Chilled Beam HVAC Systems

For many years, chilled beam systems have provided space conditioning to buildings throughout Europe and Australia, but the technology has been slow to catch on in the United States. However, that trend is changing as the system has reported benefits of superior comfort and substantial potential energy savings for little or no additional cost when compared to conventional systems are investigated.

So what is a chilled beam HVAC system? A chilled beam system is a room air conditioning system that provides cooling, heating and ventilation (active systems only) to an individual space. Chilled beam systems are known for their quiet and energy efficient operation and there are two different system types. Passive chilled beams are heat exchangers that are utilized for cooling and heating where ventilation air is delivered separately to the space. Passive beams utilize natural room convection to deliver heating and cooling to the space. Active chilled beams, as pictured below, have a direct connection to the buildings primary/ventilation air system which is delivered to the terminal units by a central station air handling unit. This primary/ventilation air is conditioned to partially handle the spaces sensible loads, while in the summer being dehumidified to control humidity.

Chilled beam HVAC system diagram

An active chilled beam operates as follows:

  • Primary/ventilation air (1) is introduced into the active chilled beam through a series of nozzles (2)
  • This induces room air (3) up into the active chilled beam and in turn through a water coil (4)  
  • Induced room air is cooled and/or heated by the water coil to the extent needed to control  the room temperature. Induced room air is then mixed with the primary/ventilation air and the mixed air (5) is discharged into the room.

Chilled beam technology can be applied in many different building types, from schools and labs to hospitals. Facilities where floor to floor height is limited are often prime candidates for this systems application. This system primarily saves the building owner money by reducing fan energy consumption when compared to traditional systems.

For more information or questions regarding chilled beam technology, please contact Roger Thies, PE at  or (814) 237-2180.

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