The advancements in fan technology are nowadays animated by two major drivers: the legal requirements that impose minimum fan efficiency grades for fans sold within European Union (and soon US and Asia), and the market request for better air performance and lower sound emissions.
Within HVAC (Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning) applications, centrifugal fans with forward curved blades are widely used due to the higher total pressure rise capability and lower acoustic emissions with respect to more efficient backward curved blades. However the continuous rise of minimum fan efficiency grades pushes the manufacturers to develop a new generation of forward curved centrifugal fans, improving previous design. Here the challenge is not only on aerodynamics, but in the overall production process, as squirrel cage fans are characterised by a cost-effective consolidated technology, based on simple blade geometries and easy series manufacturing. For example, the blades usually have circular camber lines, as results of cut cylinders. Thus, once the number of blades and the angle at the leading edge are selected, the chord and the deflection capability are constrained as well.
These concurring aspects led industry to include in the design process new tools, in particular CFD, to analyse the flow features of the current generation of fans in order to understand which phenomena are to be either controlled or exploited to increase efficiency and total pressure rise.
Here we present a numerical investigation on a forward curved blade centrifugal fan for HVAC applications, to highlight the flow features inside the impeller and in the critical region of coupling with the volute. The analysis was carried out with OpenFOAM, an open-source library for CFD. Computations were performed with the frozen rotor approach and validated against available experimental data.