An Introduction to Accurate HVAC System Modeling

HVAC (Heat, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) is all about comfort, and comfort is a subjective feeling associated with many parameters like air quality, air temperature, surrounding surface temperature, air flow and relative humidity. For example, while it is easy to understand how the temperature of the air in your living impacts how good you feel, the surfaces with which you are in contact also strongly affect your comfort. For example, last night I got out of bed to clean up after my dog who thought it would be a good idea to swallow (and give back) her chew toy. If I was wearing my slippers, it would have been much easier to go back to sleep between the warm bed sheets without the discomfort of waiting my cold feet warm up to normal temperature.

Speaking of sleep discomfort, many stem from HVAC imbalances.  If you wake up in the middle of the night quite thirsty, then you should probably check how dry your bedroom is. The recommended range is 40-60% relative humidity. A higher humidity puts you at risk for mold while lower humidity can lead to respiratory infections, asthma, etc.

Now that we know how HVAC contributes to our comfort, let’s look at the HVAC unit as a system and see its role, functioning and simulation at a high level. The following examples provided are for a house, but similar concepts apply to residential buildings, offices, and so on.

Controlling Temperature

The easiest parameter to control is the air temperature. It can be set by a thermostat and regulated according to a heating or cooling flow distributed from the HVAC unit to the different rooms through ducting. Without the introduction of thermally-different-than-ambient air, the house will heat or cool itself based on a combination of outside conditions and how well the building is insulated. Therefore, to keep a constant temperature a certain amount of energy must be used to provide heating (or cooling) at the same rate the house is losing (or gaining) heat.  This is a match of the house load and heating/cooling capacity. Figure 1 provides a graph of the energy needed.

Illustration of dependency of house load and heating capacity on outside temperature
Figure 1 Illustration of dependency of house load and heating capacity on outside temperature

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Turbojets – Basics and Off-design Simulation

The Brayton cycle is the fundamental constant pressure gas heating cycle used by all air-breathing jet engines. The Brayton cycle can be portrayed by a diagram of temperature vs. specific entropy, or T–S diagram, to visualize changes to temperature and specific entropy during a thermodynamic process or cycle. Figure 1 shows this ideal cycle as a black line.  However, in the real world, the compression and expansion processes are never isentropic, and there is always a certain pressure loss in the combustor.  The real Brayton cycle looks more like the blue line in Figure 1.

Ts_Real_Brayton_Cycle
Figure 1 T-S diagram for ideal and real Brayton cycle
(Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ts_Real_Brayton_Cycle_2.png)

The four stages of this cycle are described as:

1-2: isentropic compression

2-3: constant pressure heating

3-4: isentropic expansion

4-0: constant pressure cooling (absent in open cycle gas turbines)

The most basic form of a jet engine is a turbojet engine. Figures 2a and 2b provide the basic design of a turbojet engine. It consists of a gas turbine that produces hot, high-pressure gas, but has zero net shaft power output. A nozzle converts the thermal energy of the hot, high-pressure gas at the outlet of the turbine into a high-kinetic-energy exhaust stream. The high momentum and high exit pressure of the exhaust stream result in a forward thrust on the engine. Read More

Computational Fluid Dynamics for Centrifugal Compressors

In today’s world where “time is money,” each and every industry involving turbomachinery wants to deliver their high performance products in the quickest time possible. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) replaces the huge number of testing requirements thus not only shortening the design cycle time, but also reducing development costs.

Today with advancements in computational resources, numerical methods, and the availability of commercial tools, CFD has become a major tool for the design phase of a project. With a large number of validations and bench markings available on the applicability of CFD for centrifugal compressors, it has become an indispensable tool for the aerodynamic designer to verify the design and understand the flow physics inside a compressor’s flow path. However, CFD is still computationally expensive and requires a high level of user-knowledge and experience to get meaningful results. CFD analysis can be performed with and without considering viscous effects of the flow. The inclusion of viscosity into the flow introduces additional complexities for choosing the most appropriate turbulence closure model. CFD however, has some limitations due to:

  • – Errors created during modeling where the true physics are not well-known and are very complex to model.
  • – Multiple approximation and model errors created during the calculation process (such as mesh resolution, steady flow assumption, turbulence closure, geometric approximation, unknown boundary profile etc.). These approximations impact the calculations of local values of vital parameters.

In CFD for example, if the 1D design is not accurate, (stage loading and blade diffusion factors etc.), then CFD cannot turn out a good design. It is critical to use a design tool such as AxSTREAM®  which can generate optimized designs with less time and effort starting from the specification.

The preliminary design modules of AxSTREAM® uses inverse design tasks to generate the initial flow path for the centrifugal compressor. By choosing the right combination of geometrical and design parameters from the start, AxSTREAM® reduces the number of design cycle iterations required in generating an accurate design.

This initial design obtained is further analyzed and optimized using throughflow solvers in AxSTREAM® which considers various operating conditions. The throughflow solvers in AxSTREAM®  predict the performance parameters at different sections and stations, and presents the blade loading, flow distribution along the flow path, etc.

The generation of 3D geometry for the impeller and diffuser is another complex activity which is greatly simplified by using the radial profiler and 3D blade design module in AxSTREAM®. The geometry generated in AxSTREAM® is fully parameterized with complete control for the user to modify as and when required. Figure 1 shows a parameterized impeller geometry generated using seven spanwise sections with contours of the curvature.

Parameterized Impeller Geometry
Figure 1. Parameterized Impeller Geometry

In CFD analysis of turbomachines, grid generation becomes a very challenging task due to the geometries of complicated, twisted blades. To achieve reliable CFD results, the grid must resolve the topology accurately to preserve this geometric information. The quality of the grid should be in an acceptable range especially the angle, aspect ratio, and skewness of the grid elements. Automatic mesh generation tools are employed to reduce the turbomachines meshing complications. The AxSTREAM® platform uses AxCFD™ to generate a high quality mesh in considerably short time which captures the accurate flow features.

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Volute Design in AxSTREAM®

Volutes are a tangential part, resembling the volute of a snail’s shell, which collects the fluids emerging from the periphery of a pump/compressor impeller. As such, they are utilized ubiquitously in turbomachinery applications. The words “volute”, “scroll”, “spiral collector”, “housing”, “casing”, “collector chamber”, and “collector” are used interchangeably across different industries. This elegant geometry is also found in nature – the snail is just one example.

Volute in AxSTREAM with Snail Example
Figure 1 – Volute in AxSTREAM® on the left; on the right – Snail – Natural Occurrence of Such Shape

There is a large number of different volute types and applications: centrifugal pumps, axial pumps, centrifugal compressors, axial-flow compressors, radial-inflow turbines, radial fans, and multi-stage blowers, to name a few. Within each group, there is a narrower division on volute types and every application has its own unique features as well as specific properties that can be shared among the group members. The purpose of this post is not to have a detailed discussion of every possible scenario, but rather to show a robust and proven method of volute geometry construction working as a part of aerodynamic design and analysis in a system such as AxSTREAM®.

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Design of Transonic Axial Compressors

Nowadays, transonic axial flow compressors are very common for aircraft engines in order to obtain maximum pressure ratios per single-stage, which will lead to engine weight and size reduction and therefore less operational costs. Although the performance of these compressors is already high, a further increment in efficiency can result in huge savings in fuel costs and determine a key factor for product success. Therefore, the manufacturers put a lot of effort towards this aspect, while trying to broaden the operating range of the compressors at the same time.

Axial Compressor Designed in AxSTREAM

The creation of shocks, strong secondary flows and other phenomena increases the complexity of the flow field inside a transonic compressor and challenges the designers who need to face many negative flow characteristics such as, high energy losses, efficiency decrease, flow blockage, separation and many more. As the compressor operates from peak to near-stall, the blade loading increases and flow structures become stronger and unsteady. Despite the presence of such flow unsteadiness, the compressor can still operate in a stable mode. Rotating stall arises when the loading is further increased, i.e. at a condition of lower mass flow rate. There are several possible techniques to limit the negative effect of the flow features mentioned above. Here we will present only two. The first one is related to the blade shape generation, while the second one is linked to flow control techniques.

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Direct Off-Design Performance Prediction of an Industrial Gas Turbine Engine

The modern gas turbine engine has been used in the power generation industry for almost half a century. Traditionally, gas turbines are designed to operate with the best efficiency during normal operating conditions and at specific operating points. However, the real world is non-optimal and the engine may have to operate at off-design conditions due to load requirements, different ambient temperatures, fuel types, relative humidity and driven equipment speed. Also more and more base-load gas turbines have to work at partial load, which can affect the hot gas path condition and life expectancy.

At these off-design conditions, the gas turbine efficiency and life deterioration rate can significantly deviate from the design specifications. During a gas turbine’s life, power generation providers may need to perform several overhauls or upgrades for their engines. Thus, the off-design performance after the overhaul can also change. Prediction of gas turbine off-design performance is essential to economic operation of power generation equipment. In the following post, such a system for complex design and off-design performance prediction (AxSTREAM®) is presented. It enables users to predict the gas turbine engine design and off-design performance almost automatically. Each component’s performance such as the turbine, compressor, combustor and secondary flow (cooling) system is directly and simultaneously calculated for every off-design performance request, making it possible to build an off-design performance map including the cooling system. The presented approach provides a wide range of capabilities for optimization of operation modes of industrial gas turbine engines and other complex turbomachinery systems for specific operation conditions (environment, grid demands more).

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Design of Inlet Guide Vane (IGV) for Centrifugal Compressors

All centrifugal compressor designers want to achieve the highest efficiency as well as wide operating range. With this in mind, the inlet guide vane (IGV) is a convenient and economic option for various applications.

IGVs are a series of blades circumferentially arranged at the inlet of compressor, driven electronically or pneumatically.By adjusting the orientation of IGVs, the air flow enters the impeller at a different direction therefore changing the flow behavior while affecting the passing mass flow rate (throttling). This can effectively reduce the power consumption to increase the compressor’s overall efficiency while avoiding surge to provide a better off design working range.

The designer needs to optimize blade profile and positioning of the IGV for efficient operation of a compressor, which can be a tedious job if one does not have a handy tool. Figure 1 shows an example of IGV working on different angles.

Example IGV Characteristic Curve
Figure 1. Example IGV Characteristic Curve

In AxSTREAM, people are able to add IGV component before the centrifugal compressor impeller which can provide different ways to edit its profile such as: Read More

Importance of Preliminary Design for Centrifugal Compressors

prelim-design
Preliminary Design in AxSTREAM

Centrifugal compressors span a number of applications including oil compression systems, gas shift systems, HVAC, refrigeration, and turbochargers. It works by using energy from the flow to raise pressure, using gas to enter the primary suction eye (impeller). As the impeller rotates, the blades on the impeller push the gas outwards from the center to the open end of impeller to form a compression. Compressors are commonly used for combustion air supplies on cooling and drying systems. In HVAC system application, fans produce air movement to the space that is being conditioned. As a key component of an energy cycle, design/performance requirement must be met. While a design can easily be scaled from an existing design through appropriate parameters, a tailored design from scratch to confirm with design requirement for the specific cycle would give a better match and improve overall cycle performance.

There are variants of non-aerodynamic constraints in centrifugal compressor design practice, from frame size to durability and ultimately cost. An optimized impeller design should also ensure that aerodynamic problems associated with the all compressor components are minimized. With all of these (aerodynamic and non-aerodynamic) design constraints, there is no better way to optimize your compressor design than starting from the preliminary step, making sure that your compressor meets your criteria from a one dimensional basis ( a step that is often overlooked in practice).
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Identifying Compressor Problems

Centrifugal Compressor for Refrigeration Because the most vital part of a refrigeration and HVAC system is to function optimally, compressors are used to raise the temperature and pressure of the low superheated gas to move fluid into the condenser. Consequently, refrigeration compressors must be properly maintained through regular maintenance, testing and inspection. There are a couple conditions which would indicate compressor problem or failures. However, with the right supervision it is possible to avoid further damage. Through this post we will identify and discuss some of these conditions:
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Helicopter Engines – Understanding the Constant Threats and Analyzing their Effects with AxSTREAM

Helicopter landing on a desert
Figure 1: Helicopter landing on a desert – burnout threat

The helicopter is a sophisticated, versatile and reliable aircraft of extraordinary capabilities. Its contribution to civil and military operations due to its high versatility is significant and is the reason for further research on the enhancement of its performance. The complexity of helicopter operations does not allow  priority to be given for any of its components. However, the main engine is key for a successful flight. In case of engine failure, the helicopter can still land safely if it enters autorotation, but this is dictated by particular flight conditions. This article will focus on the possible threats that can cause engine failure or deteriorate its performance.

When a helicopter is operating at a desert or above coasts, the dust and the sand can challenge the performance of the engine by causing erosion of the rotating components, especially the compressor blades. Moreover, the cooling passages of the turbine blade can be blocked and the dust can be accumulated in the inner shaft causing imbalance and unwanted vibration. The most common threat of this kind is the brownout which is caused by the helicopter rotorwash as it kicks up a cloud of dust during landing.

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