Fault detection and diagnosis, Thermoeconomics, air conditioning, exergy
In the last two decades, great progress has been made in improving the efficiency of air-conditioning equipment. In addition to improved performance of new equipment, there has been an increasing interest in technologies that can maintain performance over time. This has led to research and development of Fault Detection and Diagnosis (FDD) techniques for air conditioning systems, that can support building owners in scheduling cost-effective maintenance and repairs. Among FDD techniques, thermoeconomic diagnosis is a novel method for the identification of faults occurring in air conditioning systems. A very limited number of papers have focused on this topic, and the methodology is still at a very early stage of development. Thermoeconomic diagnosis is an exergy-based method to quantify the additional energy consumption (or the EER penalty) associated with individual or combinations of faults. It has been initially tested for very simple vapor compression systems through simulation, but has never been evaluated using experimental data. This work aims to assess the performance of thermoeconomic diagnosis using experimental data obtained from a five-ton variable-speed packaged rooftop air conditioning unit (RTU). The RTU was tested in psychrometric chambers under a wide range of operating conditions and fault levels. Three faults that are commonly found in rooftop systems were investigated: (i) evaporator fouling, (ii) condenser fouling and (iii) refrigerant undercharge. The experimental results were used as inputs in an equipment model, to characterize the exergy behavior of each component in presence of faults and apply the approach of Symbolic Exergoeconomics. Experimental results show the technique had difficulty in detecting some faults and its performance is quite sensitive to operating conditions. Based on these results, improvements to the FDD methodology based on empirical models of plant components are proposed. These improvements act to isolate the effects of operating conditions from the thermoeconomic effects of different faults, improving overall performance.