Chilled Water Coils – Circuiting Made Easy

Chilled Water Coil

Circuiting chilled water coils is one of life’s great challenges in the coil business. You’re bound to run across folks with years of experience in the industry that can not effectively explain this concept. While not the most exciting of subjects, the necessity of circuiting chilled water coils can not be overstated. Capital Coil & Air has attempted to simplify the idea of circuiting as much as possible.

For starters, circuiting chilled water coils is ultimately up to the performance of those coils. Circuiting is really a balancing act of tube velocity and pressure drop. In other words, think of a coil as a matrix. Each coil has a specific number of rows, and a specific number of tubes within each row. For example, a chilled water coil might be 36 inch fin height and 8 rows deep. The coil has 24 tubes in each row, and multiplied by 8 rows, there is a total of 192 tubes within the coil. While you can try to feed any number of tubes, there are only a few combinations that will work.

    • Feeding 1 tube – you will be making 192 passes through the coil, which will essentially require a pump the size of your car to make that process work.
    • Feeding 2 tubes – equates to 96 passes, and your pressure drop will still be enormous.
    • Feeding 3 tubes – 64 passes, which is still too many.
    • Feeding 4 tubes – See above.
    • Feeding 5 tubes – Impossible as 5 does not divide evenly into 192 (passes).
    • Feeding 6 tubes – Still constitutes far too many passes, which again leads to additional pressure drop.
    • Feeding 7 tubes – Same rule for feeding 5 tubes.
    • Feeding 8 tubes –  Same rule for feeding 6 tubes.
    • Feeding 24 tubes – This feed consists of 8 passes, which is in the ballpark, and with a pressure drop you can live with.
    • Feeding 32 tubes – 32 tubes will see 6 passes. You might see a slight decrease in performance, but it’s off-set by a continuously better pressure drop.
    • Feeding 48 tubes – The magic combination, as 4 passes typically elicits the best performance and pressure drop simultaneously.


Rule #1: The number of tubes that you feed must divide evenly into the number of tubes in the chilled water coil.

Rule #2: The chilled water coil must give you an even number of passes so that the connections end up on the same end.

Rule #3: Based on the number of passes, you must be able to live with the resulting pressure drop. Acceptable tube velocity with water is between 2 and 6 ft. per second.

You’re bound to run into different terminologies depending on the manufacturer. More times than not, the different verbiage confuses more than it clarifies. However, understanding the basic tenets of chilled water coil circuiting will remove much of the perceived difficulty.  

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What Does “Splitting” A DX (Evaporator) Coil Mean?

“Splitting” a DX (Evaporator) coil is one of the toughest concepts to understand in the coil business. “Splitting” the coil simply means that (2) compressors can operate off of the same coil. One obvious advantage, or reason that you might “split” a DX coil is that you can shut down (1) of the compressors when the cooling load does not require it. This in turn saves energy, which saves $ when the cooling load is not operating at maximum design conditions. For example, let’s use a coil that is designed to give you (40) tons, but the coil is split so that (2) 20-ton compressors are feeding the same coil. If you only require ½ of the maximum load on any given day, you can shut down (1) compressor completely and operate the other one at 100%. This is a money-saving feature that you need to be aware of if you deal with DX coils on a regular basis. This requires special circuiting arrangements, and this is where the confusion starts with most folks. There are three primary ways to deal with this:


Splitting the coil is nothing more than putting (2) completely separate fin/tube packs (coils) into one common casing. When you hear the term “face-splitting” a coil, you are drawing a horizontal line from left to right across the face of the coil and dividing the coil into a top and bottom half. It is like having two separate coils in one casing in that each half is circuited by itself. You hook up (1) compressor for the top half, and (1) compressor for the bottom.

In practice, this configuration is no longer used with much frequency because this arrangement leads to air being directed across the entire face of the coil. This disadvantage is especially apparent when only one half of the coil is in use because you’ll need a complicated damper/duct system to ensure that air is only directed to that portion of the coil in operation.

Row Split

“Row splitting” a coil is dividing the coil by drawing a line vertically and putting some portion of the total rows in (1) circuit, while putting the remaining rows in the other circuit. With this configuration, the air passes across the entire face of the coil, and will always pass across the rows that are in operation.

Please be aware that this configuration also comes with certain issues in that this kind of split makes it very hard to achieve a true 50/50 split. Let’s use an (8) row coil as an example. You would like to “row split” this coil with (4) rows/circuit, which would appear to be a perfect 50/50 split. The problem here is that the first (4) rows, located closest to the entering air, pick up a much higher portion of the load than the last (4) rows. In actuality, this coil’s split is closer to 66% / 34%, which will not match the 50/50 compressors. Another option is try to split the coil between (3) & (5) rows. While not 50/50 either, this configuration is closer. However, a new challenge arises because you have now created a coil that is very difficult to build and correctly circuit. In short, you need almost perfect conditions along with a degree of luck to achieve a true 50/50 split using this method.

Intertwined Circuiting

The most common to split coils today is to “intertwine” the circuiting. This means that every alternate tube in the coil is included in (1) circuit, while the other tubes are included in the (2nd) circuit. For example, tubes 1, 3,5,7,9, etc. in the first row are combined with tubes 2, 4, 6,8,10, etc. in the second row. The same tubes in succeeding rows form (1) circuit. You are essentially including every alternate tube in the entire coil into (1) circuit, which (1) compressoDX (Evaporator) Coilsr will operate. All of the remaining tubes not included in the first circuit will now encompass the second circuit.

The advantage of this configuration is that the air passes across the entire face of the coil, and, if one of the compressors is on, there are always tubes in operation. Every split is now exactly 50/50 because it cannot be any other way. Most DX coils are now configured in this manner due to these advantages.

Capital Coil & Air has years of experience measuring, designing and building almost every OEM DX coil that you’ll come across, so please let us help you on your next project. We want to be your replacement coil experts and look forward to the opportunity.




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Do You Need to worry about performance on replacement HVAC coils?

With replacement HVAC coils, performance is almost never the issue. This is a common mistake that a lot of folks make. When duplicating a coil, your efforts need to be directed towards making sure the coil fits correctly, as that’s usually the main issue. While you may be thinking that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, here are the main reasons:

  • Coils were never intended to be filters, but that’s exactly what they become over time. For those that routinely work with coils, you know its design is tailor-made for the collection of dirt and Water Coilother air particles The tubes are staggered, which means that dirt can not get through. The fins are rippled and corrugated, which typically leads to the same result. Wet coils tend to collect more dirt than dry coils. The process of cleaning coils is very difficult, and the deeper the coil, the more difficult it is to clean. The end result, depending on the age, maintenance and operation, means that your coils operate anywhere from 50%-70% of their maximum efficiency.
  • Fins do approximately 70% of the work in a coil, with the tubes making up the remaining 30% (generally). When manufactured, the tubes are expanded into the fin collars. But, over time, the fins tend to loosen a little. While not sliding back and forth, the fins lose efficiency and their performance is lessened.
  • So what’s your typical solution after 5, 10 or 15 years? You’d probably raise or lower the water temp on you coil. You might also speed up the drive to get more CFM across the coil. You’ll try most anything to make up for the loss of the coil’s efficiency. Everybody does.

But when you replace the coil, it’s new and clean. Additionally, with a new fin/tube bond, your new coil is operating at 100% efficiency, while the old coil was working at 60% – 70% efficiency…maybe. With this automatic increase in efficiency means that performance is not really the issue. Your main concern should be that the coil fits in the space available. Otherwise, your new coil is nothing more than an ugly, metallic coffee table.

Your main goal is to replace your coils with as little trouble and cost as possible. While you may still have offsets in piping, as well as other small installation adjustments, performance should be the least of your worries. We’re here to help you meet your requirements quickly and easily.  CALL OR E-MAIL US!  We look forward to the opportunity to work with you on your future projects.

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