HVAC Systems Design: Why Engineering Simulation is a Must
HVAC systems (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) represent one of the critical components in many fields, from Construction and Architecture to Automotive. HVAC designers and engineers are facing many challenges when it comes to product manufacturing, smart buildings, or modern plant infrastructure design.
In order to reduce these challenges, ensure energy efficiency, and best performance of HVAC equipment, engineering simulation is being increasingly adopted in the design process.
Dramatic challenges in classic HVAC system designs process
A classic HVAC systems design process is based on 4 elementary steps:
Design > Physical Prototyping > Testing > Design Change
Here are a lot of critical issues related to quality, time, and prototyping cycle related costs.
Assuming a simple mid-power home air conditioning system, the quality of the final product is clearly influenced by no enough time or attention given to prototyping and testing. A large number of performance characteristics, associated with thermal comfort, energy consumption, humidity factors, noise level, water condense evacuation, ergonomics, and reliability influence this quality.
Only very experienced HVAC systems design teams could find in a reasonable time and with reasonable costs the better acceptable solution ready to be assimilated in the manufacturing line. Otherwise, the testing process can involve hundreds of prototype changes, impossible to be predicted in time. Otherwise, the testing process can involve hundreds of prototype changes, impossible to be predicted in time. Unpredictable costs associated with the supply and testing laboratory activities also need to be considered. The process of prototyping and testing can take weeks, and sometimes HVAC designers or architects don’t have this time.
Saving time and money with simulation
By implementing simulation activities, the HVAC systems design process is radically simplified:
Design > Simulation (CAE) > Design Changes
Engineering simulation tools enable engineers and designers to virtually test and analyze HVAC designs, and based on the simulation results make fast design changes and test again. Cloud-based simulation platforms like SimScale now offer this possibility with a minimal cost (as a SaaS solution, the payment is subscription-based and doesn’t imply investments in hardware or licenses). The HVAC equipment market is very competitive and any inefficiency issue in the production process can influence the final cost and time to market for a new product.
Engineering simulation, know also as CAE technology, allows HVAC engineers to virtually test designs early and fast, reducing a 3-month physical testing process to a few days or even hours. This substantially speeds up the development process and allows fast access to the market. Moreover, running hundreds of iterations with computer simulation is significantly more cost-efficient. No unpredictable expenses with prototype materials, less testing time, reduced laboratory costs, and minimal risks.
CAE is not meant to completely replace physical prototyping, but to be its precedent step, ensuring the design used for the real prototype has gone through all required changes and is the best version of the product.
For HVAC systems, usually designers and engineers perform fluid dynamics (CFD) and thermodynamic analyses to improve air conditioning circulation and comfort factors for different indoor or outdoor scenarios. HVAC product designers can radically improve the characteristics of equipment by analyzing simulation charts for temperature, pressure, and velocity distribution. The study of aerodynamic or thermodynamic forces is very useful in establishing the better equipment position in a location.
Noise reduction is another important factor in creating a more pleasant living and working environment. Most common noise sources are related to fans, variable air volume systems, grilles and diffusers, chillers, compressors, pumps, stand-by generators, boilers, and cooling towers. The alternatives to noise reduction are more silent ventilation equipment, silencers and insulation materials for HVAC protection, or implementing noise optimization analysis.
5 Tips for HVAC Systems Design
Engineer– designer tandem collaboration – Usually, in a product development process, engineers and product designers have different goals for their projects. While engineers are more interested in the product’s reliability, quality, dimensional details, materials supply, or manufacturing processes, designers are more oriented towards features, customer experience, and competitive alternatives. What is important is for all team members to work together and achieve the main goals of the whole project. All modern simulation solutions enable communication and collaboration options.
Looking for a perfect fit – Acting as essential creation poles in the HVAC product development chain, HVAC designer roles are to provide a perfect fit between product functionality and design. Any new product should be first of all simple to use and attractive by his simplicity;
Improving existing products – Customers need more practical and better products. Before starting the design conception, any product designer should study existing HVAC products and investigate competitor’s features and functionalities;
Testing prototype– HVAC system designs teams should benchmark new products, evaluating how new features and functionalities can be implemented into the product design;
Trusting simulation – Simulation technology is a valuable part of the product development process. Considering the industry purposes, HVAC systems design specialists should use virtual prototyping offered by simulation technology. On the market, there are many traditional simulation software packages that, even though they have a wide range of available features and capabilities, are inaccessible to most of professionals and companies due to the required large upfront investment, technical expertise, and accessibility. Since the launch of SimScale’s cloud-based 3D CAE platform, however, the world of engineering simulation has begun to change, now engineers and designers having access to powerful simulation capabilities within an easy-to-use cloud-based platform that can be used with a normal laptop or desktop computer.
This case study shows how the Austrian company IBEEE optimized the airflow of a ventilation system by 40%.