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New Integrated Hybrid Evaporative Cooling System for HVAC Energy Efficiency Improvement

V. Vakiloroaya

AbstractCooling systems in buildings are required to be more energy-efficient while maintaining the standard air quality. The aim of this paper is to explore the potential of reducing the energy consumption of a central air-conditioned building taking into account comfort conditions. For this, we propose a new hybrid evaporative cooling system for HVAC efficiency improvement. The integrated system will be modeled and analyzed to accomplish the energy conservation and thermal comfort objectives. Comparisons of the proposed hybrid evaporative cooling approach with current technologies are included to show its advantages. To investigate the potential of energy savings and air quality, a real-world commercial building, located in a hot and dry climate region, together with its central cooling plant is used in the case study. The energy consumption and relevant data of the existing central cooling plant are acquired in a typical summer week. The performance with different cooling systems is simulated by using a transient simulation software package. New modules for the proposed system are developed by using collected experimental data and implemented with the transient tool. Results show that more than 52% power savings can be obtained by this system while maintaining the predicted mean vote (PMV) between -1 to +1 for most of summer time.



T HE energy consumption of Heating, Ventilating and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) systems is about 50-70% of

the building energy usage [1]. Operation of traditional HVAC systems such as chillers leads to the peak electricity demand and accounts for about half of electricity consumption for air conditioning [2]. Therefore, an ongoing research challenge is to find novel ways to reduce energy consumption in buildings without compromising comfort and indoor air quality. One of the effective ways of achieving energy efficiency has been to design HVAC system configurations combining different components for this purpose. The direct evaporative cooling (DEC) system, known for low initial and running costs, has been promising in that it can significantly improve the thermal performance in building cooling and ventilation with minimal energy consumption [3]. By using water as the working fluid one can avoid the use of ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons and hydro chlorofluorocarbons. Other benefits from this

system include easy maintenance, easy installation and operation as well as obviating CO and other emissions. For thermal Environment Conditions and Human Occupancy, ASHRAE standard 55-2010 [4] specifies the summer comfort zone acceptable to the majority of occupants. The evaporative cooling system can provide thermal comfort via the conversion of sensible heat to latent heat. However, in DEC the lowest temperature obtained is the wet-bulb temperature of the outside air. Therefore, the temperature of the supply air after cooling would be just on the edge of comfort and by the time it may pick up a few degrees in passing through the space to probably go beyond the comfort zone. The idea here stems from the possibility of increasing the utilization potential of an evaporative cooling system by the integration of the air-to-air sensible heat exchanger and cooling coil with the DEC process. In such a system, the air is first cooled sensibly, i.e. without any moisture addition, in two stages. In the first stage an air-to-air sensible heat exchanger is used to reduce the dry-bulb temperature of the air entering the cooling coil through the energy transfer between the building return airstream and ambient fresh air. In the second stage the air is further cooled sensibly by a cooling coil. The cooling coil gets its water supply from a cooling tower. Then the air passes through the DEC system to achieve a lower temperature. Consequently, in the proposed hybrid evaporative cooling (HEC) system the lowest temperature obtained can be lower than the wet-bulb temperature of the outside air. Combination of different components with the direct evaporative cooling system has been a subject of recent research [5-7]. It can be seen from the literature that a blend of air conditioning technologies can offer effective solutions for energy conservation and thermal comfort. Farahani et al. [8] investigated the performance of the two-stage system of nocturnal radiation and indirect evaporative cooling. Their results show that the system can improve comfort conditions. Riangvilaikul and Kumar [9] presented the experimental results of a dew point evaporative cooling system. The key objective was to reduce the temperature of the outdoor air leaving the system without any moisture variation. Heidarinejad et al. [10] evaluated the performance of the experimental two-stage direct/indirect evaporative system in various climatic conditions. The results showed that the system effectiveness varies over a range of 108- 111%. The performance characteristics of the combined evaporative coolers can be predicted for various operating conditions by computer simulation. The outcomes showed

that the coefficient of performance (COP) of the combined system could be 20% greater than those achieved when employing an evaporative cooler alone [11]. A two-stage evaporative cooler was developed for short-term storage of fruits and vegetables. The system consists of a heat exchanger and two evaporative cooling chambers. The effectiveness of this system was found to be 1.1-1.2 while efficiency of the single-stage evaporation was 85-90% [12]. However, no work has been reported todate on combining two stages of sensible cooling and evaporative cooling, which is the motivation of this study. The objective of this paper is to minimize the energy consumption of the building cooling system using the hybrid direct evaporative technology while satisfying comfort conditions. Because of nonlinear time-varying and building- dependent dynamics of this system, the transient software package [13], TRANSYS 16, is used to simulate and predict hourly and sub-hourly the energy usage and air quality of a given building integrated with the HVAC system. On the basis of mathematical models and by using test data, simulation modules for the hybrid evaporative cooling are developed and embedded for a real-world commercial building located in a hot and dry region. The system integration encompasses the counter flow cooling tower, the cooling coil, the direct evaporative cooling system and the air-to-air sensible heat exchanger. The energy consumption of the existing central cooling plant in the building was measured in a typical week of summer to compare the monitored data with the simulation results in order to analyze the performance and feasibility of the proposed HEC system. The simulation results show that acceptable thermal comfort can be achieved during hot and dry summer by hybrid evaporative cooling system in buildings with a great reduction in energy consumption. Thus this energy- efficient system can be considered as a promising alternative to the mechanical vapor compression systems.


The schematic of the hybrid evaporative cooling system is shown in Fig. 1. The system comprises an air-to-air heat exchanger, a cooling tower, a cooling coil, a direct evaporator cooling plant, circulation pumps, valves and connection tubes. As mentioned, the dry-bulb and wet-bulb temperature of ambient air is reduced by two-stage pre- cooling before it passes through the DEC system. In the first stage, an air-to-air sensible heat exchanger is used to reduce both dry and wet bulb temperature of outdoor air through the heat recovery from the building exhaust air while the outlet humidity ratios of each air stream are assumed to remain constant. TRNSYS uses an effective minimum thermal capacitance approach to simulate this component. Therefore, the maximum sensible energy transfer between the two streams is:

, , ,


where is the sensible energy transferred between air streams, is sensible effectiveness of the device, is the minimum thermal capacitance of the air stream, , and , are the temperature respectively of the exhaust and fresh air entering the heat exchanger. The enthalpies of the air stream outlets can be determined as follows:

, ,


, ,




where , and , are enthalpy of the exhaust air exiting and entering the heat exchanger while , and , are enthalpy of the fresh air exiting and entering the heat exchanger, respectively. In the second stage, the cooling coil reduces both dry and wet bulb temperature of the air entering the evaporative cooler, thereby decreasing both wet and dry bulb temperature. For the coolant inside the tubes, the cooling coil uses cooled water supplied from a cooling tower. The performance of the cooling coil directly influences the performance of the cooling system. Experimental data are used to determine the total and sensible cooling energy transferred from the air stream. These data describe how the total and sensible cooling ratio of the cooling coil varies with respect to the entering air wet-bulb and dry-bulb temperature, entering water temperature and air mass flow rate. Collected data during field tests are implemented in the cooling coil simulation module. Then by using the energy and mass conservation laws the cooling coil capacity can be obtained as [14]:


, , ,


where is the cooling coil capacity, , is the cooling coil outlet air temperature, , is the cooling tower

leaving water temperature, is

specific heat of the water, is the air mass flow rate provided by variable air volume (VAV) supply fan, is the cooling tower water flow rate, and coefficients and are constant values to be determined by curve-fitting the monitored data. Since performance of the cooling coil is dependent on the outlet water temperature of the cooling tower [3], which is an evaporative cooling plant itself, a power form for the cooling coil outlet air temperature is proposed in terms of the water temperature leaving the cooling tower, ambient dry-bulb temperature and building cooling load:

the constant pressure





T cca o , T DEC o , T ctw o , T ctw i
cca o
T ctw o
T ctw i

Fig. 1. Schematic diagram of the hybrid system of heat exchanger, cooling coil, and direct evaporative cooler

where is the ambient dry-bulb temperature, is the building cooling load and coefficients to can be experimentally-determined from field test data. The performance model of the cooling tower can be determined by combined the thermal and hydraulic performance of the cooling tower as:




where is the optimum ratio of cooling tower

water flow rate to ambient dry air flow rate, is the specific heat of saturated air, is the latent heat of evaporation of the water vapor, is the ambient pressure and is the mean temperature of the cooling tower water. In a cooling tower, water enters the sump reservoir from a water make-up source and operating tower cells. The level of the sump is assumed to be constant in this study because its effect on cooling tower performance is negligible. Therefore, the flow of the water make-up will be equal to the total water loss from the cells. Furthermore, the water volume of the sump is assumed to be fully-mixed so that the energy balance can be expressed as:


, ,




is the

cooling tower water mass, is the temperature of water

where is the fully-mixed sump temperature,

make-up to sump,

, and , are respectively the

mass flow rate of water entering and leaving the cooling tower. The model derived from test data is employed for cooling tower to describe how the temperature of water leaving the cooling tower varies with the ambient wet-bulb temperature, the temperature of water entering the cooling tower and the cooling coil demand. This can be modeled as follows:





where , is the cooling tower entering water temperature, is the ambient wet-bulb temperature, and coefficients to are constant parameters to be determined by using real- world operation data and a regression technique. Figure 2 shows the cooling paths of outdoor air on a psychrometric chart for the proposed system. The cooling paths (1-2) and (2-3) represent the sensible cooling process and thus the outlet humidity ratio of air is assumed to remain unchanged between their inlets and outlets. Finally, cooled air passes through the evaporative cooler. If the entering wet-bulb temperature is less than the entering dry-bulb temperature then some water will be evaporated. Because the process (3-4) is essentially adiabatic, the heat required for evaporation must come from the air stream, thereby lowering its dry-bulb temperature, the wet-bulb temperature will remain constant. The cooling effectiveness of the direct evaporative cooler can be calculated by the following equation:

, ,

, ,



Fig. 2. Psychrometric chart for DEC and HEC systems where is the DEC cooling effectiveness,

Fig. 2. Psychrometric chart for DEC and HEC systems

where is the DEC cooling effectiveness, , is the outlet dry-bulb air temperature of the evaporative cooler, and , is the inlet wet-bulb air temperature of the evaporative cooler. The path (1-5) shows the simple evaporative cooling process in which ambient air passes through the evaporative cooler directly without pre-cooling. The results from the psychrometric chart show that more temperature drop is possible with evaporative cooling when air is pre-cooled before passing the evaporative cooler. Furthermore, the cooling efficiency of the combined system may be greater than a conventional system. This is because the minimum temperature that can be attained for the single evaporative cooler is the wet-bulb temperature of the incoming air while for the combined system the outlet temperature of the air stream can be lower than the inlet wet-bulb temperature.


A real-world commercial building equipped with the proposed HEC system model is used to investigate the performance of the simulated HEC system and compare its performance with monitored data that had been collected with the existing central cooling plant (CCP) installed in the building.



The simulation object is a real-world commercial building. The gross floor area of the building is 1500 square meters and the usable floor area is 1100 square meters. The building height is 3 meters. The ground area occupied by the building has a rectangular shape and stands in the south- north direction. The working hours of building for week days are from 8 am to 10 pm. The building model takes into account construction materials, occupancy, ventilation and internal loads. The building information file created by PREBID and is compliant with the requirements of the ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 140-2007 [15]. The occupant density in the building is about one person per 5 m . The heat gain of occupants is multiplied by a

diversity factor. This factor takes into account that not all occupants are in use all the time. The activity level of the occupants is set as “standing, light work” the associated heat gain being 90 W and 95 W for sensible and latent loads respectively. The clothing factor for the people is specified as 0.5 clo and the metabolic rate as 1.2 met. The infiltration takes place due to wind and stack effect and employs the unit of air changes per hour (ACH), meaning the number of times the volume of water in a building is replaced by air from the outside in one hour. In our case, infiltration is selected to be 0.5 ACH based on the histograms given in ASHRAE fundamentals [16]. The lighting power density is 20 W/m , a common value used in practice for a commercial building. Equipment load inside the building is taken as 16 W/m , corresponding to a medium load type. This load follows the schedule of the occupants.

B. Central Cooling Plant (CCP)

The central cooling plant installed in the building consists of one screw water cooled chiller, one cooling tower, one air handling unit, two chilled water pump and two condenser water pumps. The chiller uses refrigerant R-407C and has a nominal capacity of 350 kW. The design air flow rate and the electric power input of cooling tower fan at maximum air flow rate are respectively 26350 m /h and 1.5 kW. The design air flow rate of the air handling unit with variable air volume fan is 34000 m /h and its rated power input is 11.7 kW. The design water flow rate and electric power of each chilled water pump are respectively 36 m /h and 1.5 kW. The design water flow of each condenser water pump is 50 m /h and their electric power is 2.3 kW. The indoor temperature was set at 24°C without specific control for the indoor relative humidity. In order to measure the power consumption of the CCP real tests were conducted. A total 392 points of system power consumption was measured for each fifteen minutes period by the monitoring device. Power of components was measured by digital ac/dc power clamp multimeter with 3.5% precision. Also, the indoor air temperature and relative humidity of the building were monitored in different ten locations of the buildings and thus the average temperature to allow for calculation of relative humidity of the building.


To simulate the HEC system, the circulation air quantity is taken as 100% of fresh air at inlet to the heat exchanger which is 42500 m /h. The air flow rate of fresh air and building exhaust air at the heat exchanger are same. The heat exchanger efficiency is assumed to be 85%. The design air flow rate and the electric power input of cooling tower fan at maximum air flow rate are 13465 m /h and 0.5 kW, respectively. The design water flow rate of pump in circuit of cooling tower and cooling coil is 20 m /h and its electric power is 1 kW. The cooling effectiveness of DEC system is 85% and its design water flow rate and fan power input are respectively 36 m /h and 11.7 kW. The power input of the pump which is used to circulate the water for the evaporative

HEC System

cooler is 2.3 kW at design conditions. The performance data for cooling tower and cooling coil are obtained by using several field tests.

D. Model Verification

The mathematical model and collected experimental data for the HEC system components are implemented in TRNSYS based on a modular approach coded in the form of FORTRAN subroutines. According to the data provided by the field tests, the corresponding coefficients of the models are obtained by regression techniques which are done using the MINITAB statistical software [18]. These coefficients for the described HEC system are obtained as:

1.93 2.61 0.37

Then TRNSYS is run to analyze the component-wise energy consumption and the indoor comfort conditions throughout the summer. The performance simulation for summer takes a

few minutes with a Pentium 4, 3.00 GHz PC having 3GB memory. In order to verify the appropriateness of using the estimation values obtained by the simulation, it is important to validate the accuracy of the models under various operational conditions. To test the accuracy of cooling coil and cooling tower model, a comparison is made between their predicted and actual performance over a summer week during which the system operated continuously from 8 am to

10 pm. Only 24% of the total predicted data deviate from

the actual data by more than 5% and all of modeled data have a prediction error of less than 10%.










In this section, simulation results of the energy analysis, indoor air conditions and thermal comfort index for HEC and DEC systems are compared with the measured data for the existing central cooling plant of the building. A number of performance indicators are needed in order to have a full understanding of different aspects of the proposed HEC cooling plant. A summer-round perspectives of the system performance indicators are used so that the system performances can take into account the changing loading and climatic conditions in this comparative study. To define the required cooling load of the building, simulations were conducted in the summer period.

A. Indoor Temperature and Humidity

Based on the established thermal comfort standards, indoor temperature and relative humidity level should be controlled within a relatively narrow range between 22 to

27 and 50-60% respectively to meet the summer comfort

condition [16]. In order to investigate the potential of HEC system, the simulated indoor air temperature and relative humidity by the HEC and DEC systems are compared with the monitored indoor temperature and relative temperature of existing central cooling system for the first day of July.

70 50 60 40 50 40 30 30 20 CCP Temperature HEC Temperature 20 10
CCP Temperature
HEC Temperature
DEC Temperature
CCP Humidity
HEC Humidity
DEC Humidity
Temperature (C)
Relative Humidity (%)

Time (Hour)

Fig. 3. Temperature and relative humidity compression

Figure 3 shows the indoor air temperature and relative humidity of all three systems. The average values of indoor air temperature for HEC, DEC and central cooling plant (CCP) for this day are respectively 25.2 , 28.8 and 24.3 . As expected, the HEC system gives a lower air temperature than the DEC system and approximately equal to the central cooling system in periods from 8 am to 10 am and 8 pm to 10 pm, when the ambient temperature, solar radiation and number of available people in the building are low and thus the building sensible load is low. However, the produced indoor air temperature by HEC system is acceptable in the rest of the day. It also can be concluded that the indoor air temperature is on the higher side when the ambient temperature is high. Furthermore, for both HEC and DEC systems, the relative humilities are higher than the existing system. The average values of indoor relative humidity for HEC, DEC and central cooling plant are 59%, 54% and 48%, respectively. Furthermore, HEC gives a higher relative humidity value than DEC. Also the indoor relative humidity values for the HEC system are higher for the months of May and September due to an increase in the absolute humidity. Comparisons of our proposed system with other hybrid evaporative cooling systems such as [8] and [10] show that the leaving air temperature of the proposed HEC system is much lower. The first reason is that in [8] the cold water for the cooling coil is supplied by a nocturnal radiative cooling system of which temperature is higher than that of the water leaving the cooling tower. The second reason is the heat recovery of the ambient air in the air-to-air heat exchanger causes colder air to enter the cooling coil while in [8] the ambient air directly passes through the evaporative plant. In [9], Riangvilaikul and Kumar also developed a dew point evaporative cooling system and tested it experimentally. However, compared to our system they used further equipment which may involve a higher initial cost.

B. Thermal Comfort

Thermal comfort is all about human satisfaction with a thermal environment. The design and calculation of air conditioning systems to control the thermal environment to

Fig. 4 . PMV values for hybrid evaporative cooling system CCP HEC DEC 60000 50000

Fig. 4 . PMV values for hybrid evaporative cooling system

CCP HEC DEC 60000 50000 40000 30000 20000 10000 0 Energy Consumption (Kwh)
Energy Consumption (Kwh)


Fig. 5. Energy Consumption compres sion

achieve standard air quality and health i nside a building should comply with the ASHRAE standard 55-2010 [15]. To

predict the thermal comfort condition,

predicted mean vote (PMV) which indica tes mean thermal

sensation vote on a standard scale for a larg e group of people

is used in this paper. PMV is defined

variables from human condition and indoo r air, namely air temperature, air humidity, air velocity , mean radiant temperature, clothing insulation and hum an activity. The

by six thermal

an index called

the votes on the +2: warm, +1:

slightly warm, 0: neutral, -1: slightly cool, -2: cool, -3: cold.

According to ISO 7730 standard [17] the between -1 and 1 are in the range that

satisfied. Figure 4 shows the PMV value va riation during the

summer for the HEC system. The PMV

graph shows that

most of the time, PMV values are betwee n -1 and +1 and

values of PMV 75% people are

PMV index predicts the mean value of seven point thermal sensation scale +3: hot,

therefore, the thermal comfort cond ition is in the acceptable range.

C. Energy Analysis

Figure 5 shows the simulati on results for energy consumption of DEC and HEC syst ems and compares it with energy consumption of the centra l cooling plant in each summer month. Electrical energy c onsumption of the HEC system is much lower than central c ooling plant. The reason is that although several pumps and fans consume energy in the HEC system, a compressor in th e chiller consumes much

aforementioned devices.

more energy in comparison with

Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) is a criterion representing the

ratio of output cooling rate in Bt u/hr to input electrical power in watts at a given opera ting point. Considering

cooling capacity and power consu

ption, EER of the HEC

system has been calculated appro ximately as 20.83 while EER for CCP systems is usually a bout 10 [7]. The energy

shown in Fig. 6 for the it can be seen that the

power consumption of both DE C and HEC system is

significantly less than the power

usage of central cooling

performance of all three systems is whole summer time. From Fig. 6

plant. The power consumption of th e building is reduced by 52% in average after replacing the c entral cooling plant with the proposed HEC system.



In this paper, a new hybrid eva porative air conditioning

system has been proposed. Our HV AC system improves the operation of classical direct evapor ative ones by integrating two additional sensible heat devic es, namely an air-to-air

after the humidification

heat exchanger and a cooling coil,

process. Using experimental data, t he mathematical models are formulated to describe the perf ormance of the modified system. Performance of the propos ed system is analyzed by using a well-validated building tr ansient simulation code.

Fig. 6. P ower consumption of all considered systems in summer The performance is then

Fig. 6. P ower consumption of all considered systems in summer

The performance is then compared with th e monitored data

of a real-world

commercial building in terms of the energy saving potential, air quality and thermal comfort. Comparis ons indicate that the new HEC system offers an energy savi ng potential up to 52% while maintaining the thermal comfort conditions in the building.

of an existing central cooling plant



Support from the UTS FEIT, CAPEX-201 1 and CBIR fund for this project is gratefully acknowledged.



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