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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Quantifying energy losses in hot water reheat systems


We developed a new method to estimate useful versus wasted hot water reheat energy using data obtained from typically installed instrumentation that applies to all pressure independent VAV terminal units with discharge air temperature sensors. We evaluated the method using a year of 1-minute interval data for a 11,000 m2 building with 98 terminal reheat units, and found a 14% upper bound for the uncertainty associated with this method. We found that just 21% of gas energy is converted to useful reheat energy in this building. The distribution losses alone were 44% of the heat output from the boiler. The results raise questions regarding the tradeoffs between hot water heating systems, which have significant distribution losses, and electric heating systems, which effectively have zero distribution losses. In this building, and likely many others, an electric reheat system supplied by a small photovoltaic panel system would have a lower operating energy cost and a lower initial cost than the hot water reheat system. Further investigations using this method will be relevant to designers and standards developers in deciding between electric and hot-water reheat, particularly for modern designs using dual-maximum controls and low minimum airflow setpoints.

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