Energy and Latent Performance Impacts from Four Different Common Ducted Dehumidifier Configurations

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Dehumidification; Air Conditioning; Moisture; Residential


Dehumidifiers (DHUs) are the second most-selected equipment, after air conditioning (AC), used to manage indoor relative humidity (RH) in homes. They can offer the lowest first-cost, are well-established in the market, and are often easier to install than other supplemental dehumidification alternatives. However, DHUs have the potential to use significant amounts energy and may impact the performance of the central ducted cooling system under certain conditions. Dehumidifiers may be designed to be ducted or un-ducted. Dehumidifiers with ducts are sometimes referred to as whole-house or ducted dehumidifiers.

Manufacturer manuals offer several different options for ducting DHUs, but they do not provide adequate information about potential performance impacts. Also sorely missing are expanded DHU performance metrics to help professionals and consumers determine the appropriate DHU capacity and to help predict operational efficiency for specific realistic applications. The Florida Building Commission initiated a research project to determine if some common ducted DHU configurations had significant energy and moisture impacts and whether any configurations should be not allowed in Florida Building Code. The research evaluated measured energy use and latent heat removal rates of AC and DHU for four different common ducted DHU duct configurations. Testing occurred during variable weather and interior latent loads common in a warm moist climate. A highly-instrumented building lab was used to evaluate AC and DHU performance based upon how a DHU was ducted to a central AC ductwork and compared these to a DHU ducted to and from an open central room.

There was less than 1% difference in annual space conditioning energy (DHU + AC) among two different methods of DHU ducted to the central supply duct and the DHU ducted directly to indoors. However, steady-state and longer-term test findings showed that a DHU ducted to and from a central cooling system return upstream of the central cooling evaporator coil resulted in the annual predicted space conditioning energy use of 308 kWh/year (4%) more than the DHU ducted directly to indoors. It also resulted in decreased central AC latent performance by 28% when the DHU and AC ran simultaneously. This DHU duct configuration further degraded dehumidification performance by causing moisture to be evaporated off of the central cooling coil at a rate as high as 2-3 pounds of water per hour when the AC was cycled off and DHU operated. This paper discusses the experimental method, results and recommended practice of ducting DHU for optimum performance.

This paper was presented at the ASHRAE 2020 Virtual Conference.

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Buildings - Air Conditioning; Buildings - Dehumidification; Buildings - Moisture; Buildings - Residential

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