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Transient characteristics of humidity sensors and their applications to energy wheels



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Rotary air-to-air energy exchangers (also called energy wheels) transfer both heat and moisture between supply and exhaust airstreams in buildings. In this thesis, it is hypothesized that the transient step response characteristics of an energy wheel are uniquely related to the steady-state cyclic response of the wheel. The primary objective of this research is to study the transient response of a humidity/temperature sensor and measure energy wheel performance with a new test procedure that uses only transient response characteristics. In this thesis, the transient characteristics of a humidity/temperature sensor and an energy wheel to a step change in relative humidity and temperature are investigated through two types of measurements. One test uses a small airflow, at controlled temperature and humidity conditions, passing through a small section of a porous wheel while measuring the outlet conditions after the inlet conditions are suddenly changed. For a step input, it is shown that the outlet humidity/temperature sensor data correlate with an exponential function with two time constants. Since the transient response characteristics of the humidity/temperature sensor must be known to predict the response of the wheel alone, a second test is required that is similar to the first test except that the wheel is removed. This test is used to obtain the transient response of the sensor alone. Data from these tests show that both the sensor and the sensor plus wheel have two sets of two time constants. An analysis is presented to determine the transient response of the wheel alone using the correlated properties of the sensor alone and the sensor with a wheel upstream. The challenge undertaken in this research was the development of a more flexible, lower cost test facility than that presented in ASHRAE Standard 84-1991(Method of Testing Air-to-Air Heat Exchangers). In future work, this new laboratory experimental test facility should be adapted to test most types of energy wheels. The configuration allows a wide range of mass flow rates, inlet supply air temperatures and relative humidities. Uncertainty analysis is used for each transient test for the sensors and air-to-air energy wheels to specify the sensor and wheel plus sensor characteristics. This uncertainty analysis shows that accurate sensor calibration under equilibrium conditions and the start time for the humidity sensor step change is crucial to achieve low uncertainties in the transient behaviour of sensor and energy wheels. Knowing the uncertainty in the characteristics of the sensors and the wheel plus sensors the uncertainty in the transient response of the wheel alone is predicted. The first time constant of the humidity sensor is found to be about 3 seconds, while the second time constant is found to be about 100 seconds. It is found that the predicted response of the wheel alone gives time constants that are about 6 seconds and 140 seconds. Other researchers can use this information presented in this thesis to estimate the effectiveness of an energy wheel.



Duhamels equation, energy wheel, dynamic behaviour, transient response, uncertainty, temperature sensor, thermocouple, humidity and temperature measurement, time constant, humidity sensor, sensor, effectiveness, air-to-air energy exchanger



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Mechanical Engineering


Mechanical Engineering


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