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A damper is a valve or plate that stops or regulates the flow of air inside a duct, chimney, VAV box, air handler, or other air-handling equipment. A damper may be used to cut off central air conditioning (heating or cooling) to an unused room, or to regulate it for room-by-room temperature and climate control. Its operation can be manual or automatic. Manual dampers are turned by a handle on the outside of a duct. Automatic dampers are used to regulate airflow constantly and are operated by electric or pneumatic motors, in turn controlled by a thermostat or building automation system. Automatic or motorized dampers may also be controlled by a solenoid, and the degree of air-flow calibrated, perhaps according to signals from the thermostat going to the actuator of the damper in order to modulate the flow of air-conditioned air in order to effect climate control.
In a chimney flue, a damper closes off the flue to keep the weather (and birds and other animals) out and warm or cool air in. This is usually done in the summer, but also sometimes in the winter between uses. In some cases, the damper may also be partly closed to help control the rate of combustion. The damper may be accessible only by reaching up into the fireplace by hand or with a woodpoker, or sometimes by a lever or knob that sticks down or out. On a wood-burning stove or similar device, it is usually a handle on the vent duct as in an air conditioning system. Forgetting to open a damper before beginning a fire can cause serious smoke damage to the interior of a home, if not a house fire.
A zone damper (also known as a Volume Control Damper or VCD) is a specific type of damper used to control the flow of air in an HVAC heating or cooling system. In order to improve efficiency and occupant comfort, HVAC systems are commonly divided up into multiple zones. For example, in a house, the main floor may be served by one heating zone while the upstairs bedrooms are served by another. In this way, the heat can be directed principally to the main floor during the day and principally to the bedrooms at night, allowing the unoccupied areas to cool down.
Zone dampers as used in home HVAC systems are usually electrically powered. In large commercial installations, vacuum or compressed air may be used instead. In either case, the motor is usually connected to the damper via a mechanical coupling.
For electrical zone dampers, there are two principal designs.
In one design, the motor is often a small shaded-pole synchronous motor combined with a rotary switch that can disconnect the motor at either of the two stopping points ("damper open" or "damper closed"). In this way, applying power to the "open damper" terminal causes the motor to run until the damper is open while applying power at the "close damper" terminal causes the motor to run until the damper is closed. The motor is commonly powered from the same 24 volt AC power source that is used for the rest of the control system. This allows the zone dampers to be directly controlled by low-voltage thermostats and wired with low-voltage wiring. Because simultaneous closure of all dampers might harm the furnace or air handler, this style of damper is often designed to only obstruct a portion of the air duct, for example, 75%.
Another style of electrically powered damper uses a spring-return mechanism and a shaded-pole synchronous motor. In this case, the damper is normally opened by the force of the spring but can be closed by the force of the motor. Removal of electrical power re-opens the damper. This style of damper is advantageous because it is "fail safe"; if the control to the damper fails, the damper opens and allows air to flow. However, in most applications "fail safe" indicates the damper will close upon loss of power thus preventing the spread of smoke and fire to other areas. These dampers also may allow adjustment of the "closed" position so that they only obstruct, for example, 75% of the air flow when closed.
For vacuum-operated or pneumatically operated zone dampers, the thermostat usually switches the pressure or vacuum on or off, causing a spring-loaded rubber diaphragm to move and actuate the damper. As with the second style of electrical zone dampers, these dampers automatically return to the default position without the application of any power, and the default position is usually "open", allowing air to flow. Like the second style of electrical zone damper, these dampers may allow adjustment of the "closed" position.
Highly sophisticated systems may use some form of building automation such as BACnet or LonWorks to control the zone dampers. The dampers may also support positions other than fully open or fully closed and are usually capable of reporting their current position and, often, the temperature and volume of the air flowing past the smart damper.
Regardless of the style of damper employed, the systems are often designed so that when no thermostat is calling for air, all dampers in the system are opened. This allows air to continue to flow while the heat exchanger in a furnace cools down after a heating period completes.
Multiple zones can be implemented using either multiple, individually controlled furnaces/air handlers or a single furnace/air handler and multiple zone dampers. Each approach has advantages and disadvantages.
Pneumatic actuation is preferred for these dampers. It is easier to provide zone-classified solenoid valves for pneumatic actuation, as compared to electrical actuation. The physical size of such solenoid valves have come down very considerably over the years.
Fire dampers are fitted where ductwork passes through fire compartment walls and fire curtains as part of a fire control strategy. In normal circumstances, these dampers are held open by means of fusible links. When subjected to heat, these links fracture and allow the damper to close under the influence of the integral closing spring. The links are attached to the damper such that the dampers can be released manually for testing purposes. The damper is provided with an access door in the adjacent ductworks for the purpose of inspection and resetting in the event of closure.
A valve is a device that regulates, directs or controls the flow of a fluid by opening, closing, or partially obstructing various passageways. Valves are technically fittings, but are usually discussed as a separate category. In an open valve, fluid flows in a direction from higher pressure to lower pressure. The word is derived from the Latin valva, the moving part of a door, in turn from volvere, to turn, roll.
In engineering, a fail-safe is a design feature or practice that in the event of a specific type of failure, inherently responds in a way that will cause no or minimal harm to other equipment, to the environment or to people. Unlike inherent safety to a particular hazard, a system being "fail-safe" does not mean that failure is impossible or improbable, but rather that the system's design prevents or mitigates unsafe consequences of the system's failure. That is, if and when a "fail-safe" system fails, it remains at least as safe as it was before the failure. Since many types of failure are possible, failure mode and effects analysis is used to examine failure situations and recommend safety design and procedures.
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) is the technology of indoor and vehicular environmental comfort. Its goal is to provide thermal comfort and acceptable indoor air quality. HVAC system design is a subdiscipline of mechanical engineering, based on the principles of thermodynamics, fluid mechanics and heat transfer. "Refrigeration" is sometimes added to the field's abbreviation, as HVAC&R or HVACR or "ventilation" is dropped, as in HACR.
Pneumatics is a branch of engineering that makes use of gas or pressurized air.
A furnace is a device used to heat and melt metal ore to remove gangue. The name derives from Latin word fornax, which means oven. The heat energy to fuel a furnace may be supplied directly by fuel combustion, by electricity such as the electric arc furnace, or through induction heating in induction furnaces.
A thermostat is a component which senses the temperature of a physical system and performs actions so that the system's temperature is maintained near a desired setpoint.
The J-2 was a liquid-fuel cryogenic rocket engine used on NASA's Saturn IB and Saturn V launch vehicles. Built in the U.S. by Rocketdyne, the J-2 burned cryogenic liquid hydrogen (LH2) and liquid oxygen (LOX) propellants, with each engine producing 1,033.1 kN (232,250 lbf) of thrust in vacuum. The engine's preliminary design dates back to recommendations of the 1959 Silverstein Committee. Rocketdyne won approval to develop the J-2 in June 1960 and the first flight, AS-201, occurred on 26 February 1966. The J-2 underwent several minor upgrades over its operational history to improve the engine's performance, with two major upgrade programs, the de Laval nozzle-type J-2S and aerospike-type J-2T, which were cancelled after the conclusion of the Apollo program.
An air handler, or air handling unit, is a device used to regulate and circulate air as part of a heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system. An air handler is usually a large metal box containing a blower, heating or cooling elements, filter racks or chambers, sound attenuators, and dampers. Air handlers usually connect to a ductwork ventilation system that distributes the conditioned air through the building and returns it to the AHU. Sometimes AHUs discharge (supply) and admit (return) air directly to and from the space served without ductwork
Building automation is the automatic centralized control of a building's heating, ventilation and air conditioning, lighting and other systems through a building management system or building automation system (BAS). The objectives of building automation are improved occupant comfort, efficient operation of building systems, reduction in energy consumption and operating costs, and improved life cycle of utilities.
A zone valve is a specific type of valve used to control the flow of water or steam in a hydronic heating or cooling system.
A boost controller is a device to control the boost level produced in the intake manifold of a turbocharged or supercharged engine by affecting the air pressure delivered to the pneumatic and mechanical wastegate actuator.
Variable air volume (VAV) is a type of heating, ventilating, and/or air-conditioning (HVAC) system. Unlike constant air volume (CAV) systems, which supply a constant airflow at a variable temperature, VAV systems vary the airflow at a constant temperature. The advantages of VAV systems over constant-volume systems include more precise temperature control, reduced compressor wear, lower energy consumption by system fans, less fan noise, and additional passive dehumidification.
Ducts are conduits or passages used in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) to deliver and remove air. The needed airflows include, for example, supply air, return air, and exhaust air. Ducts commonly also deliver ventilation air as part of the supply air. As such, air ducts are one method of ensuring acceptable indoor air quality as well as thermal comfort.
A control valve is a valve used to control fluid flow by varying the size of the flow passage as directed by a signal from a controller. This enables the direct control of flow rate and the consequential control of process quantities such as pressure, temperature, and liquid level.
A shutdown valve is an actuated valve designed to stop the flow of a hazardous fluid upon the detection of a dangerous event. This provides protection against possible harm to people, equipment or the environment. Shutdown valves form part of a safety instrumented system. The process of providing automated safety protection upon the detection of a hazardous event is called functional safety.
A fan coil unit (FCU), also known as a Vertical Fan Coil-Unit (VFC), is a simple device consisting of a heating and/or cooling heat exchanger or 'coil' and fan. It is part of an HVAC system found in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings. A fan coil unit is a diverse device sometimes using ductwork, and is used to control the temperature in the space where it is installed, or serve multiple spaces. It is controlled either by a manual on/off switch or by a thermostat, which controls the throughput of water to the heat exchanger using a control valve and/or the fan speed.
HVAC Testing, Adjusting and Balancing (TAB) are the three major steps used to achieve proper operation of HVAC systems. TAB usually refers to commercial building construction and the specialized contractors who employ personnel that perform this service.
Fire dampers are passive fire protection products used in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) ducts to prevent the spread of fire inside the ductwork through fire-resistance rated walls and floors. Fire/smoke dampers are similar to fire dampers in fire resistance rating, and also prevent the spread of smoke inside the ducts. When a rise in temperature occurs, the fire damper closes, usually activated by a thermal element which melts at temperatures higher than ambient but low enough to indicate the presence of a fire, allowing springs to close the damper blades. Fire dampers can also close following receipt of an electrical signal from a fire alarm system utilising detectors remote from the damper, indicating the sensing of heat or smoke in the building occupied spaces or in the HVAC duct system.
HVAC is a major subdiscipline of mechanical engineering. The goal of HVAC design is to balance indoor environmental comfort with other factors such as installation cost, ease of maintenance, and energy efficiency. The discipline of HVAC includes a large number of specialized terms and acronyms, many of which are summarized in this glossary.
A register is a grille with moving parts, capable of being opened and closed and the air flow directed, which is part of a building's heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system. The placement and size of registers is critical to HVAC efficiency. Register dampers are also important, and can serve a safety function.