LBNL Report Number
Almost half of the total energy used in the U.S. buildings is consumed by heating, ventilation and air conditionings (HVAC) according to EIA statistics. Among various driving factors to energy performance of building, operations and maintenance play a significant role. Many researches have been done to look at design efficiencies and operational controls for improving energy performance of buildings, but very few study the impacts of HVAC systems maintenance. Different practices of HVAC system maintenance can result in substantial differences in building energy use. If a piece of HVAC equipment is not well maintained, its performance will degrade. If sensors used for control purpose are not calibrated, not only building energy usage could be dramatically increased, but also mechanical systems may not be able to satisfy indoor thermal comfort. Properly maintained HVAC systems can operate efficiently, improve occupant comfort, and prolong equipment service life.
In the paper, maintenance practices for HVAC systems are presented based on literature reviews and discussions with HVAC engineers, building operators, facility managers, and commissioning agents. We categorize the maintenance practices into three levels depending on the maintenance effort and coverage: 1) proactive, performance-monitored maintenance; 2) preventive, scheduled maintenance; and 3) reactive, unplanned or no maintenance. A sampled list of maintenance issues, including cooling tower fouling, boiler/chiller fouling, refrigerant over or under charge, temperature sensor offset, outdoor air damper leakage, outdoor air screen blockage, outdoor air damper stuck at fully open position, and dirty filters are investigated in this study using field survey data and detailed simulation models. The energy impacts of both individual maintenance issue and combined scenarios for an office building with central VAV systems and central plant were evaluated by EnergyPlus simulations using three approaches: 1) direct modeling with EnergyPlus, 2) using the energy management system feature of EnergyPlus, and 3) modifying EnergyPlus source code. The results demonstrated the importance of maintenance for HVAC systems on energy performance of buildings.
The research is intended to provide a guideline to help practitioners and building operators to gain the knowledge of maintaining HVAC systems in efficient operations, and prioritize HVAC maintenance work plan. The paper also discusses challenges of modeling building maintenance issues using energy simulation programs.