Duct Leakage Impacts on VAV System Performance in Large Commercial Buildings

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The purpose of this study is to evaluate the variability of duct leakage impacts on air distribution system performance for typical large commercial buildings in California. Specifically, a hybrid DOE-2/TRNSYS sequential simulation approach was used to model the energy use of a low-pressure terminal-reheat variable-air-volume (VAV) HVAC system with six duct leakage configurations (tight to leaky) in nine prototypical large office buildings (representing three construction eras in three California climates where these types of buildings are common). Combined fan power for the variable-speed-controlled supply and return fans at design conditions was assumed to be 0.8 W/cfm. The VAV system that we simulated had perfectly insulated ducts, and maintained constant static pressure in the ducts upstream of the VAV boxes and a constant supply air temperature at the air-handler. Further evaluations of duct leakage impacts should be carried out in the future after methodologies are developed to deal with duct surface heat transfer effects, to deal with airflows entering VAV boxes from ceiling return plenums (e.g., to model parallel fan-powered VAV boxes), and to deal with static pressure reset and supply air temperature reset strategies.

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