HVAC Refrigeration Daily Article

Thank you to our friends from HVAC Refrigeration Daily for including the following article in its January 2016 publication regarding on how to improve VRF through zoning.

How VRF can change our world

Since VRF technology appeared in 1982 the HVAC market changed forever. VRF is the best alternative to traditional AC systems. However, market penetration of VRF systems in the US has been slow and minor in comparison to Europe and Asia where this technology is widely used today. The question is: why hasn’t VRF penetrated the US market in the same level as it has in other important markets? The answer is simple; the main motivation to install VRF systems is energy efficiency.

In the US, we are significantly less conscious with our energy consumption. Our culture driven by consumerism has made us a less aware country than others in what energy consumption refers. When looking at other advanced economies, our energy consumption almost doubles theirs. According to the World Bank data, in 2013, the electricity consumption in America was 13,394 kWh per capita. In Japan, it was 8,337 kWh per capita, and in the UK 5,701 kWh per capita.

Fortunately, in the last few years the green movement has taken a good momentum in America. The third most populated country in the world is becoming more aware about energy efficiency. The Air Conditioning industry, as one of the biggest energy consumers in the country and the world, is a big part of this momentum. Capacity and material overuse, non-accurate design, and oversizing are very common issues when installing Air Conditioning systems. With these problems, energy consumption increases, and consumer’s budgets decreases.

VRF systems are at least 20% more efficient than regular air conditioning systems. The variable speed compressor lets the unit works under partial load, when typical systems work under maximum capacity most of the time. VRF, as the state-of-the-art technology, improves these installations, achieving energy efficiency, while increasing comfort and health. Nerveless, some issues may arise when installing VRF, such as first costs and compliance of ASHRAE 15.

There is a way to improve VRF installations. Proven in Europe for many years, adding a zoning system with perfect communication with the indoor VRF unit makes the installation not only more efficient, but also more affordable. This communication occurs through a small device called communications gateway, which was developed by Airzone years ago in collaboration with the most recognized VRF manufacturers (Mitsubishi, Daikin, LG, Toshiba, Fujitsu, Samsung, Panasonic, Hitachi…).

By using this zoning system with communication gateway we can adapt an installation with many individual indoor units, to an installation with a more adjusted number of indoor units. This means that the savings in initial costs increase by a considerable number; we also need less piping, water drainage, electrical points…

Through the gateway the system is able to get a better understanding of the installation demands and requirements, adapting the energy consumption to the real demands of the installation. It also controls the fan speed, set-point temperature, and operation mode.

If we get more mechanical contractors to give a chance to VRF zoning solutions, the amount of energy we would save in Air Conditioning would be enormous. If we make VRF technology more affordable and efficient, we’ll be refining the way we use our energy, reducing our bills, improving our installations, and moving to the next generation in Air Conditioning.