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Chapter 1

Introduction to Direct Digital Control Systems

Purpose of this Guide
The purpose of this guide is to describe, in generic terms, the various architectures, hardware
components and software associated with Direct Digital Control (DDC) systems. To accomplish
this goal, a generic framework of the various components and configurations used in current DDC
systems has been defined. This framework is used as a yardstick for several DDC manufacturers
so readers may compare the relative features and benefits.

Intended Audience
Due to the complexity and proprietary nature of DDC systems, it has become difficult to stay
current with the designs, installations, operation and maintenance of DDC systems. This guide
was developed specifically to help building owners and consulting/specifying engineers with these

What is an Energy Management System?

For the purposes of this guide, an energy management system (EMS) is defined as a fully
functional control system. This includes controllers, various communications devices and the full
complement of operational software necessary to have a fully functioning control system. This
guide addresses approximately twenty of the DDC vendors who serve the institutional and
commercial marketplace in the United States. Vendors who supply a complete line of all the
necessary hardware and software are included. This guide does not cover specialty markets
(retail grocery, hotels), nor does it cover industrial or process controls.

What is Control?
The process of controlling an HVAC system involves three steps. These steps include first
measuring data, then processing the data with other information and finally causing a control
action. These three functions make up what is known as a control loop. An example of this
process is depicted in Figure 1.
Basic Control Loop
The control loop shown in Figure 1 consists of three main components: a sensor, a controller and
a controlled device. These three components or functions interact to control a medium. In the
example shown in Figure 1, air temperature is the controlled medium. The sensor measures the
data, the controller processes the data and the controlled device causes an action.

The Figure 1 could be an example of a pneumatic or electronic control system, where the
controller is a separate and distinct piece of hardware. In a DDC system, the controller function
takes place in software as shown in Figure 2.

The sensor measures the controlled medium or other control input in an accurate and repeatable
manner. Common HVAC sensors are used to measure temperature, pressure, relative humidity,
airflow state and carbon dioxide. Other variables may also be measured that impact the controller
logic. Examples include other temperatures, time-of-day or the current demand condition.
Additional input information (sensed data) that influences the control logic may include the status
of other parameters (airflow, water flow, current) or safety (fire, smoke, high/low temperature limit
or any number of other physical parameters). Sensors are an extremely important part of the
control system and can be the first, as well as a major, weak link in the chain of control.

The controller processes data that is input from the sensor, applies the logic of control and
causes an output action to be generated. This signal may be sent directly to the controlled device
or to other logical control functions and ultimately to the controlled device. The controllers
function is to compare its input (from the sensor) with a set of instructions such as set point,
throttling range and action, then produce an appropriate output signal. This is the logic of control.
It usually consists of a control response along with other logical decisions that are unique to the
specific control application. How the controller functions is referred to as the control response.
Control responses are typically one the following:

Proportional (P only)
Proportional plus Integral (PI)
Proportional plus Integral plus Derivative (PID)

Controlled Device or Output

A controlled device is a device that responds to the signal from the controller, or the control logic,
and changes the condition of the controlled medium or the state of the end device. These devices
include valve operators, damper operators, electric relays, fans, pumps, compressors and
variable speed drives for fan and pump applications.
Chapter 2
Control Response
Two-Position Control
Two-position control compares the value of an analog or variable input with instructions and
generates a digital (two-position) output. The instructions involve the definition of an upper and
lower limit. The output changes its value as the input crosses these limit values. There are no
standards for defining these limits. The most common terminology used is set point and
differential. The set point indicates the point where the output pulls-in, energizes or is true.
The output changes back or drops-out after the input value crosses through the value equal to
the difference between the set point and the differential.

Two-position control can be used for simple control loops (temperature control) or limit control
(freeze stats, outside air temperature limits). The analog value can be any measured variable
including temperature, relative humidity, pressure, current and liquid levels.

Time can also be the input to a two-position control response. This control response functions like
a time clock with pins. The output pulls-in when the time is in the defined on time and drops
out during the defined off time.

Figure 3, shows an example of two-position control in a home heating system, where the
thermostat is set to energize the heating system when the space temperature falls below 70 F
and turn off when the temperature rises to 72 F in the space. This is an example of a setpoint of
70 F with a two-degree differential.

Floating Control
Floating control is a control response that produces two possible digital outputs based on a
change in a variable input. One output increases the signal to the controlled device, while the
other output decreases the signal to the controlled device. This control response also involves an
upper and lower limit with the output changing as the variable input crosses these limits. Again,
there are no standards for defining these limits, but the terms setpoint and dead band are
common. The setpoint sets a midpoint and the dead band sets the difference between the upper
and lower limits.

When the measured variable is within the deadband or neutral zone, neither output is energized
and the controlled device does not change - it stays in its last position. For this control response
to be stable, the sensor must sense the effect of the controlled device movement very rapidly.
Floating control does not function well where there is significant thermodynamic lag in the control
loop. Fast airside control loops respond well to floating control. An example of floating controls is
shown in Figure 4.
Proportional Control
A proportional control response produces an analog or variable output change in proportion to a
varying input. In this control response, there is a linear relationship between the input and the
output. A setpoint, throttling range and action typically define this relationship. In a proportional
control response, there is a unique value of the measured variable that corresponds to full travel
of the controlled device and a unique value that corresponds to zero travel on the controlled
device. The change in the measured variable that causes the controlled device to move from fully
closed to fully open is called the throttling range. It is within this range that the control loop will
control, assuming that the system has the capacity to meet the requirements.

The action dictates the slope of the control response. In a direct acting proportional control
response, the output will rise with an increase in the measured variable. In a reverse acting
response, the output will decrease as the measured variable increases. The setpoint is an
instruction to the control loop and corresponds to a specified value of the controlled device,
usually half-travel. An example is shown in Figure 5.
In a proportional control system, the value of the measured variable at any given moment is
called the control point. Offset is defined as the difference between the control point and the
desired condition. One way to reduce offset is to reduce throttling range. Reducing the throttling
range too far will lead to instability. The more quickly the sensor feels the effect of the control
response, the larger the throttling range has to be to produce stable control.

Proportional plus Integral (PI) Control

PI control involves the measurement of the offset or error over time. This error is integrated and
a final adjustment is made to the output signal from the proportional part of this model. This type
of control response will use the control loop to reduce the offset to zero. A well set-up PI control
loop will operate in a narrow band close to the setpoint. It will not operate over the entire throttling
range (Figure 6).

PI control loops do not perform well when set points are dynamic, where sudden load changes
occur or if the throttling range is small.

Proportional plus Integral plus Derivative (PID) Control

PID control adds a predictive element to the control response. In addition to the proportional and
integral calculation, the derivative or slope of the control response will be computed. This
calculation will have the effect of dampening a control response that is returning to setpoint so
quickly that it will overshoot the setpoint.

PID is a precision process control response and is not always required for HVAC applications.
The routine application of PID control to every control loop is labor intensive and its application
should be selective.

Definition of Direct Digital Control (DDC)

DDC control consists of microprocessor-based controllers with the control logic performed by
software. Analog-to-Digital (A/D) converters transform analog values into digital signals that a
microprocessor can use. Analog sensors can be resistance, voltage or current generators. Most
systems distribute the software to remote controllers to eliminate the need for continuous
communication capability (stand-alone). The computer is primarily used to monitor the status of
the energy management system, store back-up copies of the programs and record alarming and
trending functions. Complex strategies and energy management functions are readily available at
the lowest level in the system architecture. If pneumatic actuation is required, it is accomplished
with electronic to pneumatic transducers. Calibration of sensors is mathematical; consequently
the total man-hours for calibration are greatly reduced. The central diagnostic capabilities are a
significant asset. Software and programming are constantly improving, becoming increasingly
user-friendly with each update.

Benefits of DDC
The benefits of direct digital control over past control technologies (pneumatic or distributed
electronic) is that it improves the control effectiveness and increases the control efficiency. The
three main direct benefits of DDC are improved effectiveness, improved operation efficiency and
increased energy efficiency.

Improved Effectiveness
DDC provides more effective control of HVAC systems by providing the potential for more
accurately sensed data. Electronic sensors for measuring the common HVAC parameters of
temperature, humidity and pressure are inherently more accurate than their pneumatic
predecessors. Since the logic of a control loop is now included in the software, this logic can be
readily changed. In this sense, DDC is far more flexible in changing reset schedules, set points
and the overall control logic. Users are apt to apply more complex strategies, implement energy
saving features and optimize their system performance since there is less cost associated with
these changes than there would be when the logic is distributed to individual components. This of
course assumes the user possesses the knowledge to make the changes.

DDC systems, by their very nature can integrate more easily into other computer-based systems.
DDC systems can integrate into fire control systems, access/security control systems, lighting
control systems and maintenance management systems.

Improved Operational Efficiency

Operational improvements show the greatest opportunity for efficiency improvements in direct
digital controls. The alarming capabilities are strong and most systems have the ability to route
alarms to various locations on a given network. The trending capabilities allow a diagnostic
technician or engineer to troubleshoot system and control problems. They also allow the data to
be visualized in various formats. These data can also be stored and analyzed for trends in
equipments performance over time.

Run-times of various equipment can be monitored and alarms/messages can be generated when
a lead/lag changeover occurs or if it is time to conduct routine maintenance.

The off-site access/communication capability allows an owner/operator to access their system

remotely. Multiple parties can also be involved in troubleshooting a problem. The control vendor,
design engineer and commissioning authority can use these features to more efficiently diagnose
and visualize problems.

Increased Energy Efficiency

There are many energy-efficient control strategies employed in pneumatic logic that can be easily
duplicated in DDC logic. Due to the addition of more complex mathematical functions (easily
obtained in software), there are many additional energy-efficient routines that can be used with

Strategies such as demand monitoring and limiting can be more easily implemented with DDC
systems. The overall demand to a facility can be monitored and controlled by resetting various
system set points based on different demand levels. If a DDC system is installed at the zone
level, this could be accomplished by decreasing the requirement for cooling on a zone-by-zone
basis.By storing trends, energy consumption patterns can be monitored. Equipment can also be
centrally scheduled on or off in applications where schedules frequently change.
Chapter 3
Elements of a Direct Digital Control System
The word point is used to describe data storage locations within a DDC system. Data can come
from sensors or from software calculations and logic. Data can also be sent to controlled devices
or software calculations and logic. Each data storage location has a unique means of
identification or addressing.

Direct digital controls (DDC) data can be classified three different ways - by data type, data flow
and data source.

Data Type
Data type is classified as digital, analog or accumulating. Digital data may also be called discrete
data or binary data. The value of the data is either 0 or 1 and usually represents the state or
status of a set of contacts. Analog data are numeric, decimal numbers and typically have varying
electrical inputs that are a function of temperature, relative humidity, pressure or some other
common HVAC sensed variable. Accumulating data are also numeric, decimal numbers, where
the resulting sum is stored. This type of data is sometimes called pulse input.

Data Flow
Data flow refers to whether the data are going into or out of the DDC component/logic. Input
points describe data used as input information and output points describe data that are output

Data Source
Points can be classified as external points if the data are received from an external device or sent
to an external device. External points are sometimes referred to as hardware points. External
points may be digital, analog or accumulating and they may be input or output points. Internal
points represent data that are created by the logic of the control software. These points may be
digital, analog or accumulating. Other terms used to describe these points are virtual points,
numeric points, data points and software points.

Global or in-direct points are terms used to describe data that are transmitted on the network for
use by other controllers. These points may also be digital, analog or accumulating.

Analog input points typically imply an external point and represent a value that varies over time.
Typical analog inputs for HVAC applications are temperature, pressure, relative humidity, carbon
dioxide and airflow measurements. Typical analog outputs include control signals for modulating
valve positions, damper positions and variable frequency drive speed.

Typical digital inputs for HVAC applications represent the status (example: whether or not the
motor is running) of fans, pumps, motors, lighting contactors, etc. A temperature high limit is
considered a digital input because, although it is monitoring an analog value (temperature), the
information that is transmitted to the controller is a digital condition (whether or not the
temperature has exceeded a defined value). Digital outputs are typically motors or other devices
that are commanded on or off. Digital outputs include fans, pumps, two-position (solenoid)
valves, lighting contactors, etc.

A true analog output (voltage or current) is a varying DC voltage or milliamp signal that is used
to drive a transducer or controlled device. Another type of analog output is pulse width modulation
(PWM). PWM is accomplished by monitoring a timed closure of a set of contacts. The amount of
time the contacts are closed is proportional to a level of performance for the controlled device.
Software Characteristics
There are basically three common approaches used to program the logic of DDC systems. They
are line programming, template or menu-based programming and graphical or block

Line programming-based systems use Basic or FORTRAN-like languages with HVAC

subroutines. A familiarity with computer programming is helpful in understanding and writing logic
for HVAC applications.

Menu-driven, database or template/tabular programming involves the use of templates for

common HVAC logical functions. These templates contain the detailed parameters necessary for
the functioning of each logical program block. Data flow (how one block is connected to another
or where its data comes from) is programmed in each template.

Graphical or block programming is an extension of tabular programming in that graphical

representations of the individual function blocks are depicted using graphical symbols connected
by data flow lines. The process is depicted with symbols as on electrical schematics and
pneumatic control diagrams. Graphical diagrams are created and the detailed data are entered in
background menus or screens.

System architecture is the term used to describe the overall local area network or LAN structure,
where the operator interfaces connect to the system and how one may remotely communicate to
the system. It is the map or layout of the system.

The network or LAN is the medium that connects multiple intelligent devices. It allows these
devices to communicate, share information, display and print information, as well as store data.
The most basic task of the system architecture is to connect the DDC controllers so that
information can be shared between them.

A control loop requires a sensor to measure the process variable, control logic to process data,
as well as calculate an instruction, and a controlled device to execute the instruction. A controller
is defined as a device that has inputs (sensors), outputs (controllable devices) and the ability to
execute control logic (software) (Figure 7).

LAN Communication
Communications between devices on a network can be characterized as peer-to-peer or polling.
On a peer-to-peer LAN, each device can share information with any other device on the LAN
without going through a communications manager (Figure 8).
The controllers on the peer-to-peer LAN may be primary controllers, secondary controllers or they
may be a mix of both types of controllers. The type of controllers that use the peer-to-peer LAN
vary between manufacturers. These controller types are defined later in this section.

In a polling controller LAN, the individual controllers can not pass information directly to each
other. Instead, data flows from one controller to the interface and then from the interface to the
other controller (Figure 9).

The interface device manages communication between the polling LAN controllers and the higher
levels in the system architecture. It may also supplement the capability of polling LAN controllers
by providing the following functions: clock functions; buffer for trend data, alarms, messages; and
higher order software support.
Many systems combine the communications of a peer-to-peer network with a polling network. In
Figure 10, the interface communicates in a peer-to-peer fashion with the devices on the peer-to-
peer LAN. The polling LAN-based devices can receive data from the peer-to-peer devices, but
the data must flow through the interface.

Controller Classification
Controllers can be categorized by their capabilities and their methods of communicating
(controller-to-controller). In general, there are two classifications of controller - primary control
units and secondary control units

Primary controllers typically have the following features:

Real-time accurate clock function

Full software compliment
Larger total point capacity
Support for global strategies
Buffer for alarms/messages/trend & runtime data
Freeform programming
Downloadable database
Higher analog/digital converter resolution
Built-in communication interface for PC connection.

Secondary controllers typically have the following features:

Not necessarily 100% standalone

Limited software compliment
Smaller total point count
Freeform or application specific software
Typically lower analog-to-digital converter resolution
Trend data not typically stored at this level
Typical application is terminal equipment or small central station equipment.

Operator Interfaces
The next critical element in the system architecture is an operator interface. Operator interfaces
are required to:

See data
Program the system
Exercise manual control
Store long term data
Provide a dynamic graphical interface.

There are five basic types of operator interfaces. They include:

Desktop computers which act as operator workstations

Notebook computers which act as portable operator workstations
Keypad type liquid crystal displays
Handheld consoles/ palmtops/ service tools
Smart thermostats
Desktop computers are centralized operator workstations where the main function is
programming, building and visualizing system graphics; long term data collection; and alarm and
message filtering.

Notebook computers may connect to the LAN through a communication interface that stands
alone or is built into another device. The notebook computer connected to the LAN at a particular
level may not have the same capability as a computer connected to the LAN at a higher level.

Keypad liquid crystal displays typically are limited to point monitoring and control. They may have
some limited programming capability, such as changing a set point or time schedule.

Handheld consoles, palmtops and service tools are proprietary devices that connect to primary
controllers or secondary controllers. Typically they allow point monitoring and control, controller
configurations (addressing and communication set-up), and calibration of inputs and outputs.

Smart thermostats are sensors with additional capabilities. They connect to secondary controllers
and have a service mode to allow for point monitoring, control and calibration. They also have a
user mode that allows point information to be displayed, setpoint adjustment and an override

PC/Network Interface
The communications interface shown in the Figure 11 is a communication interface device. It
provides the path between devices that do not use the same communications protocol. This
includes computers, modems and printers.

It may be a stand-alone component or it may be built into another device as shown in Figure 12.
Each communications interface on Figure 12 may:

Translate protocol
Provide a communication buffer
Provide temporary memory storage for information being passed between the network
and the external PC, modem or printer (mailbox function)

Larger System Architectures

When systems become larger than the capacity of a single sub-network, a higher level of
architecture is added to allow the use of multiple sub-networks.

The site LAN wide area network or WAN is used to connect multiple sub-networks and site
computers. Multiple sub-networks can be connected to a single site LAN/WAN that allows
information sharing between devices on different sub-networks (Figure 13). There may be a
limitation on the number of site computers. The site LAN/WAN may include routers if TCP/IP is
used. If no routers are used, the protocol can be totally proprietary. If TCP/IP is used, the EMS
site LAN/WAN can be the information system backbone within the facility or between facilities.

Multiple site computers can be added to the site LAN/WAN. They can connect the site LAN/WAN
via a communications interface, which may be a router. Site LAN/WAN computers can send and
receive information from the entire system. Information can be received by each of the site
computers, but can not be subsequently shared from one computer to another. Sub-network
computers may only be able to see their own sub-network.

Site LANs allow multiple computers to communicate with each other. They may use commercially
available computer network software and hardware. Messages, alarms and other data can be re-
routed to other computers on the primary site LAN. Information stored in other computers can be
remotely accessed. This includes graphics, programming and stored trend and operational data.

Combined Components
Some vendors combine multiple functions into a single device. In the following system
architecture, Figure 14, the communication interface is built into the primary controller. A peer-to-
peer LAN or sub-network is connected directly to the device.

In Figure 15, the key component in the system consists of a communication interface, a primary
controller and an interface to the secondary polling network.

The addition of a site LAN allows a system to gain size in terms of the number of devices that are
served, but in some applications, the location of the devices, rather than the number of devices, is
the bigger challenge. In this situation, modem-based communication is used to expand the
geography of the system.

Auto-Answer/Auto-Dial System Architecture

In auto-answer/auto dial systems, a specialized communication interface is substituted which
introduces a modem and phone lines into the standard architecture. These communication
interfaces are made with built-in modems or use external commercial modems. Auto-
answer/auto-dial configurations are used to provide monitoring and access to remote buildings.
They are used where traditional direct-wiring methods are impractical; and where central site
monitoring is desired; or where remote access to controllers is desired.

In an auto-answer/auto-dial system, the central communications interface may call the individual
sites or vice versa. Information and data can be passed to and from the layer above the central
communications interface (Figure 16).

The auto-answer/auto-dial LAN architecture is typically used by installations with multiple facilities
where control and monitoring needs to be centralized. Multiple LANs are used to maintain the
groupings of devices, or to separate controllers into defined groups.

Multiple Dial LAN Support

In a systems architecture, the local sites have the ability to call an alternate communication
interface, if the primary is not available (Figure 17).

One-Way Dial System Architecture

One-way dial systems, Figure 18, are typically used to enable system owners to access their
systems from a remote location, such as their home. It is used where auto-dial monitoring is not
required. It can also be used by the installation and service company or by the commissioning
authority to troubleshoot and program from remote locations. One-way dial can also be used to
dial into remote site LANs or sub-networks.
Two modems are required, one located at the remote computer and one at the system site.
Typically, the DDC operating software must be installed on the remote computer.

Communication between two different devices controlling equipment requires a common protocol,
a common communication speed and known data formatting. Vendors build their devices around
these criteria, so communication between devices by the same manufacturer is routine.

Third Party Interfaces

In many installations, it is desirable for a proprietary building DDC system to communicate with
other proprietary DDC systems controlling pieces of equipment. Examples would include a
building DDC system and a chiller DDC system (Figure 19) or a fume hood DDC system.
Communication between the two systems will require an interface or gateway, due to different
proprietary protocols, communication speeds and data formatting.

The gateway or interface translates protocol between the two proprietary systems. The proper
operation of the gateway is dependent on the continued use of the specific revised levels of
software on both systems. It typically requires the support of the manufacturer at the corporate
level to implement and cooperation between the manufacturers. In addition, the costs can vary

In the DDC world, there are the three classifications of protocols: closed protocol, open protocol
and standard protocol.

A closed protocol is a proprietary protocol used by a specific equipment manufacturer. An open

protocol system uses a protocol available to anyone, but not published by a standards
organization. A standard protocol system uses a protocol available to anyone. It is created by a
standards organization.

Open Systems
An open system is defined as a system that allows components from different manufacturers to
co-exist on the same network. These components would not need a gateway to communicate
with one another and would not require a manufacturer specific workstation to visualize data. This
would allow more than one vendors product to meet a specific application requirement.

The sole use of an open or standard protocol does not guarantee that a DDC system will be an
open system. A manufacturer has the ability to use open or standard protocols, yet create a
closed system, thus continuing a building owners dependence on a single manufacturer. This
can be accomplished by using unique communication speeds, unique data formatting and by not
adopting the full range of an open protocol.

Note: A building owner/engineer should thoroughly research a manufacturers claim of an open


BACNET is a standard protocol published by a standards organization (American Society of
Heating, Refrigerating and Air-conditioning Engineers or ASHRAE). It is a specification for a
protocol. DDC vendors create a communication protocol that complies with this specification.

BACNET is a relatively complex standard. The standard defines protocol implementation

conformance statements (PICS) that define different levels of compliance. A given vendor may or
may not support the level required for a given application. In other words, a vendor could meet a
very low level of compliance and be BACNET-compatible. The key question is, At what level?

In Figure 20 the chiller control units DDC will communicate with the building DDC system if each
has a BACNET gateway and their PICS match.

If a vendor states their product is native BACNET, they are using the BACNET protocol in lieu of
a proprietary protocol on their LAN. In Figure 20, a native BACNET building system would be able
to communicate to the chiller control DDC with one less gateway.

Overlay Systems
An overlay system is a high-end workstation that communicates with multiple manufacturers
proprietary EMS systems. An overlay system supplier creates drivers to talk to the different
systems. The vendors must have a cooperative relationship and revision control is important for
continued successful use. The workstation typically displays data, allows manual control and
setpoint changes, and handles alarms and messaging. Any detailed editing of the control
sequence will still require knowledge of the underlying proprietary software.

The Echelon Corporation has created an open protocol that uses a standard processor and a set
of standard transceivers, which allows components from different manufacturers to co-exist on
the same LAN. The protocol is available to anyone and is called LONTALK. A unique chip is
required for any device that uses LON. Standard network variable formats have been established
to allow the transfer of data from one device to another regardless of origin.

Presently, various vendors are competing to become the defacto standard for the network
database structure. The network database is a map of the components and the relationship of the
data moving between them. The operator workstation needs this structure to visualize the data.

Software suppliers providing the software for the operator workstation may be independent of
those providing the software for the database structure and the EMS vendors.
Chapter 4
Input / Output (I/O) Basics

The following terms have been defined to help readers better understand the material covered in
the Input/Output document.

The term accuracy describes the total of all deviations between a measured value and the actual
value. Accuracy is usually expressed as the sum of non-linearity, repeatability and hysteresis.
Accuracy may be expressed as the percent of a full-scale range or output, or in engineering units.

An address is a unique numeric or alphanumeric data (point) identifier.

These synonymous terms are used to describe data that has a value that is continuous between
set limits represented by a range or span of voltage, current or resistance. The value is non-
integer (real) with a resolution (number of significant digits) limited only by the measurement and
analog-to-digital signal conversion technology. In typical DDC systems, analog data from an input
device is converted into a value for processing within the controller. Likewise, values are
converted into analog output signals for use by a controlled device, such as an actuator.

Controlled Medium
A controlled medium is a process medium of which one or more properties are made to conform
to desired conditions by means of a control loop (see EMS Systems Overview Basic Control

These synonymous terms are used to describe data that has a value representing one state or
another. Typical values are "on/off", alarm or normal, 0 or 1, high or low, etc. In the hardware side
of the DDC world, these values most commonly relate to the state of a set of switch or relay
contacts (open or closed).

External Point
Data that is received by a controller from an external source, or sent by a controller to an external
source, is an external point. The terms hardware, input or output may be used to describe an
external point.

Global Point
Global points originate from a controller within a network that is broadcast via the network to other

Hysteresis is the maximum difference in measured value or output when a set value is
approached from above, and then below the value.

The term input is used to define data flow into a controller or control function.

Internal Point
An internal point is one that resides within a digital controller that does not directly originate from
input or output points. Internal points can be constants such as fixed set points created by a
programmers or operators assignment. Internal points may also be created as defined by the
programmer/ operator by applying logic and mathematics to other virtual, input or output points or
combinations of points. The terms virtual, numeric or data may be used to describe an internal

Non-linearity is the maximum difference in measured value or output from a specified straight line
between calibration points.

Output defines the data flow out of a controller or control function.

Point is a generic term used to describe a single item of information in a control system. Points
may be further described as input, output, digital, binary, discrete, analog, modulating, internal,
external, virtual or global. Each unique point used by digital controllers, or in digital control
systems, is typically identified by an address.

Process Medium
A process medium is a material in any phase (solid, liquid or gas) that is being used in a process.
The most common types of process mediums used in commercial and industrial heating
ventilating and air conditioning systems are liquid mediums (i.e., chilled water for cooling) or
gaseous mediums (i.e., airflow in a duct).

Repeatability is the maximum difference in a measured value or output when a set value is
approached multiple times from either above or below the value.

A sensor is a device in primary contact with a process medium. It measures particular properties
of the process medium (i.e., temperature, pressure, etc.) and relates those properties to electrical
signals such as voltage, current, resistance or capacitance.

Transducers accept an input of one character and produce an output of a different character.
(Examples: voltage to current, voltage to pneumatic (pressure) and resistance to current.)

A transmitter is a transducer that is paired with a sensor to produce a higher-level signal
(typically) than is available directly from the sensor. These sensors may be integral or remote and
may include digital or analog signal processing. (Examples: temperature transmitter employing a
temperature sensor. The temperature sensor varies the resistance with temperature change and
the transmitter outputs a related 4-20 mA current output for use by a controller.)

Digital Inputs
A digital input typically consists of a power supply (voltage source), a switch and a voltage-
sensing device (analog-to-digital converter). Depending on the switchs open/closed status, the
sensing device detects a voltage or no voltage condition, which in turn generates a logical 0 or 1,
on or off, alarm or normal or similarly defined state.

Circuit Diagrams
The following circuit diagrams are examples of commonly used digital input configurations.
Digital Outputs
A digital output typically consists of a switch (either mechanical as in a relay, or electronic as in a
transistor or triac) that either opens or closes the circuit between two terminals depending on the
binary state of the output.

Circuit Diagrams
The following circuit diagrams are examples of commonly used digital output configurations.
Figure 2 shows an open collector transistor-type digital output operating a pilot relay, which in
turn energizes the motor starter coil for a fan. Figure 3 shows a triac-type digital output operating
a pilot relay that is used to energize a fan motor starter coil.

Analog Inputs
An analog input is a measurable electrical signal with a defined range that is generated by a
sensor and received by a controller. The analog input changes continuously in a definable
manner in relation to the measured property.

The analog signals generated by some types of sensors must be conditioned by converting to a
higher-level standard signal that can be transmitted over wires to the receiving controller. Analog
inputs are converted to digital signals by the analog-to-digital (A/D) converter typically located at
the controller. Analog-to-digital conversion is limited to a small range of DC voltage, so that
internal or external input circuitry must change the character of non-compatible signal types to a
DC voltage range within the limits of the A/D converter.

Common Types
There are basically three types of analog input signals; voltage, current and resistance.

Common voltage signals used in the controls industry are 1-5 Volts Direct Current (VDC), 2-10
VDC, 3-15 VDC, 0-5 VDC, 0-10 VDC and 0-15 VDC.

The 4-20 mA signal has become the industrys standard current signal for use with analog and
digital controllers. A variation of the 4-20 mA signal is 0-20 mA.

Resistance measurement is most commonly associated with direct inputs from temperature
sensing devices, such as thermistors and RTD's. RTD nominal resistances are typically 100 ,
500 , 1000 or 2000 . Common thermistor nominal resistances are 2252 , 3k , 10k , 20
k or 100 k .

Circuit Diagrams
The following circuit diagrams are examples of commonly used analog input configurations.

Figure 4 shows a voltage input circuit where the sensor output voltage does not match the

Figure 5 shows the wiring schematic associated with a typical externally powered 4-20 mA analog
input using a loop power 4-20 mA temperature transmitter. For this circuit type, typical power
supply voltage is nominally 24 VDC. The circuitry in the transmitter regulates current flow in the
loop between 4 and 20 mA in proportion to the temperature sensed by the sensor. A parallel fixed
resistor is used at the controller terminals to complete the circuit. The resistance of the A/D
converter in the circuit is very high in comparison to R, essentially all of the current flows through
the resistor. The value of the resistor is chosen to match the input voltage range of the controller.
Figure 6 depicts the circuit for converting a resistance to voltage, in this case, a 10 k
Thermistor-type sensor.

Analog Outputs
An analog output is a measurable electrical signal with a defined range that is generated by a
controller and sent to a controlled device, such as a variable speed drive or actuator. Changes in
the analog output cause changes in the controlled device that result in changes in the controlled

Controller output digital to analog circuitry is typically limited to a single range of voltage or
current, such that output transducers are required to provide an output signal that is compatible
with controlled devices using something other than the controller's standard signal.

Common Types
There are four common types of analog outputs; voltage, current, resistance and pneumatic.

Common output voltage ranges are 0-5 VDC, 0-10 VDC, 0-15 VDC, 1-5 VDC, 2-10 VDC and 3-
15 VDC.

Common output current ranges are 4-20 mA, 0-20 mA.

Common output resistance ranges are 0-135 , 0-270 , 0-500 ,
0-1000 , 0-1500 , 0-2 k , 0-3 k, 0-4 k , 0-5 k , 0-10 k ,
0-20 k , 0-30 k , 0-40 k .

Common output pneumatic ranges are 0-20 psi and 0-15 psi

Special I/Os
Inputs and outputs can also be used in special configurations. Common special applications are
accumulating points, pulse width modulated (PWM) signals, multiplexed PWM signals and tri-
state or floating points.
Accumulating Points
Accumulating points are typically associated with inputs and are special in that during each scan
the controller adds the input point value to the accumulated value. Accumulating points may have
either analog or digital input.

One of the most common applications of accumulating points is with turbine-type flow meters,
which generate a pulse or change of input state with each rotation of the turbine rotor. The total
number of pulses is proportional to the volume of fluid passing through the meter. The number of
pulses per unit of time is proportional to the flow rate during that time interval. Accumulating
points are also used to determine energy quantities, such as kilowatt-hours from a power sensor
and MBtu from flow and temperature sensors.

Pulse Width Modulated (PWM)

Pulse width modulated signals are based on the amount of time a digital output circuit is closed
over a fixed time base. This amount of time can range from 0 to 100 percent of the time base,
providing an analog value for each time period that represents the time base of the signal.
Common time bases are 2.85 seconds, 5.2 seconds, 12.85 seconds and 25.6 seconds.

Multiplexed PWM
A single pulse width modulated digital output is sometimes used to transmit analog values to
multiple analog output devices. Many processes are possible. One scheme is to send an
"attention" pulse, which is a pulse of longer duration than the time base. This pulse causes all of
the analog devices to look for a selection signal to follow. A "select" pulse is then transmitted with
duration less than the time base. Each analog device that is multiplexed looks for a fixed unique
range of "select" pulse width. The device that receives the select pulse then looks for another
pulse whose width corresponds to its updated analog value. When the pulse is received, the
selected analog device updates its output to the new value and the process is repeated.

The time base of the PWM signal and the number of devices multiplexed on one signal limit the
updating of multiplexed output values. Multiplexed outputs may not be suitable for control
applications requiring rapid responses to system changes.

Tri-State or Floating Point

A Tri-State signal consists of two digital signals used together to provide three commands. This
type of signal is commonly used to operate a damper or valve actuator in a modulating fashion,
but may also be used with a transducer to generate an analog signal. If both digital outputs are
"off", the actuator does not move. Output 1 "on" will cause movement in one direction; output 2
"on" will cause movement in the other direction. The fourth possible signal (both outputs "on") is
not used in tri-state operation. The concept was initially developed to allow electric controls
consisting of single pole, double throw switches with a center-off position to control actuators in a
modulating fashion. Modulating operation is achieved by this action because the actuators being
controlled drive slowly so the change in position is proportional to the amount of time the output
remains energized
Chapter 5 Input Devices and Sensors
Digital Devices

In the world of HVAC control, there is basically one type of device used to complete a digital input
(DI) circuit. A switch, employed in various forms, is this device.

A switch is an electrical device used to enable or disable flow of electrical current in an electrical
circuit. Switches may be actuated in a variety of ways, including movement of two conducting
materials into direct contact (mechanical), or changing the properties of a semi-conducting
material by the application of voltage (electronic).

Switches are typically rated in terms of voltage, voltage type (AC or DC), current carrying
capacity, current interrupting capacity, configuration, and load characteristic (inductive or
resistive). Also specified are applicable ranges of ambient conditions over which the ratings are
valid. Current carrying capacity (or current rating) is the maximum current that may continuously
flow through the closed switch contacts without exceeding the maximum permissible temperature.

Process medium property sensing switches are also rated by parameters such as adjustment
range, accuracy or repeatability, and deadband or differential. The range of a control switch is
specified by upper and lower process values between which the switch has been designed to
operate. The accuracy or repeatability of a control switch is a value typically measured in process
units or percent of range that represents the expected maximum deviation from setpoint at which
the switch will operate under test conditions. The switch differential or deadband is the change in
process value required to cause the state of the switch to change. For example, a pressure
switch that makes at 10 psig and breaks at 8 psig has a 2 psig differential.

Switch contacts are characterized in much the same way as relay contacts.
Figure 2.1 describes the most common contact configurations using industry standard
terminology and symbols. Many other configurations are available.
Analog Devices

Types of Switches
The following sections outlines common switching devices currently used by the industry.

Hand Switches
Hand switches are used as digital input devices and in hardwired electrical control circuits
associated with digital outputs. Hand switches come in numerous sizes, shapes, and
configurations. Common switch types include rotary, selector type switches, toggle switches, and
pushbuttons. Selector and toggle switches are almost always maintained contact type.
Pushbuttons may be momentary or maintained contact type. Selector switches can have key
operators to prevent tampering.

Figure 2.2- Pushbuttons and Selector Switches (courtesy IDEC)

Limit Switches
Limit switches convert mechanical motion or proximity into a switching action. Limit switches are
most commonly used in DDC control systems for HVAC to provide position status feedback to the
controller for valve and damper positions. A wide variety of configurations are available. Common
types include industrial limit switches, mercury, and proximity switches.

Figure 2.3-Industrial Limit Switches

Figure 2.4-Mercury Limit Switches

Figure 2.5-Proximity Switches

Temperature Switches
Temperature switches (also called thermostats, aquastats or freezestats depending on
application) are commonly used in DDC control systems to provide a digital input when a process
medium temperature rises or falls to a set temperature. Switches with a number of different
operating principles are manufactured. Some of the common types include bimetallic, fluid
thermal expansion, freezestat and electronic.

Bimetallic temperature switches use a bonded "bimetal" strip consisting of two dissimilar metals
with different thermal coefficients of expansion. When the temperature changes, the metals
expand or contract at different rates causing the strip to bend. Various configurations such as
coiled elements are used to increase the thermal movement to cause two contacts to come
together or separate. Some configurations use the bimetallic principle to change the orientation of
a bulb containing liquid mercury so that the mercury flows into contact with two electrodes,
completing the circuit.

Fluid thermal expansion temperature switches use the principle of thermal expansion of a fluid to
cause displacement of a bellows, diaphragm, bourdon tube, or piston to open or close a set of
contacts. Fluid system based temperature switches can be connected to a remote fluid containing
bulb by a capillary tube, allowing the switch element to be remote from the sensing bulb.

Figure 2.6- Remote Bulb Thermostat

The freezestat is commonly used to prevent water or steam coils in air handling units from
freezing. Freezestats use a fluid that is a saturated vapor at the switch set point temperature. This
fluid is confined within a long capillary tube. The tube is installed in a serpentine fashion over the
area of the air stream to being monitored. If any point along the tube falls below the saturation
temperature, the vapor begins to condense causing a rapid change in pressure in the system and
actuating the switch mechanism.

Electronic temperature switches use the same sensing technologies used for analog temperature
sensing to electronically operate a set of output contacts. Refer to the Temperature Measurement
portion of the Analog Input Device Section for more details of sensing technology.
Figure 2.7-Freezestat

Humidity Switches
Humidity switches, or humidistats, are used in DDC control systems to provide a digital input
when a process or space humidity level rises or falls to a set level. Common applications are high
limit safety interlocks for humidifiers, space or process humidity alarms, and simple on-off
humidity control.

Mechanical humidistats use a hygroscopic material such as animal hair, nylon or other plastic
material that changes dimension with changes in relative humidity. The dimensional change is
amplified via a mechanical link to causing a switch to operate.

Mechanical humidistats are rapidly being replaced by electronic humidistats that use thin film
capacitance or bulk polymer resistance analog humidity sensing technologies combined with
electronic switching circuitry to produce a switching action at an adjustable set point. These
sensing technologies are described in the Humidity Measurement portion of the Analog Input
Device Section.

Flow Switches
Flow switches are used to provide a digital input to DDC controls systems when a fluid flow rate
has risen above or fallen below the set value. Common applications include safety air and water
flow interlocks for electric heaters and humidifiers, chiller safety interlocks, and burner safety
interlocks. Numerous technologies are available, but the most common types used in DDC
systems for HVAC control are mechanical and differential pressure types.

Mechanical flow switches operate on the principle that the kinetic energy of a flowing fluid creates
a force on an object suspended in the flow stream. The magnitude of the force varies with (the
square of) the velocity of the fluid. Various configurations are used to transfer this force into
operation of a switch. Common configurations include paddles or sails, pistons or discs.

Differential pressure type flow switches (Figure 2.8) operate on the principle that a difference in
pressure is always associated with fluid flow, or the principle that the total pressure of a flowing
fluid is always greater than the static pressure. These differences in pressure can be accurately
predicted for a given situation and related to the fluid flow rate. For more information see the Flow
Measurement portion of the Analog Input Section.
Level Switches
Level switches are used in DDC control systems (for HVAC) to provide a digital input when the
fluid level in a tank, vessel or sump has reached a predetermined height. Common applications
include cooling tower sump level control and monitoring, steam condensate tank level, storm
water and sewage sump level monitoring and control and thermal storage tank level monitoring.
Numerous mechanical and analog technologies are currently available. Some analog
technologies include capacitance, ultrasonic, and magnetostrictive-based devices in combination
with solid-state electronics to provide a switching action based on level. More commonly used
technologies include devices that employ the use of a float (integral, rod and float, submersible),
conductivity probe, or differential pressure mechanism.

Integral float type level switches typically combine an metal or plastic float attached to the arm of
a submersible rotary switch mechanism, or a float that encloses a magnet which slides on a
hollow rod enclosing one or more reed switches.

Submersible float switches utilize an encapsulated integral float type switch or mercury switch
suspended on a fluid tight cord in the vessel being monitored. When the level is below the cord
attachment, the float hangs down and the switch is in its normally open or closed position. When
the fluid level rises, the float rises above the cord attachment point, changing the float orientation.
When the float has position has inverted sufficiently, the internal switch changes position.

Conductivity probe-type level switches work for conductive liquids only and use the liquid itself to
conduct low level electrical signals between two or more electrodes to operate higher level
electronic switching devices such as transistors or triacs.

Pressure Switches
Pressure switches are used in DDC systems to provide status indication for fans, filters and
pumps, and to provide flow and level status indication by virtue of the predicable relationships
between pressure and these values. Pressure switches may be mechanical or electronic.

Mechanical pressure switches use a piston, bellows, bourdon tube or diaphragm and a magnetic
or mechanical linkage to convert the forces resulting from the measured pressure into repeatable
motions used to operate one or more switches (Figure 2.3). Low pressure switches commonly
used to measure air pressures in the range of 0.05 inches water column to 1 psig typically use a
flexible diaphragm. Piston, bourdon tube and bellow type switches are available for higher
pressures ranging from 1 to over 100 psig.

Vibration Switches
Vibration switches are used to provide a signal when vibration levels in rotating machinery such
as fans, reach unsafe levels. Vibration switches are commonly applied on large cooling tower and
air handling unit fans.

Moisture Switches
Moisture detecting switches are commonly used to detect moisture under raised floors, in piping
and tank containment areas and in the drain pans of air handling units to alert system operators
before damage or flooding occurs. Most moisture detecting switches are instruments of the float
type or conductivity type. Float types are adapted to actuate at very low levels. Conductivity types
may consist of point sensitive probes located very close to the bottom of a low point or sump
where water will collect, or they may be ribbons or strips with wires separated by a non-
conductive material, such that when any portion of the ribbon is exposed to liquid moisture, the
electrical circuit is completed and the switch mechanism activates.

Current Switches
Current sensing relays are used in DDC systems to monitor the status of electrical devices. The
devices typically have one or more adjustable current set points. Common applications include
fan and pump on/off status feedback. Current switches can detect broken fan belts if properly
adjusted. Current relays can also be used for phase monitoring

Analog Devices
There are numerous analog devices utilized in the HVAC controls world. The main categories of
devices include (but are not limited to) the measurement of temperature, humidity, dew point,
pressure, flow (liquid, air), liquid level, light level, electrical attributes (voltage, current, phasing,
power), energy, occupancy, position, and gas concentration.

Temperature Measurements
Humidity Measurements
Dew Point Measurements
Pressure Measurements
Flow Measurements
Liquid Level Measurements
Light Level Measurements
Electrical Measurements
Energy Measurement
Occupancy Measurement
Position Measurement
Gas Concentration Measurement

Temperature Measurements
One of the most common properties measured in the HVAC control world is temperature. Human
comfort, computer room requirements, and a host of other considerations make temperature
measurement necessary to HVAC control strategies.

Types of Temperature Measurement Devices

Several temperature measurement technologies exist for use with DDC control systems. The
most common utilize resistance temperature detectors (RTDs) and thermistor based devices.

Resistance Temperature Detectors- RTD

Resistance Temperature Detectors (RTD's) operate on the principle that the electrical resistance
of a metal changes predictably and in an essentially linear and repeatable manner with changes
in temperature. The resistance of the element at a base temperature is proportional to the length
of the element and the inverse of the cross sectional area. RTD's are commonly used in sensing
air and liquid temperatures in pipes and ducts, and as room temperature sensors. DDC systems
may accept RTD inputs directly, or a transmitter with voltage or current output may be used.

RTDs are typically characterized by their resistance in Ohms () at 0 C and by their temperature
coefficient of resistance (commonly know as "alpha"). Alpha is expressed in terms of /( C) and is
the slope of the line representing the resistance of the element between 0 C and 100 C. The
resistance of a RTD can be expressed mathematically by the following equation (source i):

R(T) = R0 [1 + A(T - T0)]


R(T) = the resistance at temperature T

R0 = the resistance at reference temperature T0
A = temperature coefficient of resistance (alpha)
T0 = a reference temperature (usually 0 C)

RTDs with R0 resistance from 10 to 2000 are readily available. Currently, the most commonly
used RTDs in HVAC applications are sensors with an R0 resistance of 100 , 500 or 1000.

The accuracy of a RTD sensor is typically expressed in percent of nominal resistance at 0 C

(R0). RTDs are relatively accurate when compared to other sensing devices and have good
stability characteristics. RTDs with accuracies of 0.2% to 0.01% are commonly available.

RTDs are constructed in thin film, thick film, totally supported and "bird-cage" configurations.
They can be made from many materials, some of which include platinum, tungsten, silver,
copper, nickel, nickel alloys and iron. Currently, the most common RTDs (used in the HVAC field)
are constructed in film type configurations with platinum, nickel or nickel iron.

Since the resistance of the sensor is the property being measured, the resistance of all elements
of the circuit, including the sensor leads, affects the measurement. With RTD's and particularly
those with lower base resistance values, the resistance of long leads can amount to several
percent or more of the sensor circuit. This can result in significant error. One option for correcting
this problem is to locate a transmitter at the sensor. The other way is to compensate for the lead
resistance by the method of wiring.

Three different wiring methods are used, involving two, three and four wires. These are applied
based on accuracy requirements for the application. The circuit diagrams in Figure 2.9 show the
various methods. Two and three wire configurations commonly use a Wheatstone bridge circuit to
create an output voltage that is proportional to the RTD resistance. The two-wire method provides
the lowest accuracy, but is adequate for non-critical measurements. The three-wire method
provides better accuracy because the lead resistances L1 and L3 cancel when the leads are of
identical length. The effect of L2 is small as long as the bridge is balanced or a high impedance
voltage measuring technique is used. The four-wire circuit is the most accurate, and uses a
constant current source to cancel the effect of unequal length leads. A high-impedance voltage
measurement circuit is used so that the current flow in the measurement leads is negligible.
Thermistors are commonly used for sensing air and liquid temperatures in pipes and ducts, and
as room temperature sensors. The term "thermistor" evolved from the phrase thermally sensitive
resistor. Thermistors are temperature sensitive semiconductors that exhibit a large change in
resistance over a relatively small range of temperature. There are two main types of thermistors,
positive temperature coefficient (PTC) and negative temperature coefficient (NTC). NTC
thermistors are commonly used for temperature measurement.

Unlike RTD's, the temperature-resistance characteristic of a thermistor is non-linear, and cannot

be characterized by a single coefficient. Manufacturers commonly provide resistance-temperature
data in curves, tables or polynomial expressions. Linearizing the resistance-temperature
correlation may be accomplished with analog circuitry, or by the application of mathematics using
digital computation.

The following is a mathematical expression for thermistor resistance (source ii):

R(T) = R0 exp[b (1/T - 1/T0)]

R(T) = the resistance at temperature T, in K
R0 = the resistance at reference temperature T0, in K
b = a constant that varies with thermistor composition
T = a temperature, in K
T0 = a reference temperature (usually 298.15 K)

Because the lead resistance of most thermistors is very small in comparison to sensor resistance,
three and four wire configurations have not evolved. Otherwise, sensing circuits are very similar
to RTD's, using the Wheatstone bridge (Figure 2.10).

Other Temperature Input Devices

Other temperature measurement technologies are available for use in DDC control systems.
Solid-state sensors are available for space, duct and pipe applications. These sensors provide a
milli-volt level voltage signal used in a two-wire configuration, or a micro-amp level current signal
used in a three-wire configuration.

Thermocouples are available for space, pipe and duct application. Thermocouples operate on the
principle that when two dissimilar metals are joined at both ends and one of the ends is at a
different temperature, a voltage that is proportional to the temperature of the junction is produced.
This principle requires that the leads be made of the same metals in order to achieve reasonable
measurement accuracy. The signal level from a thermocouple is in the milli-volt range such that
transmitters are often used to overcome the effect of the leads. Although in widespread laboratory
and industrial use, thermocouples are not widely use in commercial HVAC control applications.
The American National Standards Institute has standardized thermocouple types. Common types
are listed in Table 2.1.
Infrared Temperature Sensors that sense the wavelength of radiation emitted from the surface of
an object without being in physical contact with the object are available with voltage or current
outputs that are compatible with DDC systems.

Table 2.2 is a comparison of the most common temperature measurement technologies
applicable to DDC control systems for HVAC. The comparisons made are general in nature and
not intended to be all inclusive for each sensor type.
RTD's, thermocouples, thermistors, and solid-state temperature sensors are all small devices
with similar mounting techniques used for all of the types. Sensors for pipe and duct mounting are
commonly sheathed in a stainless steel sheath of 1/8 to 1/4" diameter (larger and smaller
diameters are available). Wiring may be exposed or contained in various types of enclosures.
Sensors for liquid piping systems may be mounted with direct immersion into the fluid or installed
in a tubular sheath called a thermowell or well to allow removal without draining the piping system
and to reduce the likelihood of leaks. Sensors installed in wells should be installed with a heat
transfer compound filling the space between the sensor and the well to insure good thermal
contact between the measured fluid and the sensor.

In measuring the temperature of air in large ducts, it is often desirable to use an averaging
element because the air temperature can vary significantly over the cross section of the duct.
RTD and thermistor sensors have been developed that accomplish this using multiple sensors
installed in a single flexible tubular element. The element is typically arranged in a serpentine
fashion so as to obtain representative measurements over the entire cross sectional area of the
duct. Very large ducts or air handling unit casings often require multiple sensors that are
customarily wired in parallel-series arrangements. Averaging elements are commonly applied
downstream of mixing dampers, and following large or multiple heating or cooling coils.

Sensors for outdoor air applications should be located in normally shaded areas to prevent the
heating effects of solar radiation. These sensors are usually provided with a shield or hood to
reduce the effects if exposed to direct sunlight and prevent direct contact with precipitation.
In adverse or outdoor environments, it is sometimes desirable to enclose sensors in aspirated
cabinets to prolong their life and reduce maintenance. Aspirated cabinets typically include a
filtered air intake and an exhaust fan to provide positive airflow through the enclosure. Flush
mount wall sensors, wire guards or locking guards are also used to protect sensors in areas
subject to vandalism.

Humidity Measurements
Humidity is the presence of water vapor in air. The amount of water vapor present in air can affect
human comfort and numerous material properties. It is a parameter that HVAC designs often
must take into account and therefore can be a required measurement in HVAC control schemes.
The amount of water vapor in air can be defined by one of several ratios, which include relative
humidity, humidity ratio, specific humidity, and absolute humidity. By far the most common
measurement of humidity in the HVAC industry is relative humidity (RH).

Relative humidity is the ratio of partial water vapor pressure in an air-water mixture, to the
saturation vapor pressure of water at the same temperature. This is analogous to the ratio of the
number of water molecules per unit volume of the mixture to the number of water molecules that
would exist in a saturated mixture at the same temperature.

Types of Relative Humidity Sensors

Relative Humidity sensors are used in DDC control systems for HVAC to measure relative
humidity in conditioned spaces and ducts. Commonly applied sensor types include thin-film
capacitance, bulk polymer resistance, and integrated circuit type. The integrated circuit type
combines a sensor (commonly of the capacitance type) and some of the signal conditioning
circuitry to form a solid-state device. Relative humidity can also be measured along with dew
point and other humidity measurements by chilled mirror hygrometers. See the Chilled Mirror
Hygrometers section in the section on Dew Point Measurement.

Thin Film Capacitance

Thin film capacitance sensors operate on the principle that changes in relative humidity cause the
capacitance of a sensor (made by laminating a substrate, electrodes, and a thin film of
hygroscopic polymer material) to change in a detectable and repeatable fashion. Because of the
nature of the measurement, capacitance humidity sensors are combined with a transmitter to
produce a higher-level voltage or current signal. Key considerations in selection of transmitter
sensor combinations include range, temperature limits, end-to-end accuracy, resolution, long-
term stability, and interchangeability.

Capacitance type relative humidity sensor/transmitters are capable of measurement from 0-100
% relative humidity with application temperatures from -40 to 200 F. These systems are
manufactured to various tolerances, with the most common being accurate to 1%, 2%, and
3%. Capacitance sensors are affected by temperature such that accuracy decreases as
temperature deviates from the calibration temperature. Sensors are available that are inter-
changeable within plus or minus 3% without calibration. Sensors with long term stability of <1%
per year are available.

Bulk Polymer Resistance

Bulk Polymer Resistance sensors use the principle that resistance change across a polymer
element varies with relative humidity and is measurable and repeatable. As with capacitance
humidity sensors, polymer resistance sensors are combined with transmitters to produce a
higher-level voltage or current signal.

Bulk polymer resistance humidity sensor/transmitters are commonly capable of measurement

from 0-100 % relative humidity with application temperatures from -20 to 140 F. These systems
are manufactured to various tolerances, with the most common being accurate to 2%, 3%, and
5%. Some manufacturers rate their published accuracy to the 20 - 95 % RH ranges. Resistance
sensors are affected by temperature such that accuracy decreases as temperature deviates from
the calibration temperature. Bulk polymer resistance humidity sensors are not commonly
interchangeable. Sensors with long term stability of <1% drift per year are available.

Sensors are commonly enclosed in at least a louvered plastic or metal enclosure. Sensors for
rugged use are usually enclosed by a filtering element such as a plastic or stainless steel screen,
or a sintered metal cup or tube. Mounting methods are similar for all the technologies in common

Dew Point Measurements

Dew point is the temperature to which air must be cooled under constant pressure to cause
condensation to occur. It can be an important parameter to consider in some HVAC applications
were possible condensation is undesirable and therefore must be measured and controlled.

Methods for Measuring Dew Point

Dew point measurements for use in HVAC control systems are typically made by one of two
methods. One method is by measuring temperature and relative humidity correctly and
calculating the dew point using empirical mathematical formulas. The second is by direct
measurement using a chilled mirror type sensor.

Calculation from Temperature and Relative Humidity

It is common practice when measuring relative humidity to combine a temperature sensor and
transmitter into the same device as the humidity sensor. Using a microprocessor, it is then
possible to calculate and transmit dew point. Accuracy is limited by the combined accuracy of the
sensors and the electronics. Typical accuracy is 1.8 F. Typical repeatability is 0.7 F.
Commonly, these devices can be configured to output calculated humidity ratio, wet bulb
temperature, and absolute humidity as well as dew point.

Chilled Mirror Hygrometers

Chilled mirror sensing technology has been in use since the 1950's for determination of dew point
temperature. Modern chilled mirror hygrometers use a thermoelectric heat pump (also called a
Peltier device) to move heat away from a mirror. A light beam from an LED is directed to the
mirror and back to a photocell. When condensation (above 0 C) or frost (below 0 C) forms on
the mirrors surface, the light reaching the mirror is scattered and the intensity detected by the
photocell is reduced. The mirror is maintained at the dew point temperature by controlling the
output of the thermoelectric heat pump. A high accuracy, platinum resistance thermometer (RTD)
senses the temperature of the mirrors surface and therefore reports the dew point temperature.
Chilled mirror hygrometers require a vacuum pump to draw the sample through the sensor, and
additional filtration elements in dirty environments.

Chilled mirror hygrometers are subject to inaccuracies resulting from soluble and insoluble
contaminants depositing on the mirror. Insoluble contaminants affect the optical characteristics of
the mirror. Soluble contaminants affect the vapor pressure of the condensed moisture on the
mirror. Most sensors have insoluble contaminant compensation cycles that heat the mirror (to dry
it) and then reset the optical parameters of the light sensor to the current mirror optical
parameters. Unless the soluble contaminants are volatile, the insoluble contaminant
compensation does not remove the soluble contaminants. Virtually all chilled mirror sensors
require periodic inspection and cleaning.
Many chilled mirror hygrometers have microprocessor control and when combined with a dry bulb
temperature sensor can calculate and output any humidity parameters desired in addition to or
instead of dew point. Chilled mirror hygrometers are available for sensing dew/frost point
temperatures from -100 to 185 F. Accuracy of better than 0.5 F is available

Pressure Measurements
Pressure is measured in DDC controls systems for HVAC in order to control the operation and
monitor the status of fans and pumps. Space pressure is sometimes measured and used for
control. Pressure is also the basis of many flow and level measurements.

Types of Pressure Sensors

Diverse electrical principles are applied to pressure measurement. Those commonly used with
DDC control systems include capacitance and variable resistance (piezoelectric and strain gage).

Capacitance pressure sensors typically use a capacitance cell (Figure 2.11) consisting of a
diaphragm exposed to the pressure medium separated from another plate by a fill fluid. When the
applied pressure deflects the diaphragm, the capacitance characteristic of the sensing element
changes. The capacitance cell is excited by a high frequency source. The frequency changes as
the capacitance of the cell changes. This frequency shift is converted to the output signal by the
transmitter electronics. Capacitance transmitters are available configured for either differential or
gauge pressure measurement. Usual outputs are voltage or current.

Capacitance transmitters are available with ranges from a few inches water column (in. w.c.) to
thousands of pounds per square inch (psi). Transmitter accuracy of 1% of full scale is common
for inexpensive versions. Accuracy to 0.1% of full scale is available with 'smart' transmitters using
microprocessor signal conditioning and compensation. Smart transmitters can be calibrated using
hand-held operator interface devices, or by digital communication over analog signal wiring using
any of several protocols. Varying grades of transmitter packaging (molded plastic to forged
stainless steel) are available depending on the application and price.

Variable Resistance
Variable resistance technology includes both strain gage and piezo-resistive or piezoelectric

Traditional strain gages are constructed of wire filament bonded to a substrate. The resistance of
the wire changes in proportion to the strain in the substrate, which is transmitted to the wire
through the bond. Strain gauges are applied to diaphragms or other mechanical pressure
elements and change resistance in response to strains induced in the element by the applied
pressure. When arranged to form a Wheatstone bridge circuit, an analog voltage signal is
produced that is proportional to applied pressure.

Piezo-resistive sensors operate on the principle that certain semiconductor materials, such as
silicon, change resistance with stress or strain. These piezo-resistive elements are implanted on
a solid-state chip that is attached to a mechanical sensing element or used as the sensing
element. When the piezo-resistive elements are arranged to form a bridge circuit (as with the wire
filament strain gage sensor), an analog voltage signal is produced that is proportional to the
applied pressure.

Piezo-resistive type sensors have a sensitivity of approximately 100 times greater than a wire
strain gage. Also, other strain gages must usually be bonded to a dissimilar force sensing
material with different composition and thermal characteristics. The wire strain gage sensor is
subject to degradation from failure of the bond to the force sensing element, thermal effects and
plastic deformation of the force-sensing element. In contrast, the silicon based piezo resistors
may be integral with a silicon wafer that serves as the force-sensing element. This eliminates
many of the inherent problems with thermal effects and bonding. Silicon has very good elasticity
throughout the typical operational range and normally fails only by rupturing.

Strain gage and piezo-resistive transmitters are available with ranges of a few inches water
column (in. w.c.) to thousands of pounds per square inch (psi). Transmitter accuracy of 1% of full
scale is common for inexpensive versions. Accuracy better than 0.1% of full scale is available
with 'smart' transmitters using microprocessor signal conditioning and compensation. Smart
transmitters can be calibrated using hand-held operator interface devices, or by digital
communication over analog signal wiring using any of several protocols. Available transmitter
packaging ranges from molded plastic to forged stainless steel depending on the application and

Process connections for pressure instruments are typically made using piping or tubing. The
majority of applications in the HVAC DDC field fall into two categories, the first being ductwork
and plenums, and the second being piping.

Ductwork and Plenums

Special sensing tips are often used when connecting pressure instruments to ductwork for
measurement of static, velocity, or total pressures. This is necessary because improper
orientation of an open-ended tube type probe can result in unreliable readings due to the
directional nature of the pressures being measured (with the exception of very low velocity flow).
Numerous types of pressure probes have been developed for these applications. Many of these
probes are adaptations of the Pitot tube used in pressure and flow measurement and discussed
in detail in the Differential Pressure Measurement Systems section of this document
The major considerations for the installation of a pressure element in a fluid system should
include provisions for the following:

sensor location (pipe mounted, tank mounted, remote);

isolation of the sensing element from undesirable and potentially
damaging transient pressures, such as those resulting from water hammer and
temporary isolation from the pressure source for maintenance and release of trapped
pressure when removing the sensor for maintenance or for setting zero during calibration;
over-range protection for differential pressure instruments;
protection from process temperature outside of the range of the sensor application;
venting trapped, non-condensable gases in liquid sensing piping;
draining trapped liquids from gas.

Pressure snubbers or dampeners are used to reduce the magnitude of pressure transients.
These can be a sintered metal element with small openings, a small orifice fitting, a high-pressure
drop valve (such as a needle valve), or a pressurized gas filled container mounted on the sensing

A variety of valving schemes to provide isolation, venting, drain, and pressure relief for pressure
instruments are shown in the Figures 2.12-2.14. One valve (not shown) or two-valve manifolds
are commonly applied to gauge and absolute pressure instruments. Three- and five- valve
manifolds are used with differential pressure instruments. The equalizing valve in the three- and
five- valve manifold insures a proper zero for the transmitter. It also allows the pressure to be
equalized to prevent exposing low differential transmitters to potentially damaging gauge
pressures during installation and removal.
Flow Measurements
Flow measuring devices are widely used in DDC control systems for HVAC to monitor and control
various air and liquid flows. Typically, airflow-measuring devices are used to monitor and control
the output of fans, dampers, and associated equipment used to control outside airflow, VAV box
airflow, and building and space pressures. Liquid flow is commonly measured to maintain
required flows in boilers, chillers and heat exchangers, and to control and monitor energy
production and use (requires temperature measurement also).

Numerous reliable technologies are available for use with DDC systems. Some technologies
have been applied to both air and liquid flow measurements as their principles of operation hold
true in either application. Other technologies lend themselves to being airflow or liquid flow
Methods for Measuring Flow
Flow rate is typically obtained by measuring a velocity of a fluid in a duct or pipe and multiplying
the by the known cross sectional area (at the point of measurement) of that duct or pipe.
Common methods for measuring airflow include hot wire anemometers, differential pressure
measurement systems, and vortex shedding sensors. Common methods used to measure liquid
flow include differential pressure measurement systems, vortex shedding sensors, positive
displacement flow sensors, turbine based flow sensors, magnetic flow sensors, ultrasonic flow
sensors and target flow sensors.

Hot Wire Anemometers

'Hot Wire" or thermal anemometers operate on the principle that the amount of heat removed
from a heated temperature sensor by a flowing fluid can be related to the velocity of that fluid.
Most sensors of this type are constructed with a second, unheated temperature sensor to
compensate the instrument for variations in the temperature of the air. Hot wire sensors are
available as single point instruments for test purposes, or in multi-point arrays for fixed
installation. Hot wire type sensors are better at low airflow measurements than differential
pressure types, and are commonly applied to air velocities from 50 to 12,000 feet per minute.

Differential Pressure Measurement Systems

Differential pressure measurement technologies can be applied to both airflow and liquid flow
measurements. Sensor manufacturers offer a wide variety of application specific sensors used for
airflow and pressure measurements, as well as wet-to-wet differential pressure sensors used for
liquid measurements. Both lines offer a wide variety of ranges.

For airflow measurements, differential pressure flow devices in common use in HVAC systems
include Pitot tubes (Figure 2.15) and various types of proprietary velocity pressure sensing tubes,
grids, and other arrays. All of these sensing elements are combined with a low differential
pressure transmitter to produce a signal that is proportional to the square root of the fluid velocity.
For example, when using a Pitot-static tube, this signal can be related to the flow according to the
following equations (source iii):


Velocity = Velocity (ft/min)

VP = velocity pressure (in w.c.)
p = density of air (lbm/ft2)
gc = gravitational constant (32.174 lbm ft/lbfs2)
C = unit conversion factor (136.8)
Figure 2.16 depicts an example of a velocity pressure measurement with a U tube manometer
and Figure 2.17 depicts an example of the relationship between velocity pressure (VP), static
pressure, and total pressure.
As a permanently mounted sensor, the Pitot tube is limited to small ducts and applications with
low accuracy requirements due to the need to sense the velocity at more than one point to
achieve reliable measurements in larger ducts. The need to sense multiple points in the cross
section of a duct gave rise to averaging type sensors with arrays of pressure sensing points. This
type is most commonly used in HVAC applications.

Some differential pressure based flow stations include transmitters that have the capability to
electronically extract the square root of the measured pressure and provide an analog signal that
is linear with respect to velocity, whereas others provide an analog signal that is proportional to
measured pressure and depend upon the DDC system to calculate the square root and therefore,
resulting (averaged) velocity. Once the velocity is obtained, flow can be calculated by multiplying
by the cross sectional area of the duct. Velocity range is limited by the range and resolution of the
pressure transmitter used. Most differential pressure type stations are limited to a minimum
velocity in the range of 400 to 600 feet per minute. Maximum velocity is only limited by the
durability of the sensor.

For water flow measurements, differential pressure flow devices in common use in HVAC
systems operate either by measuring velocity pressure (insertion tube type), or by measuring the
drop in pressure across a restriction of known characteristic (orifice, flow nozzle, Venturi).

Insertion tube type flow sensors are usually constructed of a round or proprietary shape tube with
multiple openings across the width of the flow stream to provide an average of the velocity
differential across the tube and an internal baffle between upstream and downstream openings to
obtain a differential pressure. Insertion tube type meters have a low permanent pressure loss,
and with proper installation and associated pressure instruments are satisfactory for many
common applications. Insertion tube flow sensors are available that can be installed and removed
through a full port valve so that installation and service are possible without draining the section
of piping in which they are installed.

A concentric orifice plate is the simplest and least expensive of the differential pressure type
meters. The orifice plate constricts the flow of a fluid to produce a differential pressure across the
plate (see Figure 2.18). The result is a high pressure upstream and a low pressure downstream
that is proportional to the square of the flow velocity. An orifice plate usually produces a greater
overall pressure loss than other flow elements. An advantage of this device is that cost does not
increase significantly with pipe size.
Venturi tubes exhibit a very low pressure loss compared to other differential pressure meters, but
they are also the largest and most costly. They operate by gradually narrowing the diameter of
the pipe, and measuring the resultant drop in pressure (see Figure 2.19). An expanding section of
the meter then returns the flow to very near its original pressure. As with the orifice plate, the
differential pressure measurement is converted into a corresponding flow rate. Venturi tube
applications are generally restricted to those requiring a low pressure drop and a high accuracy
reading. They are widely used in large diameter pipes.

Flow nozzles may be thought of as a variation on the Venturi tube. The nozzle opening is an
elliptical restriction in the flow but with no outlet area for pressure recovery (Figure 2.20).
Pressure taps are located approximately 1/2 pipe diameter downstream and 1 pipe diameter
upstream. The flow nozzle is a high velocity flow meter used where turbulence is high (Reynolds
numbers above 50,000) such as in steam flow at high temperatures. The pressure drop of a flow
nozzle falls between that of the Venturi tube and the orifice plate (30 to 95 percent).

The turndown (ratio of the full range of the instrument to the minimum measurable flow) of
differential pressure devices is generally limited to 4:1. With the use of a low range transmitter in
addition to a high range transmitter or a high turndown transmitter and appropriate signal
processing, this can sometimes be extended to as great as 16:1 or more. Permanent pressure
loss and associated energy cost is often a major concern in the selection of orifices, flow nozzles,
and venturis. In general, for a given installation, the permanent pressure loss will be highest with
an orifice type device, and lowest with a Venturi. Benefits of differential pressure instruments are
their relatively low cost, simplicity, and proven performance.

Vortex Shedding Sensors

Vortex shedding flow meters operate on the principle (Von Karman) that when a fluid flows
around an obstruction in the flow stream, vortices are shed from alternating sides of the
obstruction in a repeating and continuous fashion. The frequency at which the shedding
alternates is proportional to the velocity of the flowing fluid. Single sensors are applied to small
ducts, and arrays of vortex shedding sensors are applied to larger ducts, similar to the other types
of airflow measuring instruments. Vortex shedding airflow sensors are commonly applied to air
velocities in the range of 350 to 6000 feet per minute.

Vortex flow meters provide a highly accurate flow measurement when operated within the
appropriate range of flow. Vortex meters are commonly applied where high quality water, gas and
steam flow measurement is desired. Performance of up to 30:1 turndown on liquids and 20:1 on
gases and steam with 1-2 percent accuracy is available. Turndowns are based on liquid velocities
through the meter of up to 25 feet per second for liquids, 15,000 feet per minute for steam and
gases. Actual turndown may be less depending on design velocity limitations.

Positive Displacement Flow Sensors

Positive displacement meters are used where high accuracy at high turndown is required and
reasonable to high permanent pressure loss will not result in excessive energy consumption.
Applications include water metering such as for potable water service, cooling tower and boiler
make-up, and hydronic system make-up. Positive displacement meters are also used for fuel
metering for both liquid and gaseous fuels. Common types of positive displacement flow meters
include lobed and gear type meters, nutating disk meters, and oscillating piston type meters.
These meters are typically constructed of metals such as brass, bronze, cast and ductile iron, but
may be constructed of engineered plastic, depending on service.

Due to the close tolerance required between moving parts of positive displacement flow meters,
they are sometimes subject to mechanical problems resulting from debris or suspended solids in
the measured flow stream. Positive displacement meters are available with flow indicators and
totalizers that can be read manually. When used with DDC systems, the basic meter output is
usually a pulse that occurs at whatever time interval is required for a fixed volume of fluid to pass
through the meter. Pulses may be accepted directly by the DDC controller and converted to flow
rate, or total volume points, or a separate pulse to analog transducer may be used. Positive
displacement flow meters are one of the more costly meter types available.
Turbine Based Flow Sensors
Turbine and propeller type meters operate on the principle that fluid flowing through the turbine or
propeller will induce a rotational speed that can be related to the fluid velocity. Turbine and
propeller type flow meters are available in full bore, line mounted versions and insertion types
where only a portion of the flow being measured passes over the rotating element. Full bore
turbine and propeller meters generally offer medium to high accuracy and turndown capability at
reasonable permanent pressure loss. With electronic linearization, turndowns to 100:1 with 0.1%
linearity are available. Insertion types of turbine and propeller meters represent a compromise in
performance to reduce cost. Typical performance is 1 percent accuracy at 30:1 turndown. Turbine
flow meters are commonly used where good accuracy is required for critical flow control or
measurement for energy computations. Insertion types are used for less critical applications.
Insertion types are often easier to maintain and inspect because they can be removed for
inspection and repair without disturbing the main piping. Some types can be installed through hot
tapping equipment and do not require draining of the associated piping for removal and

Magnetic Flow Sensors

Magnetic flow meters operate based upon Faraday's Law of electromagnetic induction, which
states that a voltage will be induced in a conductor moving through a magnetic field.

Faraday's Law: E=kBDV

The magnitude of the induced voltage E is directly proportional to the velocity of the conductor V,
conductor width D, and the strength of the magnetic field B. As shown in Figure 2.21, magnetic
field coils are placed on opposite sides a pipe to generate a magnetic field. As the conductive
process liquid moves through the field with average velocity V, electrodes sense the induced
voltage. The distance between electrodes represents the width of the conductor. An insulating
liner prevents the signal from shorting to the pipe wall. The only variable in this application of
Faraday's law is the velocity of the conductive liquid V because field strength is controlled
constant and electrode spacing is fixed. Therefore, the output voltage E is directly proportional to
liquid velocity, resulting in the linear output of a magnetic flow meter.
Magnetic flow meters are used to measure the flow rate of conducting liquids (including water)
where a high quality low maintenance measurement system is desired. The cost of magnetic flow
meters is high relative to many other meter types. Typical performance is 30:1 turndown at 0.5%

Ultrasonic Flow Sensors

Ultrasonic flow sensors measure the velocity of sound waves propagating through a fluid between
to points on the length of a pipe. The velocity of the sound wave is dependant upon the velocity of
the fluid such that a sound wave traveling upstream from one point to the other is slower than the
velocity of the of the same wave in the fluid at rest. The downstream velocity of the sound wave
between the points is greater than that of the same wave in a fluid at rest. This is due to the
Doppler effect. The flow of the fluid can be measured as a function of the difference in time travel
between the upstream wave and the downstream wave.

Ultrasonic flow sensors are non-intrusive and are available at moderate cost. Many models are
designed to clamp on to existing pipe. Ultrasonic Doppler flow meters have accuracies of 1 to 5%
to the flow rate (source iv).

Target Flow Sensors

A target meter consists of a disc or a "target" which is centered in a pipe (see Figure 2.22). The
target surface is positioned at a right angle to the fluid flow. A direct measurement of the fluid flow
rate results from the force of the fluid acting against the target. Useful for dirty or corrosive fluids,
target meters require no external connections, seals, or purge systems.

Target flow meters are commonly used to for liquid flow measurement and less commonly
applied to steam and gas flow. Target Meters offer turndowns up to 20:1 with accuracy around

All airflow sensors work best in sections of ducts that have uniform, fully developed flow. All
airflow sensing devices should be installed in accordance with the manufacturers recommended
straight runs of upstream and downstream duct in order to provide reliable measurement. A
number of manufacturers offer flow straightening elements that can be installed upstream of the
sensing array to improve undesirable flow conditions. These should be considered when
conditions do not permit installation with the required straight runs of duct upstream and
downstream from the sensor.

As with airflow, all liquid flow sensors work best when fully developed, uniform flow is measured.
To attain fully developed, uniform flow sensors should be installed in accordance with the
manufacturers recommended straight runs of upstream and downstream pipe in order to provide
the most reliable measurements.

With most liquid flows measured for HVAC applications, density changes with pressure and
temperature are relatively small and most often ignored due to their insignificant effect on flow
measurements. When measuring the flow of steam or fuel gases, unless temperature and
pressure are constant, ignoring the effect density changes with varying temperature and pressure
will often result in significant or gross errors. For this reason, it is common to measure the
temperature and pressure, in addition to the flow, and electronically correct the result for the fluid
density. This correction may be done using an integral or remote microprocessor based "flow
computer" or it may be made in the DDC controller with suitable programming.

Liquid Level Measurements

Liquid level measurements are typically used in DDC control systems for HVAC applications to
monitor and control levels in thermal storage tanks, cooling tower sumps, water system tanks,
pressurized tanks, etc.

Types of Liquid Level Sensors

Numerous sensing technologies are available. Common technologies applicable to HVAC system
requirements are based on hydrostatic pressure, ultrasonic, capacitance and magnetostrictive-
based measurement systems.

Level measurement by hydrostatic pressure is based on the principle that the hydrostatic
pressure difference between the top and bottom of a column of liquid is related to the density of
the liquid and the height of the column. For open tanks and sumps, it is only necessary to
measure the gauge pressure at the lowest monitored level. For pressurized tanks it is necessary
to take the reference pressure above the highest monitored liquid level. Pressure transmitters are
available that are configured for level monitoring applications. Pressure instruments may also be
remotely located, however this makes it necessary to field calibrate the transmitter to compensate
for elevation difference between the sensor and the level being measured.

Bubbler type hydrostatic level instruments have been developed for use with atmospheric
pressure underground tanks, sewage sumps and tanks, and other applications that cannot have a
transmitter mounted below the level being sensed or are prone to plugging. Bubbler systems
bleed a small amount of compressed air (or other gas) through a tube that is immersed in the
liquid, with an outlet at or below the lowest monitored liquid level. The flow rate of the air is
regulated so that the pressure loss of the air in the tube is negligible and the resulting pressure at
any point in the tube is approximately equal to the hydrostatic head of the liquid in the tank.

The accuracy of hydrostatic level instruments is related to the accuracy of the pressure sensor

Ultrasonic level sensors emit sound waves and operate on the principle that liquid surfaces reflect
the sound waves back to the source and that the transit time is proportional to the distance
between the liquid surface and the transmitter. One advantage of the ultrasonic technology is that
it is non-contact and does not require immersion of any element into the sensed liquid. Sensors
are available that can detect levels up to 200 feet from the sensor. Accuracy from 1% to 0.25% of
distance and resolution of 1/8" is commonly available.

Capacitance level transmitters operate on the principle that a capacitive circuit can be formed
between a probe and a vessel wall. The capacitance of the circuit will change with a change in
fluid level because all common liquids have dielectric constant higher than that of air. This change
is then related proportionally to an analog signal suitable for DDC analog inputs. Resolution of
1/8" and accuracy of 1% to 0.25% of span are available.

Magnetostrictive level transmitters (Figure 2.23) operate on the principle that an external
magnetic field can be used to cause the reflection of an electromagnetic wave in a waveguide
constructed of magnetostrictive material. The probe is composed of three concentric members.
The outermost member is a protective, product-compatible outer pipe. Inside the outer pipe is a
waveguide, which is a formed element constructed of a proprietary magnetostrictive material. A
low-current interrogation pulse is generated in the transmitter electronics and transmitted down
the waveguide creating an electromagnetic field along the length of the waveguide. When this
magnetic field interacts with the permanent magnetic field of a magnet mounted inside the float, a
torsional strain pulse, or waveguide twist, results. This waveguide twist is detected as a return
pulse. The time between the initiation of the interrogation pulse and the detection of the return
pulse is used to determine the level measurement with a high degree of accuracy and reliability.
Accuracy and resolution of 1/16" or better are available from some manufacturers.
Electrical Measurements
Monitoring of electrical system attributes is performed by DDC control systems to protect system
components, determine power and energy consumption of various components, and implement
usage and demand control strategies to conserve energy. A variety of hardware and techniques
are applied to these measurements.

Types of Electrical Measurement Devices

There are many devices that measure electrical attributes on the market today. The two most
common electrical measuring devices used for DDC are current transducers and power
measuring devices.

Current Transducers
Current transducers are used in DDC control systems to monitor current flow to motors, heaters,
or electrical distribution systems. Their input may be used for demand limiting purposes, control,
or energy accounting. The sensing element of a current transducer is typically a current
transformer. It transforms the current being monitored into a higher voltage, lower current.
Additional circuitry reduces this voltage to the desired level. Current transducers may have line
and load terminals for the monitored current, or they may be arranged as a coil that the current
carrying conductor passes through. With this arrangement, the load conductor induces the
current in the transformer via the electromagnetic field surrounding the conductor. Current
transformers and transducers are available with solid or split cores. The split core device may be
installed without disconnecting the power conductor provided that there is sufficient slack in the
conductor and room in the enclosure. Accuracy of 0.5 % of full scale is readily available.

Power Monitoring Devices

Commonly monitored characteristics of a power system include:

Power Demand (typically measured in kW)

Power Consumption (typically measured kW per hour)
Voltage (typically measured in Volts)
Current (typically measured in Amps)
Frequency (typically measured in Hertz)
Power Factor
Reactive Power - (typically measured in kVAR)

Many panel level monitoring devices measure all or most of these characteristics and can
communicate to the DDC system through a gateway. These are typically used to monitor whole
building power systems. Other devices measure power and power consumption only and provide
both analog and pulse signals for input to the DDC system. These sensors are typically installed
at the terminal use point of power systems, such as variable speed drive controlled pump and fan
motors. Accuracy 0.2% of reading and 0.04% of full scale are available.

There are other methods of monitoring demand and consumption. One of the simplest methods is
to obtain a pulse signal output from the utility company's metering equipment. This can be input
directly to a controller with pulse input capability, or a pulse to analog signal transducer may be
used. The pulse represents a set number of kilowatt-hours. Average demand is calculated using
a rolling time average of the number of pulses over the stipulated time period. Average demand is
typically calculated for billing purposes over a 5, 15, or 30 minute period. Power consumption and
demand may also be calculated using current transformers to measure current flow and voltage
transducers to measure voltage on the selected load or system. The DDC controller calculates
the demand from these values, and integrates this value over time to determine power use.

Other Electrical Measurement Devices

Transducers are available to provide a standard voltage or current input to a controller based on
measured frequency, reactive power, or power factor. Available devices for load protection are
available that monitor three phase voltages and provide a relay signal to disconnect loads if the
power supply becomes unsuitable for continued operation due to conditions such as phase loss,
phase imbalance, low or high voltage, or phase reversal.

Load protection for motors may be incorporated into the motor starter through the use of a solid
state overload device. These devices provide the required time-current protection to protect the
motor from overload conditions, as well as power monitoring to protect the motor from
unsatisfactory power supply.

Energy Measurements
The measurement of energy is a very important aspect of the DDC system. Savings due to
operational procedures and equipment performance can be directly determined through this
measurement. A variety of devices and methods are currently available.

Types of Energy Measurement Devices

The three most common energy measurements used for DDC systems are airside, waterside and
electrical energy measurements. Airside energy measurements are typically calculated in the
DDC system using air temperature and flow rate measurements. Waterside energy can be
calculated in the DDC system or with energy measuring devices called BTU meters. Electrical
energy measurements can be calculated in the DDC system or with Power Monitoring Devices.

BTU Metering Devices

BTU meters are used to determine energy flows in hydronic systems within a facility for
accounting or control purposes. Determination of heat flow requires measuring the heat transfer
medium flow and the difference in temperature between the supply and return to the metered
load or producer.

With suitable software, this can be accomplished using the DDC system. This may also be
accomplished external to the DDC system using a microprocessor-based computer with flow and
temperature inputs, and analog output to the DDC system representing totalized energy
consumption in BTU or ton-hours, or energy flow in BTU per hour, tons, or similar units. Many
manufacturers of flow measurement devices offer this type of system.

Power Monitoring Devices

Power monitoring devices can be used to monitor electrical energy usage. They can either
directly measure the energy usage by providing pulses that represent kW per hour, or can
provide an analog signal that measures power which can be used in an energy calculation (over
time) in the DDC system. For more details please refer to the previous section on Power
Monitoring Devices.

Occupancy Measurement
Occupancy sensors are commonly used in building control systems to operate lighting and room
air conditioning equipment. Sensors turn lights and air conditioning equipment off (or to reduced
levels) when no occupants are detected. This is done to minimize energy consumption.
Occupancy sensors may be designed to detect motion or differences in background infrared
radiation and the radiation emitted from a human occupant. Many occupancy sensors used for
lighting also incorporate photocells or other light sensitive devices to reduce lighting when
ambient light is sufficient

Position Measurement
Position sensors and transmitters are used in HVAC system controls where the feedback of
position is necessary for precise control of system components, such as valves and dampers, or
where monitoring of position is necessary or desired. Position transmitters commonly operate
using a slidewire or rotary potentiometer to provide a variable resistance that changes with linear
or rotary position.

Gas Concentration Measurement

With the increased interest in indoor air quality and the need to monitor potentially dangerous
gases, gas concentration measurements have become increasing more prevalent in DDC system
design. Many devices are currently available for use in HVAC applications.

Types of Gas Concentration Measuring Devices

There are many types of gas measuring devices available for use with DDC systems. Currently,
the three most common gases measured in HVAC applications are carbon monoxide, carbon
dioxide, and refrigerant gases.

Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that is most commonly generated as the byproduct of the
incomplete combustion of carbon based fuels. Carbon monoxide is generated by all fuel burning
equipment, including internal combustion engines. Carbon Monoxide detectors are used to
operate ventilation equipment to prevent carbon monoxide levels from becoming unsafe. They
are also used to warn facility owners and occupants of unsafe levels in garages, loading docks,
tunnels, and other areas where vehicles are operated. Solid state sensing technology is most
commonly used. Single or multiple sensing point versions are available that can provide contact
closures at one or more set levels and/or analog signals that are proportional to carbon monoxide

Carbon Dioxide
Carbon dioxide is a non-toxic gas produced by the respiration of living organisms, by the
complete combustion of carbon, and by photosynthesis in green plants. Carbon dioxide exists in
the air in the amount of 320-350 parts per million. Carbon dioxide concentration inside of
buildings has been related to general ventilation adequacy and is commonly monitored by DDC
control systems as a measure of indoor air quality and ventilation adequacy. It is also measured
by DDC systems and used to control outdoor air fans and dampers to keep the concentration
below set levels.

The most commonly used sensing technology is Non-Dispersive Infra-Red (NDIR). This is based
on the principle that carbon dioxide gas absorbs infrared radiation at the 4.2 m wavelength.
Attenuation of an infrared source can be related to the gas concentration in air in the range of 0-
5000 parts per million with a general accuracy of plus or minus 150 ppm or 50 ppm over narrower

Refrigerant Gas
Refrigerant gas detectors have been in widespread use since safety codes for mechanical
refrigeration required their use in the operation of emergency ventilation systems to evacuate
hazardous concentrations of refrigerant gas in machinery rooms and other applicable enclosed

Detectors broadly sensitive to families of CFC and HCFC gases commonly used, as refrigerants
are available. Gas specific detectors are also available to detect individual refrigerant gases
including CFC, HFC, HCFC and ammonia specific to the equipment in use. The most commonly
used are infrared (IR), photo-acoustic, and solid state sensing technologies. Single or multiple
sensing point versions are available that can provide contact closures at one or more set levels
and/or analog signals that are proportional to refrigerant concentration.

Chapter 5
Output Devices

Digital Devices
Digital outputs (DO) are typically used to provide on/off control of valves, dampers, electric
motors, lighting and external signaling devices, such as alarm bells and indicator lights. Digital
outputs may also be used to control analog devices using tri-state or pulse width modulation
(PWM) previously described in Chapter 1. The most common devices associated with digital
outputs are relays, contactors, starters and two-position actuators.
Relays, Contactors and Starters
A relay is a device where power applied to a coil or input terminal causes the path between pairs
of separate, additional terminals to either allow electrical current flow, or stop current flow.
Contactors and starters are essentially relays designed for interrupting and applying power to
larger loads (i.e., integral horsepower motors) and significant resistance loads (i.e., lighting and

Types of Relays, Contactors and Starters

The most common types of relays are standard instantaneous control, latching, and timing.
Contactors and starters can be considered common types of heavier duty relays with and without
load protection.

Standard Instantaneous Control Relays

Standard instantaneous control relays are electromechanical or solid state. Electromechanical
control relays use a magnetic coil and armature to cause contacts to open or close when current
is applied to the coil. Solid state relays use semi-conducting devices (such as transistors or triacs)
that become electrically conductive between output terminals when a voltage is applied to the

Relays are typically used to switch AC and DC control signals with voltages from 0 to 600 volts
and typically have contact ratings of less than 20 amps. Control relays come in numerous sizes
and shapes. Relays used on printed circuit boards for pilot duty can be made very small, with the
largest dimension under 1/2 inch (12.5 mm). Modular, miniature and sub-miniature rail mounted
plug-in type relays are often used in shop or field-fabricated control panels because they are less
costly and easy to mount and replace.

Latching Relays
Latching relays are a variation of the standard instantaneous control relay where the contacts
change position when initially energized, but do not revert to the normal state (when the input
signal is removed) until a separate reset signal is applied. Latching relays may have mechanical
latches using a set and reset coil, or they may latch magnetically. Latching relays are also
available with manual reset latches.

Timing Relays
Timing relays (also known as time delay relays) are a variation of the standard instantaneous
control and latching relay where a fixed or adjustable time delay must occur following a change in
the control signal before the switching action occurs. Common time delay relay configurations
include on delay, off delay and on/off delay. Numerous other configurations are available.

Contactors and Starters

Contactors are essentially large capacity relays specifically designed to control the flow of
electrical power to electrical loads, such as motors, heaters and lights. Contactors are multi-pole
devices typically arranged to interrupt all energized conductors serving an electrical load, thus
removing all voltage from the load. Contactors can include normally closed and normally open
contacts, but are most often of the single throw, normally open, double break configuration.
Contactors do not include overload protection for the load they are serving. When contactors are
applied to control motors, the power circuit must include thermal overload protection for the

Starters are specially adapted contactors that include overload protection designed to sense
motor overloads and interrupt the power circuit to the motor before severe damage can occur.
Contactors and starters are rated according to national and international standards including
NEMA/EEMAC (National Electrical Manufacturers Association/Electrical and Electronic
Manufacturers Association of Canada) and IEC (International Electro technical Commission).
Contactors and starters are listed by recognized testing agencies such as UL (Underwriters
Laboratory) and CSA (Canadian Standards Association).

Ratings typically include maximum voltage, maximum continuous current and maximum single-
phase and three-phase motor horsepower at voltage. NEMA/EEMAC standards for magnetic
motor controllers designate two types of motor duty (non-plugging, non-jogging duty and plug-
stop, plug-reverse or jogging duty) and a series of standard sizes with standard horsepower
ratings for each size. The most commonly used starters and contactors in the United States
conform to the NEMA standards.

The oldest and simplest motor overload protection scheme consists of a thermal overload for
each power conductor. These power conductors consist of a resistance heating element and
fusible metal or bimetallic temperature switch wired in the starter coil control circuit. The
resistance heating element heats in proportion to the current flowing to the motor, creating a rise
in temperature at the switch element that is proportional to the motor current and the time over
which the current has been applied. If the motor overload is severe, heat will build up quickly, and
the switch will open in a few seconds or less. If the overload current is just above the overload
rating, the switch will take a longer time to open. Thermal overloads are typically non-adjustable,
or adjustable over a very narrow current setting range.

In recent years, solid state overload relays have been developed that sense the motor current in
each phase, digitize it and apply digital logic to determine when an overload or unsafe operating
condition exists. Solid state overload relays can typically sense phase failure, asymmetrical
current loading, severe overload or locked rotor conditions. Solid state overload relays typically
allow for the adjustment of motor full-load current values. They also allow for setting a variety of
time-current trip characteristics to provide optimal protection for the motor they are protecting.

Two-Position Actuators
Two-position control is commonly used in a wide variety of control schemes for HVAC
applications. Fluid flow, damper position and fuel flow are commonly controlled (depending upon
application) to open/closed positions through the use of a two-position actuator.

Types of Two-Position Actuators

Two-position actuators are used to control the linear or rotary motion of a controlled device (such
as a valve or damper) to one of two positions, usually open or closed. The two most common
types of two-position actuators are the solenoid type and rotary type.

Solenoid Actuators
One of the simplest actuators is the solenoid, which consists of a coil wound around a fixed core
and a movable core that is usually enclosed in a non-magnetic case. When the coil is energized,
the movable core is attracted to the fixed core, causing a rapid linear motion. Solenoid actuators
are most commonly applied to small valves for control of water and air flow in pipe and tubing.
Solenoid valves are available in pilot-operated models, where fluid pressure of the fluid being
controlled actually provides the motive force for operating the valve. The solenoid is used to
control the internal flow of the pilot fluid within the valve, causing the operation of the valve. Non-
pilot type solenoid valves open and close very quickly and may cause water hammer when used
for controlling flow in liquid systems. Pilot-operated valves may be designed for slower opening
and closing time to reduce this tendency.
Solenoid valves are also commonly applied to the on/off control of pneumatic control air supply
(sometimes referred to as EP Relays). Two state, on/off control of pneumatic dampers and
actuators is almost universally accomplished using the electrical signal to operate a solenoid
valve that turns air supply to the pneumatic actuator on or off.

Rotary Actuators
Rotary actuators typically are based on rotary electric motors combined with a gear train that may
be reversible, or combined with a spring, such that the position is reversed by the energy stored
in the spring when the motor is de-energized. Spring-return actuators are commonly applied
where a device must be returned to a safe or normal position when the power supply or control
signal fails. Linkages, rack and pinion configurations, cams and various other mechanisms are
used to convert the rotary actuator motion to linear motion when applied to devices (such as
globe-type control valves) requiring linear motion for actuation.

With the exception of the solenoid type, most two-position electric actuators can also be used for
modulating control with the appropriate analog control circuitry.

Analog Devices
There are numerous analog devices used in the HVAC controls world. Typically, analog output
devices are used to provide modulating control of valves, dampers, electric motors through
variable speed drives and a wide variety of other devices. The most common devices associated
with analog outputs are sequencers, variable speed drives, silicon controlled rectifiers and

Sequencing of multiple on-off devices based on a single analog output from a control loop is often
required for items, such as cooling towers with multiple two-speed fans, multi-stage electric
heaters and multi-stage refrigeration systems. This sequencing can be accomplished within the
DDC controller, or it may be accomplished externally using a discrete sequencing device. These
devices have two or more relay or digital outputs that are adjusted to spread the signal range that
they turn on and off. For example, a two-stage sequencer might be adjusted so the stage one
relay turns on at 37.5% analog signal level and off at 12.5%. The stage two relay would be
adjusted to turn on at 87.5% analog signal and off at 67.5%. More advanced sequencers may
incorporate adjustable inter-stage time delays, minimum on and off times, etc.

Variable Speed Drives

Variable speed drives are used to vary the speed of AC and DC motors in order to control the
output of driven equipment. DC variable speed drives are costly and offer very precise control.
They are widely used in industry for precise speed control of conveyors and printing presses, but
are not widely used in the HVAC industry. AC variable speed drives are less costly and offer good
control for equipment, such as centrifugal compressors, fans and pumps.

AC variable speed drives operate on the principle that the synchronous speed of an AC induction
motor is directly proportional to the frequency of the AC power supplied to the motor. In the US,
the standard frequency at which AC power is distributed and motors are rated is 60 cycle per
second (hertz). Virtually all AC variable speed drives currently manufactured use solid state
components to accept AC power at standard distribution voltages and 60 hertz frequency (50
hertz in Europe) and output a variable frequency power supply to the controlled motor(s).
Commonly available drives have provisions for external on/off control by a contact closure,
analog speed feedback signal for monitoring, and accept a standard analog voltage or current
signal for speed input. Many drives are available with one or more drive status alarms. Some are
also available with digital communication interfaces that allow detailed status and fault monitoring
by DDC control systems.
Most drives use an AC to DC converter and a DC to AC inverter. The converter may consist of a
diode rectifier, a diode rectifier with a DC chopper, or a silicon controlled rectifier (SCR)
sometimes called a thyristor. The simple diode rectifier creates a constant DC voltage for input to
the inverter. The addition of the DC chopper allows regulation of the voltage to the inverter.
Silicon controlled rectifiers also allow regulation of the voltage to the inverter.

The inverter section of the drive consists of solid state switching devices that reconstruct an AC
power signal with controlled frequency. The three most common types of inverters are variable
voltage source (also called six step), current source and pulse width modulated (PWM). The six
step inverter uses six solid state switching devices in combination with six diodes. The solid state
switches are controlled to produce a six step voltage wave form for each phase. Changing the
conducting time for each of the six switches results in a change in frequency of the output wave.
The current source inverter operates much the same as the six step variable voltage source
except that solid state switching devices construct a six step current wave for each phase instead
of a voltage wave. Pulse width modulated inverters use solid state switching devices to produce a
series of constant voltage pulses of various widths to produce an AC output. The timing and
number of pulses are varied to produce the varying frequency.

Application Considerations For Motors and Drives. The following items should be considered for
any variable speed drive application:

1. Normally, NEMA Design B squirrel cage induction motors with continuous duty rating are
2. Multiple motor loads can be controlled from a single AC variable speed drive, however
the manufacturer's guidelines must be followed regarding operation if some or all motors
are not connected. This applies in particular to drives with current source-type inverters.
3. With current source and PWM-type inverters there is some additional stress on the motor
insulation. These stresses are usually not significant.
4. PWM inverters usually cause motors to produce more noise than normal.
5. Any type of inverter produces a current waveform that contains harmonics that do not
produce any additional torque, but do cause additional heating in the motor windings.
This will typically produce 5% - 15% additional heating load and must be considered
when operating motors controlled by drives near full load conditions.
6. With current source inverters, an open circuit (such as a disconnected load) will cause an
excessive voltage rise in the inverter. Unless appropriate protection is provided, this
condition may cause inverter failure.
7. Jerky shaft motion can result with any inverter type at low speed (typically below about 10
hertz) due to badly distorted waveforms at these frequencies. Some PWM drives are
available that are optimized for operation at low speed and can reduce this effect.
8. It is important to consider the torque - speed characteristic of the load to be imposed on
the drive. Most HVAC applications are for centrifugal machines (pumps, fans and
compressors) and are described as "variable torque" because the torque is low at low
speed and rises according to the cube of the motor speed. Infrequent applications for
HVAC, such as positive displacement pumps, may have constant torque characteristics.

Silicon Controlled Rectifiers (SCRs)

SCRs are used to regulate an AC power supply to a typically resistive electrical load, such as an
electric heater, to provide continuously variable output. SCRs accept standard analog control
signals (usually voltage or current) and regulate the output of their load proportionally.

With microprocessor-based controls, SCRs can be used in combination with sequenced

contactors to provide vernier control that is continuous in proportion to the input signal, but does
not require control of the entire load by a SCR and thus reduces the cost.
Analog signal controlled actuators are one of the most important components of DDC systems
today. Air temperature control is commonly accomplished with actuators of various types through
the control of damper position and valve position. The majority of modern HVAC designs include
actuators of one type or another.

Types of Actuators
With the invention and continual refinement of DDC systems, electric motor controlled actuators
are steadily replacing pneumatic controlled actuators as the application allows. There are still a
large number of both types available and in service today.

Pneumatic Actuators
The pneumatic actuator has been widely used for HVAC control for decades. With the inventions
of the electric-to-pneumatic signal transducers and EP relays, DDC systems can readily integrate
pneumatic actuators into the control scheme for steam valves, dampers, etc. Diaphragm- and
piston-type actuators are the two most common pneumatic actuators.

Diaphragm-type actuators are most commonly used with low pressure pneumatic control signals
in the range of 0 to 30 psig, but are available for industrial application at higher pressures.
Diaphragm actuators typically have an opposing spring, with air supply to only the side of the
diaphragm opposing the spring. The spring constant sets the range of air pressure over which the
valve will operate and also provides for failure in an open or closed position, depending on
orientation. The action of diaphragm actuators is normally linear, but may be converted to rotary
motion approaching 180 degrees through the use of suitable links.

Piston-type actuators are most commonly used with higher air pressures in the range of 80 to 100
psig. Piston actuators are generally more compact than diaphragm-type actuators, particularly for
larger valve sizes. Pistons may be single acting (air applied to piston on one side, spring pressure
on opposite side of piston provides return pressure) or double acting (air pressure is applied
alternately to either side of the piston to produce bi-directional motion). Piston actuators may
have linear or rotary motion through the rack and gear or other mechanisms.

Positioners are commonly used with a pneumatic actuator to control the stroke or rotation of the
actuator so that it positions the controlled device in a fashion that is linear in proportion to the
control signal. Limit switches may be mechanical- or proximity-type actuators and are often
mounted within a positioner enclosure.

Electric Actuators
A wide variety of sizes and shapes of electric actuators are available to meet the requirements for
valve and damper actuation for HVAC systems. Most electric actuators are based on an electric
motor and output mechanism. Some mechanisms are designed for spring return; others are
designed so that the mechanism locks in place when the motor is off. Most actuators relate the
analog control signal proportionally to the position or percent of total travel. Torque switches may
be used on large electric motor-driven actuators to stop the valve motor when the valve has
reached full open or closed position.