Empirical Analysis of the Prevalence of HVAC Faults in Commercial Buildings

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Commercial building HVAC systems experience many sensing, mechanical, and control-related faults that increase energy consumption and impact occupant comfort. Fault detection & diagnostics (FDD) software has been demonstrated to identify and help diagnose these types of faults. Several studies have demonstrated FDD energy savings potential, but there is limited empirical data characterizing the quantity and type of faults reported by FDD tools. This paper presents results of an FDD fault reporting study, employing multi-year monitoring data for over 60,000 pieces of HVAC equipment, covering over 90 fault types, and using new metrics that we developed to characterize fault prevalence. Study results offer an unprecedented accounting of the quantity of faults reported, the most commonly occurring faults, and fault persistence. We find that 21 air handling unit (AHU) faults were reported on 20% or more AHUs in our dataset, and 18 AHU faults persisted for more than 20% of the time period covered by the data. On any given day, 40% of AHUs and 30% of air terminal units saw a reported fault of some kind. Based on in-depth analysis of these results we provide recommendations for building operators, FDD software developers, and researchers to enable more efficient commercial building operation.

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