Development of an Accurate Feed-Forward Temperature Control Tankless Water Heater

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The following document is the final report for DE-FC26-05NT42327: Development of an Accurate Feed-Forward Temperature Control Tankless Water Heater. This work was carried out under a cooperative agreement from the Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory, with additional funding from Keltech, Inc. The objective of the project was to improve the temperature control performance of an electric tankless water heater (TWH). The reason for doing this is to minimize or eliminate one of the barriers to wider adoption of the TWH. TWH use less energy than typical (storage) water heaters because of the elimination of standby losses, so wider ... continued below

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Yuill, David June 30, 2008.

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The following document is the final report for DE-FC26-05NT42327: Development of an Accurate Feed-Forward Temperature Control Tankless Water Heater. This work was carried out under a cooperative agreement from the Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Laboratory, with additional funding from Keltech, Inc. The objective of the project was to improve the temperature control performance of an electric tankless water heater (TWH). The reason for doing this is to minimize or eliminate one of the barriers to wider adoption of the TWH. TWH use less energy than typical (storage) water heaters because of the elimination of standby losses, so wider adoption will lead to reduced energy consumption. The project was carried out by Building Solutions, Inc. (BSI), a small business based in Omaha, Nebraska. BSI partnered with Keltech, Inc., a manufacturer of electric tankless water heaters based in Delton, Michigan. Additional work was carried out by the University of Nebraska and Mike Coward. A background study revealed several advantages and disadvantages to TWH. Besides using less energy than storage heaters, TWH provide an endless supply of hot water, have a longer life, use less floor space, can be used at point-of-use, and are suitable as boosters to enable alternative water heating technologies, such as solar or heat-pump water heaters. Their disadvantages are their higher cost, large instantaneous power requirement, and poor temperature control. A test method was developed to quantify performance under a representative range of disturbances to flow rate and inlet temperature. A device capable of conducting this test was designed and built. Some heaters currently on the market were tested, and were found to perform quite poorly. A new controller was designed using model predictive control (MPC). This control method required an accurate dynamic model to be created and required significant tuning to the controller before good control was achieved. The MPC design was then implemented on a prototype heater that was being developed simultaneously with the controller development. (The prototype's geometry and components are based on a currently marketed heater, but several improvements have been made.) The MPC's temperature control performance was a vast improvement over the existing controller. With a benchmark for superior control performance established, five additional control methods were tested. One problem with MPC control is that it was found to be extremely difficult to implement in a TWH, so that it is unlikely to be widely adopted by manufacturers. Therefore the five additional control methods were selected based on their simplicity; each could be implemented by a typical manufacturer. It was found that one of these methods performed as well as MPC, or even better under many circumstances. This method uses a Feedback-Compensated Feed-Forward algorithm that was developed for this project. Due to its simplicity and excellent performance this method was selected as the controller of choice. A final higher-capacity prototype heater that uses Feedback-Compensated Feed-Forward control was constructed. This prototype has many improvements over the currently marketed heaters: (1) excellent control; (2) a modular design that allows for different capacity heaters to be built easily; (3) built-in fault detection and diagnosis; (4) a secondary remote user-interface; and (5) a TRIAC switching algorithm that will minimize 'flicker factor'. The design and engineering of this prototype unit will allow it to be built without an increase in cost, compared with the currently marketed heater. A design rendering of the new product is shown below. It will be launched with a new marketing campaign by Keltech in early 2009.

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  • Report No.: None
  • Grant Number: FC26-05NT42327
  • DOI: 10.2172/951066 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 951066
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc928076

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  • June 30, 2008

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Nov. 13, 2016, 7:26 p.m.

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  • Nov. 23, 2016, 3:31 p.m.

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Yuill, David. Development of an Accurate Feed-Forward Temperature Control Tankless Water Heater, report, June 30, 2008; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc928076/: accessed August 18, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.