Improved cooling tower control of legacy chiller plants by optimizing the condenser water set point

Sen Huang, Wangda Zuo, Michael D. Sohn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Achieving the optimal control of cooling towers is critical to the energy-efficient operation of current or legacy chiller plants. Although many promising control methods have been proposed, limitations in their applications exist for legacy chiller plants. For example, some methods require the change of the plant's overall control structure, which can be difficult to legacy chiller plants; some methods are too complicated and computationally intensive to implement in old building control systems. To address the above issues, we develop an operational support system. This system employs a model predictive control scheme to optimize the condenser water set point and can be applied in chiller plants without changes in the control structure. To further facilitate the implementation, we propose to increase the optimization accuracy by selecting a better starting point. The results from a case study with a real legacy chiller plant in Washington D.C. show that the proposed operational support system can achieve up to around 9.67% annual energy consumption savings for chillers and cooling towers. The results also show the proposed starting point selection method can achieve a better accuracy and a faster computational speed than commonly used methods. In addition, we find that we can select a lower optimization frequency for the studied case since the impact of the optimization frequency on the energy savings is not significant while a lower optimization frequency does reduce the computational demand to a great extent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-46
Number of pages14
JournalBuilding and Environment
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Condenser water set point
  • Model predictive control
  • Modelica
  • Optimization frequency
  • Optimization starting point

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Building and Construction


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