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Chiller Plant Optimization System Strategies

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Laura Miller

Chilled water-based cooling systems account for significant energy consumption and maintenance costs in large commercial premises. As an individual component of the HVAC system, even a super-efficient chiller plant cannot meet ambitious energy targets on its own. A robust chiller plant optimization system driven by a smart building platform is the key to achieving peak efficiency and performance.

Chiller Plant Efficiency Calculation

Improving efficiency requires understanding how efficient your equipment is currently. This is accomplished by calculating the coefficient of performance (COP)—the ratio of the refrigeration effect produced by the chiller to the amount of electrical energy consumed for refrigeration. Each chiller has a different COP and varies with the cooling load. 

Most chiller plants run more efficiently at part load and at optimum efficiency at 40-60% of their peak capacities. However, many variables impact efficiency, including:

  • Design concept: Anticipating the operating conditions, including load profile, and selecting the right quantity, type, and configuration of chillers is critical to the efficiency of the plant.
  • Components: Efficient individual components such as pumps, chillers, and fans can go a long way toward improving the overall full- and partial-load efficiency of the plant. 
  • Installation and operation: Proper installation of a chiller plant, along with an established commissioning process, is critical to realize the potential efficiency of the system.   

Calculating COP and evaluating the impact of these variables in your building is a good starting point for building owners seeking to reduce energy consumption. 

Strategies for Improving Efficiency 

Different buildings present different opportunities for improvement, but there are common threads. Some of the best chiller plant optimization system strategies include:

  • Staging: A staged chiller can ramp up and scale depending on the demand. Staging up provides sufficient cooling even at times of high demand, and staging down keeps chiller operations running while avoiding power surges and poor performance. Staging based on measured load vs. chiller capacity allows the staged chiller to be turned off when the remaining chillers have the capacity to meet the load.

  • Using a virtual power plant: A cloud-based virtual power plant (VPP) can remotely integrate several independent energy resources from different locations into a network that provides reliable power throughout the day. By creating a demand response-based system, a VPP optimizes chiller operations when the cooling load is dropping and frees up power that can potentially be used to generate additional revenue.

  • Integration: Building owners and facility managers tend to rely on a separate chiller plant management system to optimize efficiency, but such arrangements have major drawbacks. These include a lack of data sharing between the chiller plant management system and the BMS that controls other building operations. Integrating chiller controls with a smart BMS opens up valuable new opportunities for efficiency-focused automation, data-driven maintenance, and elevated performance.   

Creating a Smart Chiller Plant Optimization System

The objective of a chiller plant optimization system is to control the cooling load. Most modern chiller control panels provide detailed operating data on cooling loads and operational efficiency. But the potential this data holds can only be fully unleashed through integration and advanced analytics. Integrated smart building platforms that continuously analyzes energy usage, correlate chiller performance with other building functions, identify areas of concern, and recommend solutions that should be the heart of any chiller plant optimization system. 

onPoint is a cloud-based smart building platform that gives you greater insight and control over the cooling load and the complex variables that affect it. By analyzing historical and real-time data from all connected equipment, this powerful software will:

It can also play a central role in transforming chiller plants into revenue-generating pieces of equipment via VPPs.

Advances in technology are making siloed systems a thing of the past. When you embrace integration and smart building software, you are making a wise investment in the future of your building.

Buildings IOT offers the state-of-the-art services and products you need to create a smart chiller plant optimization system. Contact our team of experts to learn more about what we can do for you.



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