Fan Coil Unit
It should be first appreciated that ‘Fan Coil Unit’ is a generic term that is applied to a range of products. Also, the term ‘Fan Coil Unit’ will mean different things to users, specifiers and installers in different countries and regions, particularly in relation to product size and output capability.
A fan coil unit may be concealed or exposed within the room or area that it serves.
An exposed fan coil unit may be wall mounted, freestanding or ceiling mounted, and will typically include an appropriate enclosure to protect and conceal the fan coil unit itself, with return air grille and supply air diffuser set into that enclosure to distribute the air.
A concealed fan coil unit will typically be installed within an accessible ceiling void or services zone. The return air grille and supply air diffuser, typically set flush into the ceiling, will be ducted to and from the fan coil unit and thus allows a great degree of flexibility for locating the grilles to suit the ceiling layout and/or the partition layout within a space. It is quite common for the return air not to be ducted and to use the ceiling void as a return air plenum.
The coil receives hot or cold water from a central plant, and removes heat from or adds heat to the air through heat transfer. Traditionally fan coil units can contain their own internal thermostat, or can be wired to operate with a remote thermostat. However, and as is common in most modern buildings with a Building Energy Management System (BEMS), the control of the fan coil unit will be by a local digital controller or outstation (along with associated room temperature sensor and control valve actuators) linked to the BEMS via a communication network, and therefore adjustable and controllable from a central point, such as a supervisors head end computer.
Fan coil units circulate hot or cold water through a coil in order to condition a space. The unit gets its hot or cold water from a central plant, or mechanical room containing equipment for removing heat from the central building’s closed-loop. The equipment used can consist of machines used to remove heat such as a chiller or a cooling tower and equipment for adding heat to the building’s water such as a boiler or a commercial water heater.
Fan coil units are divided into two types: Two-pipe fan coil units or four-pipe fan coil units. Two-pipe fan coil units have one (1) supply and one (1) return pipe. The supply pipe supplies either cold or hot water to the unit depending on the time of year. Four-pipe fan coil units have two (2) supply pipes and two (2) return pipes. This allows either hot or cold water to enter the unit at any given time. Since it is often necessary to heat and cool different areas of a building at the same time, due to differences in internal heat loss or heat gains, the four-pipe fan coil unit is most commonly used.
Depending upon the selected chilled water temperatures and the relative humidity of the space, it is likely that the cooling coil will dehumidify the entering air stream, and as a by product of this process, it will at times produce a condensate which will need to be carried to drain. The fan coil unit will contain a purpose designed drip tray with drain connection for this purpose. The simplest means to drain the condensate from multiple fan coil units will be by a network of pipework laid to falls to a suitable point. Alternatively a condensate pump may be employed where space for such gravity pipework is limited.
Speed control of the fan motors within a fan coil unit is effectively used to control the heating and cooling output desired from the unit. This is normally achieved by manually adjusting the taps on an AC transformer supplying the power to the fan motor. Typically this is adjusted at the commissioning stage of the building construction process and is therefore set for life. However alternative means of external speed control by electronic means through the BEMS can be provided if so required. Fan motors are typically AC type motors but more recently DC motors have been made available by some manufacturers, particularly in the UK, which do offer significant energy savings.