Purdue University Graduate School
Thesis - Parveen Dhillon - Load Based Testing.pdf (34.9 MB)
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Extension, Evaluation, and Validation of Load Based Testing for Residential and Commercial HVAC Equipment

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posted on 2022-12-02, 16:38 authored by Parveen DhillonParveen Dhillon

With rising temperatures, urbanization, population growth, improving economic wellbeing, decarbonization and electrification efforts, the demand for space cooling and heating equipment is continuously increasing around the world. To counteract the effect of rising demand for air conditioners and heat pumps on total energy consumption, peak electricity demand, and emissions, it is crucial to promote the development and market penetration of energy-efficient systems. Establishing minimum energy performance standards (MEPS), energy labeling and utility programs are some of the effective and tested methods for achieving this goal. The technical basis for these energy efficiency standards is a testing and rating procedure for estimating equipment seasonal performance from laboratory tests. Although the current rating procedures provide standardized metrics to compare different equipment performances, they fail to appropriately characterize the field representative performance of systems by not considering the effects of: 1) test unit embedded controls, thermostat, and realistic interactions with the building load and dynamics; 2) different climate zones and building types; and 3) and other integrated accessories for improving energy efficiency such as economizer for rooftop units (RTUs). Therefore, current approaches for performance ratings neither incentives the development and implementation of improved system and control designs nor consumers with a metric that represents the advanced systems' actual energy savings. To address this, a load-based testing methodology that enables dynamic performance evaluation of equipment with its integrated controls, thermostat, and other accessories was recently proposed. The test methodology is based on the concept of emulating the response of a representative building conditioned by the test unit in a test lab using a virtual building model. 

In this work, the proposed load-based testing methodology was further extended, evaluated, and validated for residential heat pumps to integrate it into next-generation energy efficiency testing and rating procedures and to serve as a tool for engineers to develop and validate improved control algorithms in a laboratory setting. Further, a load-based testing method for evaluating the dynamic performance of RTUs with integrated economizers was also developed and demonstrated.

A load-based testing approach previously developed for residential cooling equipment is extended for heat pump heating-mode and demonstrated for a variable-speed system. The heat pump's typical dynamic behaviors are captured along with controller imperfections that aren't reflected in current testing approaches. Further, a comprehensive comparison was performed between the proposed load-based testing approach to the current steady-state testing approach in the U.S., AHRI 210/240, based on performance evaluation of three residential variable-speed heat pumps to understand the differences and their significance for the next-generation rating procedure. For cooling mode, steady-state testing estimates higher seasonal performance, but for heating mode, the steady-state testing approach estimates higher seasonal performance for warmer climates and is comparable for colder climates. The load-based testing methodology was validated by comparing the laboratory performance of a heat pump to that of a residential building in a controlled environment. The virtual building modeling approach for building loads and thermal dynamics effectively captured these characteristics of the house. The heat pump's cycling rate response with run-time fraction, which represents the unit's overall dynamic response, matched well between lab load-based tests and house tests. The test unit's COP difference for cooling and heating tests was within 3% between the two facilities, except for 9% in 95°F and 6% in 104°F cooling dry-coil test intervals. To evaluate the applicability of the developed load-based testing methodology as next-generation rating standards, its repeatability and reproducibility were assessed based on multiple heat pump round-robin tests conducted in two labs. Overall, reasonable to good repeatability was observed in load-based test results in both labs, however, poor reproducibility was observed except for one heat pump heating mode results. A root cause analysis of the observed differences along with recommendations for a next-generation rating approach are presented. This work aided in the development of a CSA (Canadian Standards Association) standard EXP07:19 and its subsequent revision for equipment rating based on load-based testing.

The application of the load-based testing methodology as a tool for the development and evaluation of a residential heat pump controller design was demonstrated. Further, a load-based testing methodology was developed and demonstrated for the dynamic performance evaluation of RTUs with integrated economizers in a test laboratory setting. Recommendations for future work to further develop and improve the repeatability, reproducibility, and representativeness of the load-based testing and rating approach for residential and commercial air conditioners and heat pumps are summarized at the end of the dissertation. 


Center for High Performance Buildings (CHPB) at Purdue

Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA)

Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI)

Natural Resources Canada (NRCan)


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Mechanical Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

James E. Braun

Additional Committee Member 2

W. Travis Horton

Additional Committee Member 3

Eckhard A. Groll

Additional Committee Member 4

Davide Ziviani