How Should Steam Coils Be Designed??

Standard Steam Coil

Of all of  the various types of coils, steam coils operate in the most complicated ways. They are, in effect, a product of the system and controls around the coil. If not installed correctly, steam coils simply won’t work properly.

Overview:

The object of any steam coil is to have steam enter the coil as steam and exit as condensate. In a perfect scenario, the BTU load on the coil turns steam into condensate just before it’s ready to exit the coil. Under real world conditions however, condensate usually begins to form inside the tubes almost immediately. Especially when dealing with low-pressure systems, you have to find a way to evacuate the condensate from the steam coil.

Coil Pitch

A good coil manufacturer will internally pitch the steam coil within the coil casing to force the condensate toward the outlet connection. This pitch is usually 1/8 “ per lineal foot of coil.

Coil Length

If you require steam to travel 144” and make multiple passes through the coil, then, simply put, your system will not work properly. Condensate forms too early, and it cannot escape the coil. Because of this, coils cannot be too long. A better strategy is to break one long coil into two smaller coils side by side, while feeding from both sides.

Tube Diameter:

Steam Distributing coils often have to be 1  1/8 ” diameter tubes. If the BTU load on a coil is really large, then as a result, you will generate many more Lbs./hour of condensate. If the tube diameter is too small, then the condensate, which needs to evacuate, has no place to go.

Traps:

Traps are required on steam coil systems. The traps should be “float & thermostatic” type traps and be located 18 “ below the condensate connection on the steam coil. Without this, the condensate just sits in the system without any place to go.

Vacuum Breakers

Vacuum Breakers are often installed in coil systems to remove any excess condensate that may remain within the coil.

Insulated Piping:

There is no such thing as a “Condensate” Heating coil, built as a steam coil. IT DOESN’T WORK.  However, and this happens an astounding amount of times, due to the long distances the steam has to travel from the boiler to the coil, many times, the steam will enter the coil as condensate due to the piping not being insulated.

Anything that makes condensate lay in a coil is harmful to both the steam coil and the system. You will get a “water hammer” when the system is turned on and the incoming steam just blasts against the condensate. Worse than the loud and annoying sound that produces is the fact that it just destroys the steam coil. The brazing was never designed for “water hammer”.  Also, the coils do not heat properly. Have you ever seen a long coil and run your hand down its length only to feel that the entering steam end of the coil is hot but the far end is cold? More times than not, this means that condensate is laying in the coil and not allowing the steam to properly travel the length of the coil.

Steam Coils require a real expertise to design & build. We at Capital Coil have a long history in solving coil problems and building steam coils so that they work correctly the first time. Give us a call for your next job – you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

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Why Is Fin Design On HVAC Replacement Coils Important?

Replacement HVAC Coils

At first glance, fin designs on HVAC replacement coils seem about as exciting as watching grass grow. “Why would I ever care about fin design on any coil” was probably your initial response to our question. Nevertheless, we would not dedicate a newsletter to this subject if fins were not important.

One of the primary reasons fins are so important is that you want to keep your coil as clean and maintained as possible. In order to properly maintain your coil, you need to have an understanding as to how HVAC replacement coils are constructed. While fins do not look like much, they are MUCH more complicated than what you can observe at the entering or leaving airside of the coil.

To begin, fins are responsible for a surprising 65% – 70% of the heat transfer on any coil, while tubes are responsible for the remaining 30% – 35%. Additionally, in order for your coil to work at optimum performance, you need to have a terrific fin/tube bond, (which we will discuss below).

  1. Fins are known as secondary surface, while tubes are referred to as primary surface. While this may seem counter-intuitive, the secondary surface is responsible for twice the amount of heat transfer as the primary surface.
  2. There are special dies (see picture) that stamp out aluminum or copper fins with the correct thickness, height, and depth to make the coil the correct size. For example, a coil might be 36” (height) x 96” (length) x (8) rows deep x 8 fins/inch.
    1. Fin Height: 36”
    2. Fin Depth: 12”, (8) rows deep
    3. # of fins in the coil: 768 (8 fins x 96”)
  3. Each fin has 192 holes stamped in the fin for 5/8” OD tubes (8 Rows x 24 Tubes), and each fin is identical.
  4. Each hole has extruded metal, which is more commonly referred to as the fin collar. The collars are sized to self-space the fins and allow for later expansion of the tube into the fin collar. This practice is also known as “bonding” and is essential to having your coil run efficiently/correctly.
  5. Each fin is rippled at the entering and leaving edge of the fin to help create air turbulence.
  6. Each fin is corrugated in the direction of airflow to allow for greater air turbulence. This is important to remember because turbulence creates heat transfer.

So again, what is the point of understanding the importance of fins in HVAC coils? While coils can be built with flat fins for various reasons, the vast majority of coils are built with enhanced fins. Enhanced fins help to ensure that the airflow is not running straight through the coil.

Regardless of fin type, keep in mind that HVAC coils can and will act as great “filters”. The tubes are staggered and not in-line; while the fins are designed to help break up the airflow and not facilitate an easy, straight-through air path. Dirt and/or other particles in the air get caught easily, which again, is why coils can act as great filters. Additionally, coils with more rows will usually get dirtier than coils with less rows. Lastly, chilled water or DX coils are typically wet coils, which results in them catching virtually everything in the air.

The amount of BTU’s through any coil is in direct proportion to the amount of air through the coil. For example, if you are only getting 90% of the design air through the coil, then you are only getting 90% of the BTU’s.

Coils require good filtration and periodic maintenance. If not done correctly, you’ll pay the price of higher energy costs on an inefficient coil.

By now, you have hopefully come to the realization that HVAC coils are much more complicated than they appear, and that fins are an integral part of the coil as a whole. Again, while admittedly not the most exciting topic, understanding the role and importance of fins in HVAC coils cannot be overstated. Capital Coil & Air is here to help you with any and all coil selections, and we look forward to working with you on your next project.

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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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Chilled Water, DX (Evaporator) Coils & Moisture Carryover

Moisture carryover is present on DX (Evaporator) Coils or Chilled Water coils where dehumidification happens.  Many people do not think it’s a problem…until you have moisture running down ductwork or spewing all over the inside of an air handler. If you’ve ever experienced that then you probably know all of these rules regarding moisture carryover.

  • Entering air temperatures of 80/67 of return air in the Northeast carry far less moisture than an outside 95/78 entering air temperature in Florida. Outside air always has more moisture. Chilled Water Coil

    Your location plays a part as well. The drain pans will absolutely have be sized differently. Florida’s will be much larger in size.

  • Fin design is irrelevant when it comes to moisture carryover. Whether you have copper corrugated fins, or aluminum flat fins, plate fins or even the old fashioned spiral fins, none of it has any effect on moisture carryover.
  • Lastly, be careful when installing a new chilled water or DX (Evaporator) Coils in a system. Many end users like to increase the airflow on older coils because those old coils can act like filters, the fins are covered in dirt/dust and you’re not getting the same airflow through the coil. This dirt on the coil also semi-prevents moisture carryover. When that brand new chilled water coil is installed, the airflow might be higher than that 550 ft/minute and that, of course, will cause moisture carryover problems. 

Please give us a call with any questions about your coil, your system or its design. Capital Coil is here to help you avoid situations like the one described in this post, and we would love for the chance to work with you!

 

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OEM Replacement Coils: Repair or Replace???

When considering OEM replacement coils, there are multiple reasons why coils can fail prematurely. Sometimes, OEM Coils simply freeze and can never be repaired. Other times, the coil was selected incorrectly, which in turn, made the coil significantly underperform. Many times, there is substantial corrosion or something else in the system that causes the coil to fail. However, most coils, when selected correctly, and in systems that are properly maintained, can last anywhere from 10-30 years!  10-30 years is also a pretty wide range, and there are many variables in how long you can expect a coil to perform. Factors, such as ongoing maintenance, air quality, and water/steam quality all have an effect on a coil’s lifespan.

OEM Replacement Coils

Reasons Why Coils Fail Of Old Age

  • While the coil’s tubes are considered the primary surface, 70% of all coil performance is performed by the finned area on a coil, which is known as the secondary surface. The fin/tube bond is easily the most important manufacturing feature in any coil. Without the bond between the tubes and fins, the coil could never properly function. Like all things however, over time the fin/tube bond becomes less efficient with constant expansion and contraction. While the construction of the coil, as well as the fin collars, does not allow the fins on the coil to move, that fin/tube bond naturally weakens a coil’s life over time after installation. Because of this, it is not a stretch to say that a coil is easily 30% less efficient after (20) years.
  • Cleaning coils often pushes dirt to the center of the coil, and this occurs even more so on wet cooling coils. Just remember that coils can become great air filters if not properly maintained. The BTU output of any coil is in direct proportion to the amount of air going through the coil. If you decrease the CFM by 20%, you are also decrease the BTU’s by 20%!
  • Cleaning agents often corrode aluminum fins. Since every square inch of fin surface matters in performance, corrosion of the fin surface is always detrimental to the coil’s performance.
  • Many times, there are coil leaks simply because of old age. No coils are immune to erosion. You might find the brazing in the tubes, as well as the brazing in the header/tube connections failing over time. Steam can be both erosive and corrosive under higher pressures. Water travels through the coil at 2 – 5 ft/second, so erosion is an enormous part of coil failure, regardless of how well-maintained. Erosion is always there, whether you realize it or not.
  • Water/steam treatment and the corrosive effects of bad steam/water can all be causes of coil failure…which then necessitates the need for a reliable manufacturer for OEM replacement coils.

So What Is The Solution?

Some coils can last 5 years, and some coils can last 30 years. As you have read, there are numerous factors that contribute to a coil’s life. In the end, there will most likely have been multiple attempts to repair that coil to make it last as long as possible. The depressing news is that most of these “Band-Aid” attempts do not work well. The most likely outcome is that you are buying a new coil anyway, so why waste the time and money on a temporary solution?

Coil failure is a “pressure event”, which is a fancy way of saying that a coil is leaking. We’ve listed some of the most common repair methods that you are likely to come across:

  • Drop leaking tubes from the circuit: Keep in mind however that every dropped tube reduces the coil’s performance by triple the surface area of the tube that is dropped. Again, while ok in the short-term, this is simply another “Band-Aid” fix. Over time, your energy costs will rise exponentially, and you will probably end up buying a new coil anyway.
  • Braze over the existing braze: As mentioned above, erosion has caused the original braze to fail, so all that you are really doing is pushing the pressure to another braze, which will then begin to fail as well.
  • High Pressure Cleaning: This method bends the fins, further restricts the airflow, and pushes dirt more to the center of the coil, which can never be adequately cleaned.

The real reason why coils need to be replaced rather than repaired is due to energy costs. If your coil is not operating near desired levels, you’ll need to increase the energy to make it work at its peak performance. Energy increases might be slight at first, but they are guaranteed to continue to rise over time. For example:

  • Somebody adjusts the fan drive for higher speeds, higher CFM’s and higher BTU’s.
  • Someone adjusts the boiler; the water and steam temperatures are higher.
  • Someone adjusts the chiller (1) degree higher for colder water to the chilled water coil.

Whichever method is used, performance begins to suffer and adjustments to the system occur. These adjustments cost energy efficiency and ultimately, money!

If you have ever experienced repairing a coil, then you know it is labor intensive and typically will not work as a permanent solution. With very few exceptions, repairs should be seen as nothing more than temporary until you’re able to replace that coil!

Capital Coil & Air has seen every “repair” method used, as well its inevitable outcome, so instead of putting yourself through that, call Capital Coil and allow us to be your coil replacement experts.

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