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Guide to DDC

Chapter 2

Control Responses

Two-Position Control

Two-position control compares the value of an analog or variable input with instructions and generates a digital (two-position) output. The instructions involve the definition of an upper and lower limit. The output changes its value as the input crosses these limit values. There are no standards for defining these limits. The most common terminology used is setpoint and differential. The setpoint indicates the point where the output pulls-in, energizes or is true. The output changes back or drops-out after the input value crosses through the value equal to the difference between the setpoint and the differential.

Two-position control can be used for simple control loops (temperature control) or limit control (freezestats, outside air temperature limits). The analog value can be any measured variable including temperature, relative humidity, pressure, current and liquid levels.

Time can also be the input to a two-position control response. This control response functions like a time clock with pins. The output pulls-in when the time is in the defined on time and drops out during the defined off time.

Figure 3, shows an example of two-position control in a home heating system, where the thermostat is set to energize the heating system when the space temperature falls below 70 F and turn off when the temperature rises to 72 F in the space. This is an example of a setpoint of 70 F with a two-degree differential.

Floating Control

Floating control is a control response that produces two possible digital outputs based on a change in a variable input. One output increases the signal to the controlled device, while the other output decreases the signal to the controlled device. This control response also involves an upper and lower limit with the output changing as the variable input crosses these limits. Again, there are no standards for defining these limits, but the terms setpoint and deadband are common. The setpoint sets a midpoint and the deadband sets the difference between the upper and lower limits.

When the measured variable is within the deadband or neutral zone, neither output is energized and the controlled device does not change - it stays in its last position. For this control response to be stable, the sensor must sense the effect of the controlled device movement very rapidly. Floating control does not function well where there is significant thermodynamic lag in the control loop. Fast airside control loops respond well to floating control. An example of floating controls is shown in Figure 4.

Proportional Control

A proportional control response produces an analog or variable output change in proportion to a varying input. In this control response, there is a linear relationship between the input and the output. A setpoint, throttling range and action typically define this relationship. In a proportional control response, there is a unique value of the measured variable that corresponds to full travel of the controlled device and a unique value that corresponds to zero travel on the controlled device. The change in the measured variable that causes the controlled device to move from fully closed to fully open is called the throttling range. It is within this range that the control loop will control, assuming that the system has the capacity to meet the requirements.

The action dictates the slope of the control response. In a direct acting proportional control response, the output will rise with an increase in the measured variable. In a reverse acting response, the output will decrease as the measured variable increases. The setpoint is an instruction to the control loop and corresponds to a specified value of the controlled device, usually half-travel. An example is shown in Figure 5.

In a proportional control system, the value of the measured variable at any given moment is called the control point. Offset is defined as the difference between the control point and the desired condition. One way to reduce offset is to reduce throttling range. Reducing the throttling range too far will lead to instability. The more quickly the sensor feels the effect of the control response, the larger the throttling range has to be to produce stable control.

Proportional plus Integral (PI) Control

PI control involves the measurement of the offset or error over time. This error is integrated and a final adjustment is made to the output signal from the proportional part of this model. This type of control response will use the control loop to reduce the offset to zero. A well set-up PI control loop will operate in a narrow band close to the setpoint. It will not operate over the entire throttling range (Figure 6).

PI control loops do not perform well when setpoints are dynamic, where sudden load changes occur or if the throttling range is small.

Proportional plus Integral plus Derivative (PID) Control

PID control adds a predictive element to the control response. In addition to the proportional and integral calculation, the derivative or slope of the control response will be computed. This calculation will have the effect of dampening a control response that is returning to setpoint so quickly that it will overshoot the setpoint.

PID is a precision process control response and is not always required for HVAC applications. The routine application of PID control to every control loop is labor intensive and its application should be selective.

Definition of Direct Digital Control (DDC)

DDC control consists of microprocessor-based controllers with the control logic performed by software. Analog-to-Digital (A/D) converters transform analog values into digital signals that a microprocessor can use. Analog sensors can be resistance, voltage or current generators. Most systems distribute the software to remote controllers to eliminate the need for continuous communication capability (stand-alone). The computer is primarily used to monitor the status of the energy management system, store back-up copies of the programs and record alarming and trending functions. Complex strategies and energy management functions are readily available at the lowest level in the system architecture. If pneumatic actuation is required, it is accomplished with electronic to pneumatic transducers. Calibration of sensors is mathematical; consequently the total man-hours for calibration are greatly reduced. The central diagnostic capabilities are a significant asset. Software and programming are constantly improving, becoming increasingly user-friendly with each update.

Benefits of DDC

The benefits of direct digital control over past control technologies (pneumatic or distributed electronic) is that it improves the control effectiveness and increases the control efficiency. The three main direct benefits of DDC are improved effectiveness, improved operation efficiency and increased energy efficiency.

Improved Effectiveness

DDC provides more effective control of HVAC systems by providing the potential for more accurately sensed data. Electronic sensors for measuring the common HVAC parameters of temperature, humidity and pressure are inherently more accurate than their pneumatic predecessors. Since the logic of a control loop is now included in the software, this logic can be readily changed. In this sense, DDC is far more flexible in changing reset schedules, setpoints and the overall control logic. Users are apt to apply more complex strategies, implement energy saving features and optimize their system performance since there is less cost associated with these changes than there would be when the logic is distributed to individual components. This of course assumes the user possesses the knowledge to make the changes.

DDC systems, by their very nature can integrate more easily into other computer-based systems. DDC systems can integrate into fire control systems, access/security control systems, lighting control systems and maintenance management systems.

Improved Operational Efficiency

Operational improvements show the greatest opportunity for efficiency improvements in direct digital controls. The alarming capabilities are strong and most systems have the ability to route alarms to various locations on a given network. The trending capabilities allow a diagnostic technician or engineer to troubleshoot system and control problems. They also allow the data to be visualized in various formats. These data can also be stored and analyzed for trends in equipments performance over time.

Run-times of various equipment can be monitored and alarms/messages can be generated when a lead/lag changeover occurs or if it is time to conduct routine maintenance.

The off-site access/communication capability allows an owner/operator to access their system remotely. Multiple parties can also be involved in troubleshooting a problem. The control vendor, design engineer and commissioning authority can use these features to more efficiently diagnose and visualize problems.

Increased Energy Efficiency

There are many energy-efficient control strategies employed in pneumatic logic that can be easily duplicated in DDC logic. Due to the addition of more complex mathematical functions (easily obtained in software), there are many additional energy-efficient routines that can be used with DDC.

Strategies such as demand monitoring and limiting can be more easily implemented with DDC systems. The overall demand to a facility can be monitored and controlled by resetting various system setpoints based on different demand levels. If a DDC system is installed at the zone level, this could be accomplished by decreasing the requirement for cooling on a zone-by-zone basis.

By storing trends, energy consumption patterns can be monitored. Equipment can also be centrally scheduled on or off in applications where schedules frequently change.

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