical Italian site
in summer design conditions.
Various control schemes may be implemented for systems based on the desiccant wheel, for
example (a) coupled dampers to by-pass the wheelprocess air sideand (b) modulation of
the power delivered by the regenerator [62]. The signal from the humidity sensor, placed in the
ambient or, even better, in the return air duct, is sent to the controller (possibly a PID controller);
if necessary, the controller output goes to the actuator of a by-pass system of the desiccant wheel
with opposed blade coupled dampers. One is a front damper, the other by-pass. As / increases

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P. Mazzei et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering xxx (2004) xxxxxx

Relief air to
outdoors

To
outdoors

ro

rg

23

Evaporative
cooler

xl

Return from
space

Return fan

Regeneration
heater

Outdoor air
(ventilation air)

Outdoor air

dw

Desiccant
wheel

hx

Sensible heat
recovery

Supply fan

CC

HC

Conditioned
space
s

Humidifier

(economizer)

Fig. 15. Partial recirculation desiccant hybrid system with or without evaporative cooler.

Fig. 16. Psychrometric chart related to the system of Fig. 15 (without evaporative cooler).

compared with setpoint, the controller increases the degree of aperture of the front damper and
reduces that of the by-pass damper. As / decreases compared with setpoint, the opposite happens:
the front damper closes and the by-pass damper opens. Should / continue to decrease with the
front damper closed it may be necessary to intervene on the dehumidication capacity of the
wheel (varying its angular velocity, if, for example, a frequency control for the wheels electric
motor is present, or by regulating the on/o on the regenerator and the wheel).
The output of the controller may be sent (case b) to a three-way servo valve placed on the
regeneration heating coil, instead of to the by-pass system actuator described earlier, so as to
modulate regeneration power and hence the dehumidication capacity of the wheel as / varies
in the ambient.
Less eective control of / may be exerted by acting on the regeneration air side. A temperature
sensor is placed in the regeneration airow downstream of the wheel: in response to this signal a controller modulates the regenerator. If the temperature signal falls below setpoint, the controller opens

ARTICLE IN PRESS

24

P. Mazzei et al. / Applied Thermal Engineering xxx (2004) xxxxxx

the damper which regulates regeneration airow rate; the opposite occurs if the temperature signal
exceeds setpoint. Alternatively, the controller may act on the three-way valve of the regeneration
heating coil in such a way as to modulate regeneration power on the basis of the temperature signal.

3. Some applications
The applications of HVAC systems based on mechanical and chemical dehumidication are
several: as regards the second one, the adsorption technique will be specically analysed, because
it is the most developed; specic literature [19,20,64] can be examined for the applications based
on absorption.
An interesting application of HVAC systems with mechanical and adsorption dehumidication
regards retail store [63] and, above all, supermarkets [19,20,34,35,65,66], in which the air conditioning is necessary both for the comfort of the occupants and for the correct operating of the
open refrigerators, which operate well only if the ambient humidity is maintained low.
Moreover, for the supermarkets, the ratio between the sensible and latent components of the
ambient thermal load is in favour of the latent one. In fact, the presence of the open refrigerators
reduces much more the sensible load than the latent one [67]. So, it is clear that if the dehumidication is mechanical, it is necessary the oversizing of the cooling coil, and also the successive
re-heating of the handled air, with remarkable energy use. Besides, in the stricter conditions of
partial load, the traditional system can lose the moisture control in ambient, with important negative consequences [19,6871]: (a) the load of the open refrigerators increases, and so their operating costs; (b) because of the greater frost formation, longer defrost periods are required, the
shelf-life of the exposed goods shortens, their aspect gets worse, the paper containers deteriorate
rendering illegible the labels; (c) with the increasing of the dew point temperature of the air, surface condensation problems appear on the walls, on the structures, on the goods [71,72].
A possible solution consists in resorting to hybrid HVAC systems with dehumidication by desiccant wheel, that oers numerous advantages. These are the ones of the chemical dehumidication (Section 2.2) and furthermore:
(a) a consisting energy saving can be obtained: for this aim the desiccant dehumidication system, that balances the latent load, can usefully employ the condensation heat of the vapour
compression chiller in order to pre-heat the regeneration air [73], so reducing the thermal
power demand;
(b) the anti-sweat heaters systems can be eliminated or reduced.
In [66] an application of traditional system and desiccant wheel hybrid system, both of the rooftop type, for a supermarket of approximately 3700 m2 sited in Rome, 19 is reported: the obtainable
savings with the hybrid systems with respect to the traditional ones have been estimated, 20 in
terms of operating costs, considering that the most part of these is connected to the open refrigerators and that the proper operation of the HVAC system indirectly induces remarkable savings
19
20

Italian electric energy and gas fares have been considered.


By means of the program DesiCalcTM [50].

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25

also on the refrigeration system. The simple payback time, connected to the extra cost of the hybrid system, resulted of 23 years. Moreover, it has been found that relative humidity in ambient
is maintained to lower levels, therefore the frost formation is reduced and the problems related to
the shelf-life are exceeded, as well as those connected to the aspect and the integrity of the exposed
goods. Finally, a reduction of approximately 30% of the air ow rate supplied to the rooms has
been noticed, with consequent reduction of system and operating costs and of the space required
by the ducts. The savings on the operating costs increase signicantly if it is imposed that both the
systems guarantee in ambient the same low relative humidity values.
In [63] an application of traditional system and desiccant wheel hybrid system, for a theatre of
1200 m2 sited in Rome 19, is reported: dierent congurations (among which also that reported in
Fig. 15) of traditional and hybrid systems, both centralized and of the roof-top type, have been
considered. The obtainable savings 20 with the hybrid systems with respect to the traditional ones,
in terms of operating costs, resulted between 23% and 38%, however always greater than 35% for
all the roof-top conguration systems. The savings of primary energy are very similar to those relative to the operating costs. In the various cases, the reduction of the power electric demand resulted remarkable, up to approximately 4450%. It also resulted that the hybrid systems, unlike
the traditional ones, perfectly control in every condition the relative humidity in ambient (in fact,
the percentage of hours, with respect to total, in which the ambient relative humidity is greater than
60%, is around 20% for the traditional systems and is instead less than 0.6% for the desiccant wheel
systems). Finally, it has been veried that the savings on the operating costs obtainable with the
hybrid systems increase (up to a maximum of approximately 45%) with the increasing of the level
of occupation and the outdoor air ow rate per person. This tendency conrms that the HVAC
systems with dehumidication by desiccant wheel are particularly suitable to balance high latent
loads related to the increase of the required outside air ow rate and of the level of occupation.
Besides, the analysis reported in [63] also shows a great variation of the savings depending on
the conguration of hybrid system considered; therefore it is recommended to examine, case for
case, which of the congurations can be the most suitable to maximize the obtainable savings.

Current selling price [ /(m3/h)]

30
Two wheels systems

25
20

Industrial dehumidifiers
( = 8 g/kg)

15
10
Commercial dehumidifiers
( = 6 g/kg)

5
0

Target price for commercial dehumidifiers

10

12

14

16

18

Process air flow rate [103 m3/h]

Fig. 17. Range of the normalized current selling prices for industrial and commercial dehumidiers with solid desiccant
and heat recovery.

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Finally, in Fig. 17, data recently appeared in literature [74] about the selling prices of dehumidiers with desiccant wheel and heat recovery wheel, designed for industrial and commercial elds,
are reported.

4. Conclusions
The HVAC systems design requires more and more attention, above all considering the recent
ventilation standards, in order to reach and maintain in ambient the optimal level of humidity,
particularly in partial load conditions.
In the mechanical dehumidication eld, the direct control of ambient Tdb and / can be properly obtained by means of an air handling unit (AHU) which treats outside air alone, while recirculating air is treated by a simple cooling coil; control of the two equipments is independent.
Among the possible AHU congurations, that one with two wheels, an enthalpy wheel and a sensible one, respectively upstream and downstream of the cooling coil, turns out to be more convenient as regards energy use and power installed.
In the chemical dehumidication eld, absorption systems have been used successfully for large
size buildings in the tertiary sector; as humidity control in the buildings becomes established, their
signicant growth, also on a lower scale, is expected. Controlling opportunely temperature and
concentration of the solution dierent dehumidication lines can be obtained, with an outlet
air temperature nearly equal to inlet, unlike mechanical and adsorption dehumidication; so, treated process air can have psychrometric conditions required for it to be supplied into the room
without re-heating or post-cooling.
Adsorption dehumidication systems, long employed in the industrial sector, has now provoked renewed interest and has been extended towards the non-industrial sector, both because
of more stringent IAQ requirements, and the gradual reduction of the regeneration temperature
required by new materials.
In the eld of the summer air conditioning for non-industrial applications, the adsorption dehumidication is alternative to the traditional mechanical dehumidication; often the two technologies are integrated (hybrid HVAC systems): the rst to balance the latent load, the latter to
balance the sensible one.
Hybrid HVAC systems with adsorption dehumidication allow a better moisture control and
oer numerous other advantages. However it has to be pointed out that: (a) the payback not always
attains acceptable values; (b) the scarce familiarity with such technology and the lack of information about performances and cost/benet ratio hamper the spreading of hybrid desiccant systems.
Among the various possible applications of hybrid HVAC system with desiccant wheel, a
supermarket and theatre have been considered.
Comparing a traditional system and a hybrid system with desiccant wheel, both of the roof-top
type, for a supermarket of approximately 3700 m2 sited in Rome, resulted: (a) a simple payback
time of 23 years; (b) relative humidity in ambient is maintained to lower levels, so the frost formation is reduced and the problems connected to the shelf-life, as well as to the aspect and the
integrity of the exposed goods, are exceeded; (c) a reduction of approximately 30% of the supply
air ow rate, with consequent reduction of system and operating costs and of the space required
by the ducts.

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27

The same comparison, for a theatre of 1200 m2 sited in Rome, has provided the following results: (a) the obtainable savings, in terms of operating costs, resulted between 23% and 38%;
(b) the reduction of the power electric demand is meaningful, up to approximately 4450%; (c)
the hybrid system, unlike the traditional one, perfectly controls in every condition the relative
humidity in ambient; (d) the savings on the operating costs obtainable with the hybrid systems
increase (up to a maximum of approximately 45%) with the increasing of the level of occupation
and the outdoor air ow rate to be assured for person.

Acknowledgement
The authors would like to thank Mr. Malaterra of Angelantoni S.p.A. for his detailed information about the desiccant wheel.

Appendix A
In summer the humidity ratio of outside air is normally higher than the indoor humidity ratio:
and thus the need to dehumidify. If, for example, the indoor comfort conditions are Tdb = 25 C
and / = 50%, (i.e. xr = 10 gv/kga) and the outdoor air design conditions are Tdb = 32 C and /
= 55%, (i.e. xo = 16.5 gv/kga), the humidity ratio of the supply air must be:
xs < xr 10 gv =kga < xo 16:5 gv =kga
and the dehumidication system must be able to reduce the x = 16.5 gv/kga to xs. In steady state,
from the mass balance for water, referred to a conditioned ambient with N occupants, 21 it is
obtained:
xs xr 

N  m_ vu
m_ vu
xr 
:
N  m_ au
a  V_ au
q

A:1

The humidity ratio of the airow to be supplied must be equal to indoor airow humidity ratio
minus the ratio between unitary mass ow rates (referred to each occupant) of water vapour
and air. Referring to the case under examination, and assuming the following values as indicative
[1]:
a 1:17 kg=m3
m_ vu 60 g=h q

V_ au 10 dm3 =s

it follows that:
xs 10  1:4 gv =kga 8:6 gv =kga ! T dp;s 11:8
C:
So, the dehumidication capacity, in terms of humidity ratio variation, must be
Dx 16:5  8:6 7:9 gv =kga :

21

For simplicity it is assumed that vapour in the ambient is generated by the occupants alone.

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It can be noted that only the 18% (1.4/7.9) of Dx is due to the indoor load, while 82% is due to
the outdoor air.
The dehumidication capacity (DC) usually expresses the water mass ow rate removed from
the handled air ow [75]. In steady state, from the water mass balance referred to the dehumidier, one can obtain:
a V_ a DxDE :
DC m_ w m_ a DxDE q

A:2

a [kg/m3], V_ a
To express, as usual, DC in [kg/h] units, in Eq. (A.2) the following units are used: q
3
[m /h], x [kgv/kga]. It can be observed that the unitary capacity is equal to the humidity ratio
variation:
DCu

m_ w
DxDE :
m_ a

A:3

Many building and furniture materials are known to be hygroscopic, thus the way in which air
is supplied may give rise to condensation and mould growth. It would be advisable to mix treated
air with ambient air in order to increase temperature, thus preventing extremely cold air from
coming into contact with surfaces, so avoiding condensation.

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