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Professor Receives Funding to Improve Building Chillers

A project to develop and implement automated fault detection and diagnostics (FDD) technology for commercial building centrifugal chillers by Haorong Li, UNL assistant professor of Architectural Engineering, has been awarded $152,220 from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.

The ultimate goal of the research is to create FDD technology to improve energy efficiency, occupant comfort, equipment reliability and maintenance productivity for building coolers, which consume high amounts of energy and require extensive maintenance.

According to Li, central chillers and district cooling serve about 28 percent of a commercial building floor area, and require a significant portion of maintenance costs. While current control systems monitor many variables, the information is seldom used for detecting and diagnosing faults or improper operations within commercial HVAC systems, Li said.

Li noted that inadequate maintenance of these chillers can lead to inefficient operation, a loss in cooling capacity, and increased wear of components. Excessive maintenance also leads to unnecessary costs, he said. As such, early diagnosis of equipment problems can reduce the costs associated with repairs by improving scheduling and reducing on-site labor time.

Li has been involved in research within the energy field for the past 10 years. His experience includes developing and bringing innovative HVAC&R monitoring and control, and FDD technology to the business market. His original work, the decoupling-based FDD, sponsored by California Energy Commissioning Public Interest Energy Research (PIER) Program 2.1, led to significant breakthroughs in both methodology and implementation cost. His black-box model was deemed the best FDD method for chillers as part of this project.

Currently, Li is working on three other projects, including one sponsored by Nebraska Center for Energy Sciences Research featuring a wireless sensor network for energy efficiency, as well as two projects funded by industry sponsors involving rooftop air conditioners and chillers.

 

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