Air handling unit supply air temperature optimal control during economizer cycles

Gang Wang, Li Song

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Most air handling units (AHUs) in commercial buildings have an air economizer cycle for free cooling under certain outside air conditions. During the economizer cycle, the outside air and return air dampers are modulated to seek supply air temperature at its setpoint. The supply air temperature is typically set at 55 F (13°C) to control humidity in the space. However, dehumidification is not necessary when the outside air is dry. Meanwhile, the space may have less cooling load due to envelope heat loss and/or occupant schedule changes. These facts provide an opportunity to use higher supply air temperature to reduce or eliminate mechanical cooling and terminal box reheat. On the contrary, a higher supply air temperature requires increased air flow as well as fan power. Therefore, an optimization question is formed, through which an optimal supply air temperature is identified to minimize total energy consumption. In this paper a steady-state energy consumption model is established for AHU systems under the economizer, and then an analytical optimization method is used to seek an optimal supply air temperature setpoint to minimize the energy cost. This paper presents AHU system energy modeling, supply air temperature optimization, simulated energy savings, and control sequence development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)310-316
Number of pages7
JournalEnergy and Buildings
StatePublished - Jun 1 2012


  • Air handling unit
  • Control
  • Energy efficiency
  • Free cooling
  • Optimization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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