One of the most exciting shifts in the science (some say art) of building system design is the ability for all parts of the system to interact, combining as one to optimize system performance, comfort, IAQ, and energy efficiency. Hydronic (water-based) systems remain at the top of the list when building owners and designers consider the type of system that delivers optimally across a broad spectrum of performance variables. And the essence of performance is flow. “If we’re to consider system function much as a cardiologist might study circulatory flow, we learn that building system performance is all about flow,” says Richard Medairos, senior systems engineer and director of commercial training at Taco, Inc. Medairos has spent more than 30 years in the hydronics and commercial building design industries, most of them as an independent consulting engineer. What he now sees on the horizon is a future that opens itself entirely to unprecedented energy efficiency, sustainability, ease of operation, and interior comfort. According to Medairos, systems integration is something that experts in our industry have worked toward for decades. He says one of the latest advancements has been the expanding reach of sensorless and ECM pumps. These pumps—without the need for external sensors—are making it possible to provide flow for large heating and cooling systems with amazing efficiency.” Boldly Go “To make the primary equipment more efficient, we need to control supply and return system temperatures, and also to match capacity with the load,” says Medairos. “That’s where variable speed pumping makes its greatest contribution.” When there’s equilibrium between a system’s capacity and load, maximum efficiency is achieved. He refers to it as a symbiotic relationship between the system and primary equipment. Boldly going into a new-and-exciting operational realm is now the Holy Grail for system designers. After all, highly efficient equipment and individual components—if not matched through the aegis of optimal system design—invariably contribute at less than peak performance. “We need synergy between the central plant—whether it’s a chiller or hot water system—and the terminal equipment, and all parts in between,” states Medairos. The Stage Is Set A system designer’s next interest might then be specification of a control system. With the right BAS in place, all facets of the system should work in unity. Ideal would be a system that provides dynamic graphical interface for remote monitoring of pump and system performance in real time, complete with fully automated BAS integration. It avails automatically rendered graphics that show pump performance, all system influences, energy consumption and energy saved in real time—even automatic alarming, trending capability, and predictive maintenance scheduling. A key advantage is the installer’s ability to see all facets of system performance, and if adjustments are needed, they then have the ability to easily balance pump curves to precisely fit system resistance. This greatly reduces balancing and commissioning time, allowing the installer to determine and set parameters—not an expensive commissioning agent. The crusade for total system efficiency is one that system designers embarked on decades ago. Today, we have the means to achieve proper balance and extreme energy efficiency.
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