Posts Tagged ‘Vaillant’

Weather Compensation: Experimental Tweaking

October 21, 2022

Friends, as I mentioned in my previous article, I have no real idea how to actually operate my 5 kW Vaillant Arotherm plus heat pump – or to check how well it is operating. That’s because there is no readable manual for the controller and the App does not do what it says it does.

But since I have an independent monitoring system, I have begun a series of experiments to tweak the heat pump weather compensation settings, and see what happens!

If ‘Reading the Manual is like taking a course in theoretical heat pumps, then this is more like a course in experimental heat pumps.

This is quite a technical article, and it is nearly 1500 words long. So if you are not really interested in heat pump arcana I would recommend giving this one a miss. On the plus side, it does have some nice graphs :-).

Weather Compensation

Weather Compensation is the idea that when the weather is mild, one can heat water in radiators or under-floor heating to a low temperature – perhaps just 25 °C. But when the weather is colder, and the heating demand is greater, one can increase the temperature of the hot water to perhaps 40 °C or 50 °C to meet the heating demand.

Using weather compensation to match the output of a heat pump to the heating demand contrasts with using a thermostat for the same purpose.

Click on image for larger version. The heating supplied to a dwelling can be changed to match demand in two ways. In a traditional thermostat-based system, the radiator flow temperature is fixed and switches on and off to maintain a constant indoor temperature. In contrast, using weather compensation the radiator flow temperature is adjusted.

In a thermostat-based heating system, the flow temperature to which water is heated is pre-set: in boilers it is often as high as 70 °C, and for heat pumps it might be 50 °C. And then to match heating to demand, the thermostat switches the heating source on and off intermittently to maintain the desired temperature.

Weather compensation is particularly valuable when using heat pumps because the coefficient of performance (COP) of the heat pump varies with both flow temperature and environmental temperature. But it can be tricky to adjust the settings for any heat pump, but especially one with no decent manual!

Weather Compensation in action

The graph below shows data taken every two minutes during the week from 00:01 on 11th October 2022.

  • The red curve shows the outside temperature
  • The grey dots show the instantaneous flow temperature.
  • The green curve shows the flow temperature averaged over 1 hour
  • The orange curve shows the internal temperature

Click on image for larger version. Weather compensation in action. When the outside temperature falls, the flow temperature in the radiators increases to maintain the internal temperature.

Notice that when the outside temperature falls, the flow temperature in the radiators increases to maintain the internal temperature.

But on day 4 of the period shown in the graph above, I changed the setting of the Weather Compensation from the curve labelled ‘0.6’ to the curve labelled ‘0.5’ in an attempt to lower internal temperature of the house. I’ll explain more about these labels below.

The graph below shows that average for the 4 days before the change was 21.0 °C and the average for the 3 days after was 20.76 °C: so it does seem to have had a small (0.24 °C) effect, but I will need to continue experiments – see the end of the article for an update.

Click on image for larger version. Graph shows the internal temperature of the house detail averaged over a period of 1 hour. The weather compensation parameter was changed on Day 4 and it does seem to have slightly lowered internal temperature.

It is striking to me how stable the internal temperature is given that – as I understand it – it is based entirely on measuring the temperature OUTSIDE the house – not INSIDE it!

COP

To evaluate the COP, one needs to work out the ratio of the heat delivered to the electrical energy used, over some set time period.

The hourly averaged COP is shown in the graph below. The times when the COP is greater than 4 correspond to times when the difference between the flow temperature and the outside temperature is small, and so not very much heat is being delivered with these high COP values.

Click on image for larger version. Graph shows the hourly averaged COP. Considering only use for DHW the average COP was 3.1 and considering only use for space heating the average COP was 3.9. Overall, considering both DHW and space heating across  the entire period the average COP was 3.7. These averages are shown as dotted lines on the figure.

With a little spreadsheet untangling it is possible to extract the data corresponding to periods when the heat pump is heating DHW and periods when it is heating water for space heating. For DHW the average COP for heating water to 50 °C was 3.1 and for space heating the average COP was 3.9. Overall, considering both DHW and space heating across the entire period, the average COP was 3.7.

Electrical and Thermal Power

Calculation of COP requires evaluation of both electrical power consumed and thermal energy delivered. The graphs below show both these quantities measured every 2 minutes throughout the week or so under consideration.

Click on either image for larger version. Graphs show hourly averages of electrical and thermal power. The DHW cycle runs once a night using cheap rate electricity. The separation of the two uses of the heat pump is not quite perfect: sorry.

Tweaks

So far I have just showed a week or so of data. Now I will explain what I hope to achieve with some ‘tweaks’ First let me explain, about how Vaillant implement Weather Compensation.

Their scheme is illustrated in the figure below. The flow temperature of water in the radiators is set depending the temperature outside. The sensitivity of the weather compensation is set by picking a curve labelled by a number from 0.1 to 4. For example, when the outside temperature is 5 °C,

  • the curve labelled 0.6 would result in a flow temperature of about 34 °C but
  • the curve labelled 0.5 would result in a flow temperature of about 32 °C

Click on image for larger version. The flow temperature of water in the radiators is set depending the temperature outside. The sensitivity of the weather compensation is set by picking a curve labelled by a number from 0.1 to 4. When the outside temperature is 5 °C, the curve labelled 0.6 would result in a flow temperature of about 34 °C but using the curve labelled 0.5 would result in a flow temperature of about 32 °C.

On Day 4 I adjusted the weather compensation from 0.6 to 0.5. To see if this tweak is working we can look at the second figure in this article in this article which I have reproduced below.

Click on image for larger version. On Day 4 the weather compensation setting was changed from 0.6 to 0.5. If we look at cold spells before and after the change it does look as though as the flow temperature is perhaps a degree or two than one might otherwise have expected.

If we look at cold spells before and after the change it does look as though as the flow temperature is perhaps a degree or two cooler than one might otherwise have expected. And since this article has taken a day or two to prepare, I now have a couple more days data on the internal temperature with WC curve 0.5. It does indeed seem to have maintained an internal temperature about 0.23 °C cooler than using WC curve 0.6.

Click on image for larger version. Updated version of the second graph in this article with 3 extra days data. The graph shows the internal temperature of the house in detail averaged over a period of 1 hour. The weather compensation parameter was changed on Day 4 and it does seem to have slightly lowered internal temperature.

Conclusion

My main conclusion is that the weather compensation adjustment does seem to be sort-of working. I will continue experiments and let you know how they go.

My second conclusion, is that observing these effects is really hard and it takes hours of analysis to unearth this kind of insight!

My third conclusion – which you may have already spotted – is that my 5 kW heat pump is just too big. It only needs to output 1,500 W to maintain a temperature of just over 20 °C in my home when the outside temperature is 5 °C i.e. with 15 °C of demand. This seems to indicated that a 3 kW heat pump would have been adequate to heat the home down to (say) – 5°C.

This oversizing is probably responsible (at least in part) for the rapid cycling on and off of the heat pump – exactly what weather compensation was supposed to avoid!

 

Vaillant Arotherm Plus Heat Pump: The good, the bad and the ugly.

October 19, 2022

Friends, it’s been just over a year now since we had our 5 kW Vaillant Arotherm Plus heat pump installed.

The Good

In short, I love the heat pump: it is super quiet; uses low GWP propane as a working fluid; and can even heat water to 70 °C if I should ever desire.

And it is has worked well with a seasonal average COP (sCOP) of 3.6 in its first heating season during which the internal temperature of the house has been steady at ~21.5 °C 24/7. And we have lots of pleasantly hot hot water.

But, not everything is good. And this article is about the things that are seriously bad and the things that are downright ugly.

The Bad

There is no User Manual! There is lots of excellent engineering documentation and installation instructions, but I personally would appreciate a relatively short document that explained how to adjust various aspects of the heat pump.

Click for a larger version. Engineering documentation for the Vaillant Heat Pump. But no user manual.

For example, if one uses a thermostat, it is relatively easy to programme a setback period overnight where the temperature is lower. But it would nonetheless be nice to have instructions.

But if you switch to using weather compensation instead of a thermostat? There is no explanation of how the weather compensation interacts – if it all – with the thermostat setting. And the settings are four or five layers down in a menu system that is labrythine in its obscurity. A manual would be helpful.

The SensoComfort controller looks great: sleek and black. But using it is a nightmare. Each time one attempts to achieve a particular task one has to decide whether it should be looked for under a variety of confusing menu headings:

  • Installation
  • Basic System Diagram Configuration
  • HP control module configuration
  • Heat Pump 1
  • HP control module
  • Circuit 1
  • House
  • Domestic Hot Water

There is no logic to this and it’s just guesswork every time because there is no manual!

The Ugly

The Vaillant SensoAPP does just about have some basic functionality.

For example, it allows one to set a period of absence or trigger a boost to the domestic hot water. However, it frequently fails to do even these basic tasks, commonly reporting a variety of errors.

But the one thing I would like the App to do would be tell me the Coefficient of Performance (COP) of the heat pump. The COP tells the owner or an engineer, how well the heat pump is working.

The COP is the ratio of the amount of heat delivered to the house, to the amount of electrical energy used to operate the pump. Typically COP lies in the range 2 (poor) to 5 (outstanding) and this provides the most significant measure of a heat pump’s performance.

Ideally, the App would report the COP for hot water and for space heating separately. But actually there is just nothing!

In my opinion it is scandalous that the App does not report the COP.

There are signs that the App should be able to show the COP, but then using the available data it gives erroneous answers. In short, when it comes to monitoring heat pump performance, it is literaly useless.

Let me explain.

The App offers no direct readout of COP– which is disappointing – but the ‘Information’ screen on the SensoAPP appears to offer the opportunity to see the electrical consumption and the thermal output (called the ‘environmental yield’) for both space heating and domestic hot water.

Click image for a larger version. The information page on the Vaillant sensoApp looks like it should have all the information one needs to calculate the COP.

Using these data it should be possible to evaluate the COP. Sadly this is not the case.

In an attempt to do this I downloaded the weekly data for the electrical consumption and checked it against the completely independent MMSP monitoring system I have installed.

The weekly consumption information screen for DHW looks like the figure below. It is highly suspicious to me that the data appear to be exactly whole numbers of kWh every day – but the screen tells me that I used 8 kWh of electricity that week for domestic hot water, and that is the figure I recorded.

Click on the figure for a larger version. The electrical consumption for domestic hot water in Week 41 of 2022 as reported by the Vaillant sensoApp. Notice that the daily consumptions are all exact numbers of kWh.

My weekly MMSP data runs Saturday to Friday while the Vaillant data runs Sunday to Saturday, so we might not expect the data to be identical, but the data (below) are similar. I was hopeful when I saw this correspondence.

Click on the figure for a larger version. The blue curve shows the weekly electrical consumption (kWh/day) as self-reported by the Vaillant App. The red curve shows the same quantity as measured by an independent monitoring system.

Over the 61 weeks since installation the Vaillant reported consumption of 2,147 kWh – 4.3% less than the MMSP system. Not great agreement.

However, if one looks at the thermal data – the environmental yield – the data are both dodgy and missing.

How can they be both dodgy AND missing? As the screen grab below shows, the graph suggest the environmental yield is an exact whole number of kWh every day – something which is very unlikely. This makes the data seem dodgy to me.

But in this case we can also add up the daily yield very easily – it comes to 8 kWh that week. However the App does not do that summation for me – it simply states that the total heating over the entire installation time is 721 kWh. The weekly data are just missing!

Click on the figure for a larger version. The environmental yield for domestic hot water in Week 41 of 2022 as reported by the Vaillant sensoApp. Notice that the daily yields are all exact numbers of kWh.

While I can add up the data in the bar chart above quite easily, this not possible for other screens such as that below – which again simply states the total yield over the entire installation period.

Click on the figure for a larger version. The environmental yield for space heating in Week 41 of 2022 as reported by the Vaillant sensoApp. Notice that the daily yields are all exact numbers of kWh.

This means that it is impossible to work out the COP.

I did try working out the overall COP since installation, but the results were not believable. The Vaillant self-reported average COP is 2.0 whereas the MMSP monitoring system indicates an answer closer to 3.51 .

The good, the bad and the ugly

Summarising, the heat pump is fantastic, and works well.

But I only know that because I have an independent monitoring system.

If I didn’t have independent monitoring I would literally have no idea how well the heat pump was working.

And there has been no improvement or new software updates in the last year

Overall, this is shockingly bad.


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