VRF Air Conditioning 1

Developed in Japan in the 1980’s, variable refrigerant flow or VRF is a technology that delivers varying amounts of refrigerant to multiple evaporator units installed in various parts of a building.

History of VRF

Engineers working at Daikin Industries Ltd developed VRF technology in 1982 and it has since become popular with medium to large enterprises that want to improve energy efficiency. In particular, VRF systems are quite popular in Asia and Europe. According to an article published in the ASHRAE journal, about 50% of medium-sized (up to 70,000 ft 2) commercial buildings in Japan have installed variable refrigerant systems. This is in addition to a third of large (over 70,000 ft 2) commercial buildings.

Still, this technology has not made serious inroads into the US market due to several reasons. Firstly, regulatory differences between Asia-based manufacturers and US market/consumer watchdogs have hindered the introduction of VRF products. In addition, most of the brands that sell VRF systems have minimal presence in the US. However, this is changing as companies including Daikin have made acquisitions to enhance their market footprint.

VRF Air Conditioner

VRF Air Conditioner

What Makes VRF Air Conditioners Different?

Unlike conventional air conditioners, VRF systems adjust cooling/heating functionality by using variable speed compressors to modulate refrigerant flow. To achieve this goal, a VRF system relies on outdoor and indoor units that are connected via a refrigerant line. A suite of dedicated controllers is used to control refrigerant flow throughout the system. With this in mind, variable refrigerant flow systems can be broken down into the following two categories:

• “Heat pump” type
• “Heat recovery” type

Heat pump-type VRF can be used to provide “either all heating or all cooling to multiple zones at a time,” according to a document published by the US Department of Energy (DOE). The document furthers states that heat recovery-type VRF products provide heating and cooling simultaneously to multiple zones with various cooling or heating demands.

The Benefits of VRF Air Conditioning

Some of the main benefits on this technology include:

Energy efficiency

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) says VRF systems are more energy efficient than conventional systems because they are not prone to duct losses. Research published in the ASHRAE journal found that these losses account for 10 to 20% of the energy losses associated with conventional ducted systems.

In Australia, The ESP range of systems by Actron Air draw on the VRF technology to produce amazingly efficient air conditioning systems.

man-servicing-air-conditioner

Man servicing air conditioner

Ease of installation

VRF systems are easier to install than standard air conditioners for several reasons. To start with, they are modular in design meaning they can be broken down into smaller parts that are easier to carry and install. Each module is an independent refrigerant loop that links to a common control loop. Besides this, VRF units are lighter than conventional air conditioning systems.

Enhanced comfort

Because VRF systems rely on variable speed compressors, they enable property owners/occupants to control indoor temperatures more precisely, which translates to enhanced comfort.

Conclusion

VRF systems are better than conventional ones because they are more energy efficient, enhance indoor comfort, and are easier to install. Although this technology has been around for more than 20 years, it is not as popular in the US as it is in Asia and Europe.

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