Performance Evaluation of Three RTU Energy Efficiency Technologies

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


This project was part of an effort by CLEAResult and ComEd to evaluate the energy saving potential of emerging technologies in the Chicago area. This project focused on evaluating emerging technologies related to rooftop units (RTUs). An RTU with a single-stage compressor and a constant-speed fan with an induction motor was selected as the baseline for technology comparison. Three retrofit strategies were investigated. The first two involved replacing the single-stage compressor of an RTU by either a two-stage or variable-speed compressor and adding a variable frequency drive (VFD) to the constant speed fan. The use of a multi-/variable-stage compressor improves the part-load efficiency of the compressor which will ultimately result in annual energy savings as well as peak demand shaving in some cases where the design capacity of the RTU is larger than the maximum cooling load of the building space that it is serving. The third technology was the use of a high rotor pole switched reluctance motor (SRM) as a replacement for the constant-speed supply fan. The SRM was applied in single-speed, two-stage and variable-speed compressor RTUs. SRM motors run via reluctance torque. Their stator poles are driven by direct current (DC) power and require an inverter as well as active control when using alternating current (AC) power. This inherent property results in high efficiency over a range of operating conditions. It also exhibits higher efficiency compared to variable frequency drives (VFDs) since its switching frequency is much slower (SCE, 2018).The three technologies investigated are summarized below: -Replacing the single-speed compressor with a two-stage compressor and adding a VFD to the supply fan. -Replacing the single-speed compressor with a variable-speed compressor and adding a VFD to the supply fan. -Replacing the constant-speed induction motor of the supply fan with a high rotor pole SRM. DOE’s building simulation platform EnergyPlus ( and its graphical user interface OpenStudio ( were used to evaluate the energy-saving potential of upgrading RTUs, by leveraging experimental data from previous research.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages33
StatePublished - 2020

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5500-75551


  • buildings
  • rooftop units
  • RTUs


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