PI parameter influence on underfloor heating energy consumption and setpoint tracking in NZEBs

Tuule Mall Kull*, Martin Thalfeldt, Jarek Kurnitski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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In rooms with underfloor heating (UFH), local on-off controllers most often regulate the air temperature with poor accuracy and energy penalties. It is known that proportional-integral (PI) controllers can regulate most processes more precisely. However, hydronic UFH systems have long time constants, especially in low-energy buildings, and PI parameters are not easy to set manually. In this work, several potential PI parameter estimation methods were applied, including optimizing the parameters in GenOpt, calculating the parameters based on simplified models, and tuning the parameters automatically in Matlab. For all found parameter combinations, the energy consumption and control precision were evaluated. Simpler methods were compared to the optimal solutions to find similar parameters. Compared with an on-off controller with a 0.5 K dead-band, the best PI parameter combination found was with a proportional gain of 18 and an integration time of 2300 s, which could decrease the energy consumption for heating by 9% and by 5% compared with default PI parameters. Moreover, while GenOpt was the best method to find the optimal parameters, it was also possible with a simple automatic test and calculation within a weekend. The test can be, for example, 6-h setbacks applied during the nights or weekend-long pseudo-random changes in the setpoint signal. The parameters can be calculated based on the simplified model from these tests using any well-known simple method. Results revealed that the UFH PI controller with the correct parameters started to work in a predictive fashion and the resulting room temperature curves were practically ideal.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2068
Number of pages20
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Building simulation
  • Heat pumps
  • Intermittent heating
  • Model predictive control (MPC)
  • Proportional-integral-derivative (PID) control
  • Thermostats

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