Fan-coil units at the heart of effective air conditioningFollowing the recent publication of a CIBSE Technical Memorandum, Mike Price reviews why chilled-water fan-coil units are one of the most effective means of providing air conditioning. In recent years, installations of fan-coil units have become one of the most effective means of providing air conditioning in new-build and refurbished commercial premises. The benefits provided by fan coil unit systems include the following. • Significantly smaller ventilation plant and distribution ductwork than an all-air system.
• High cooling capacity.
• Comparatively low cost of capital equipment.
• Individual zone control of space temperature, if suitable controls fitted.
• Flexibility to accept future changes in load and space layouts (office ‘churn’). Fan-coil units are particularly suited to applications with intermittent medium to high sensible cooling loads and where close humidity control is not required, e.g. offices, hotels, restaurants etc. Most of these installations use units mounted in the ceiling void as they do not occupy floor space within the building, although a significant number of projects still specify vertically mounted cased/recessed units. The basic reason for installing a fan-coil system is to provide ‘comfort conditioning’ at the specified environmental conditions within the space.
• Reduction of the specific fan power (SFP) of the fan coil by using 4-pole AC fan motors or further still by using DC electronically commutated DC/EC fans.
• Variable air volume by reducing the fan speed when higher design-day air volumes are not necessary. This can be achieved in speed steps using suitable controls or by variable speed control using DC/EC motor fans.
• Fan coil units to meet the entire cooling load and most of the heating load. The fresh-air AHU operates with a depressed heating set point. Modern AHU fan technology can also be incorporated to reduce the specific fan power of the central plant.
• Fan-coil units with oversize cooling coils can be specified for use with lower-grade (higher-temperature) chilled water. This will promote more efficient operation of the central chillers or enable the use of free cooling systems and ground-source heat pumps, see BSRIA BG8/2004: ‘Free cooling systems’2.
• 2-port water control valves can be used to save energy by reducing the water flow rate of system pumps below their ‘design day’ performance during part-load conditions.
• The fresh-air AHU and its associated energy emissions can be removed and fresh air ducted direct to the fan-coil units. The use of an advanced damper system could provide a fan-coil unit that operates in recirculation and fresh-air modes but still satisfies Part L building air-leakage requirements.
Mike Price is a member of the Hevac fan-coil unit group. References: 1. Simplified Building Energy Model (SBEM): Calculation tool for non-domestic buildings to demonstrate compliance with the National Calculation Methodology (Garston: Building Research Establishment) (2005) (available from www.ncm.bre.co.uk) 2. Free cooling systems BSRIA BG8/2004. Building Services Research & Information Association, 2004.