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Title: Building America Case Study: Balancing Hydronic Systems in Multifamily Buildings, Chicago, Illinois (Fact Sheet)

Abstract

In multifamily hydronic systems, temperature imbalance may be caused by undersized piping, improperly adjusted balancing valves, inefficient water temperature and flow levels, and owner/occupant interaction with the boilers, distribution and controls. The effects of imbalance include tenant discomfort, higher energy use intensity and inefficient building operation. This paper explores cost-effective distribution upgrades and balancing measures in multifamily hydronic systems, providing a resource to contractors, auditors, and building owners on best practices to improve tenant comfort and lower operating costs. The research was conducted by The Partnership for Advanced Residential Retrofit (PARR) in conjunction with Elevate Energy. The team surveyed existing knowledge on cost-effective retrofits for optimizing distribution in typical multifamily hydronic systems, with the aim of identifying common situations and solutions, and then conducted case studies on two Chicago area buildings with known balancing issues in order to quantify the extent of temperature imbalance. At one of these buildings a booster pump was installed on a loop to an underheated wing of the building. This study found that unit temperature in a multifamily hydronic building can vary as much as 61 degrees F, particularly if windows are opened or tenants use intermittent supplemental heating sources like oven ranges. Average temperaturemore » spread at the building as a result of this retrofit decreased from 22.1 degrees F to 15.5 degrees F.« less

Publication Date:
Research Org.:
National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Building Technologies Office
OSTI Identifier:
1158444
Report Number(s):
DOE/GO-102014-4464
KNDJ-0-40346-00
DOE Contract Number:
AC36-08GO28308
Resource Relation:
Related Information: Building America Case Study: Balancing Hydronic Systems in Multifamily Buildings, Chicago, Illinois (Fact Sheet)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
32 ENERGY CONSERVATION, CONSUMPTION, AND UTILIZATION; RESIDENTIAL BUILDINGS; BALANCES; OVENS; RANGE; RESIDENTIAL; PARR; BUILDING AMERICA; MULTIFAMILY; HYDRONIC; BALANCE; BALANCING; IMBALANCE; TEMPERATURE; OVEN; SPREAD

Citation Formats

Not Available. Building America Case Study: Balancing Hydronic Systems in Multifamily Buildings, Chicago, Illinois (Fact Sheet). United States: N. p., 2014. Web.
Not Available. Building America Case Study: Balancing Hydronic Systems in Multifamily Buildings, Chicago, Illinois (Fact Sheet). United States.
Not Available. Mon . "Building America Case Study: Balancing Hydronic Systems in Multifamily Buildings, Chicago, Illinois (Fact Sheet)". United States. doi:. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1158444.
@article{osti_1158444,
title = {Building America Case Study: Balancing Hydronic Systems in Multifamily Buildings, Chicago, Illinois (Fact Sheet)},
author = {Not Available},
abstractNote = {In multifamily hydronic systems, temperature imbalance may be caused by undersized piping, improperly adjusted balancing valves, inefficient water temperature and flow levels, and owner/occupant interaction with the boilers, distribution and controls. The effects of imbalance include tenant discomfort, higher energy use intensity and inefficient building operation. This paper explores cost-effective distribution upgrades and balancing measures in multifamily hydronic systems, providing a resource to contractors, auditors, and building owners on best practices to improve tenant comfort and lower operating costs. The research was conducted by The Partnership for Advanced Residential Retrofit (PARR) in conjunction with Elevate Energy. The team surveyed existing knowledge on cost-effective retrofits for optimizing distribution in typical multifamily hydronic systems, with the aim of identifying common situations and solutions, and then conducted case studies on two Chicago area buildings with known balancing issues in order to quantify the extent of temperature imbalance. At one of these buildings a booster pump was installed on a loop to an underheated wing of the building. This study found that unit temperature in a multifamily hydronic building can vary as much as 61 degrees F, particularly if windows are opened or tenants use intermittent supplemental heating sources like oven ranges. Average temperature spread at the building as a result of this retrofit decreased from 22.1 degrees F to 15.5 degrees F.},
doi = {},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = {Mon Sep 01 00:00:00 EDT 2014},
month = {Mon Sep 01 00:00:00 EDT 2014}
}
  • Steam heated buildings often suffer from uneven heating as a result of poor control of the amount of steam entering each radiator. In order to satisfy the heating load to the coldest units, other units are overheated. As a result, some tenants complain of being too hot and open their windows in the middle of winter, while others complain of being too cold and are compelled to use supplemental heat sources.
  • In multifamily building hydronic systems, temperature imbalance may be caused by undersized piping, improperly adjusted balancing valves, inefficient water temperature and flow levels, and owner/occupant interaction with the boilers, distribution and controls. The effects of imbalance include tenant discomfort, higher energy use intensity and inefficient building operation. In this case study , Partnership for Advanced Residential Retrofit and Elevate Energy. explores cost-effective distribution upgrades and balancing measures in multifamily hydronic systems, providing a resource to contractors, auditors, and building owners on best practices to improve tenant comfort and lower operating costs.
  • In multifamily buildings, particularly in the Northeast, exhaust ventilation strategies are the norm as a means of meeting both local exhaust and whole-unit mechanical ventilation rates. The issue of where the 'fresh' air is coming from is gaining significance as air-tightness standards for enclosures become more stringent, and the 'normal leakage paths through the building envelope' disappear. CARB researchers have found that the majority of high performance, new construction, multifamily housing in the Northeast use one of four general strategies for ventilation: continuous exhaust only with no designated supply or make-up air source, continuous exhaust with ducted make-up air tomore » apartments, continuous exhaust with supply through a make-up air device integral to the unit HVAC, and continuous exhaust with supply through a passive inlet device, such as a trickle vent. Insufficient information is available to designers on how these various systems are best applied. Product performance data are based on laboratory tests, and the assumption is that products will perform similarly in the field. Proper application involves matching expected performance at expected building pressures, but there is no guarantee that those conditions will exist consistently in the finished building. This research effort, which included several weeks of building pressure monitoring, sought to provide field validation of system performance. The performance of four substantially different strategies for providing make-up air to apartments was evaluated.« less
  • The ARIES Collaborative, a U.S. Department of Energy Building America research team, partnered with NeighborWorks America affiliate Homeowners' Rehab Inc. (HRI) of Cambridge, Massachusetts, to study improvements to the central hydronic heating system in one of the nonprofit's housing developments. The heating controls in the three-building, 42-unit Columbia Cambridge Alliance for Spanish Tenants housing development were upgraded. Fuel use in the development was excessive compared to similar properties. A poorly insulated thermal envelope contributed to high energy bills, but adding wall insulation was not cost-effective or practical. The more cost-effective option was improving heating system efficiency. Efficient operation of themore » heating system faced several obstacles, including inflexible boiler controls and failed thermostatic radiator valves. Boiler controls were replaced with systems that offer temperature setbacks and one that controls heat based on apartment temperature in addition to outdoor temperature. Utility bill analysis shows that post-retrofit weather-normalized heating energy use was reduced by 10%-31% (average of 19%). Indoor temperature cutoff reduced boiler runtime (and therefore heating fuel consumption) by 28% in the one building in which it was implemented. Nearly all savings were obtained during night which had a lower indoor temperature cut off (68 degrees F) than day (73 degrees F). This implies that the outdoor reset curve was appropriately adjusted for this building for daytime operation. Nighttime setback of heating system supply water temperature had no discernable impact on boiler runtime or gas bills.« less
  • Beyond these initial system efficiency upgrades are an emerging class of Advanced Load Monitoring (ALM) aftermarket controllers that dynamically respond to the boiler load, with claims of 10% to 30% of fuel savings over a heating season. For hydronic boilers specifically, these devices perform load monitoring, with continuous measurement of supply and in some cases return water temperatures. Energy savings from these ALM controllers are derived from dynamic management of the boiler differential, where a microprocessor with memory of past boiler cycles prevents the boiler from firing for a period of time, to limit cycling losses and inefficient operation duringmore » perceived low load conditions. These differ from OTR controllers, which vary boiler setpoint temperatures with ambient conditions while maintaining a fixed differential. PARR installed and monitored the performance of one type of ALM controller, the M2G from Greffen Systems, at multifamily sites in the city of Chicago and its suburb Cary, IL, both with existing OTR control. Results show that energy savings depend on the degree to which boilers are over-sized for their load, represented by cycling rates. Also savings vary over the heating season with cycling rates, with greater savings observed in shoulder months. Over the monitoring period, over-sized boilers at one site showed reductions in cycling and energy consumption in line with prior laboratory studies, while less over-sized boilers at another site showed muted savings.« less