VRF Air Source Heat Pumps Set to Capitalize on Geothermal’s Loss

Heat Pump Slaes Volume By Country By 2020

Heat Pump Sales Volume By Country By 2020

As we have written previously, the Federal Renewable Energy Tax Credit for geothermal HVAC systems has sunset (as of 12/31/16). The 30% Federal Tax Credit for residential and 10% for commercial systems is now part of history, unless a Republican Congress and Executive branch happens to see the green light, which is obviously doubtful. In essence, this makes geothermal HVAC installations no longer economically viable for short term life cycle costs versus fossil fuels. Consumers have short memories and tend to be cost driven rather than conscience driven. It is therefor a likelihood that the US geothermal market will take a nosedive in the first quarter of 2017. The question is, what form of HVAC will benefit from this geothermal market downturn? Locally, The New York/Long Island Metropolitan market is still primarily oil based and there are many suburban areas with no access to natural gas. So what is the next best alternative for someone who no longer wants a buried oil tank acting as an environmental Sword of Damocles?

Variable Refrigerant heat pumps and ductless heat pumps are poised as the next best alternative to geothermal to replace fossil fuel heating systems. Although they do not qualify for federal incentives, they do qualify for rebate programs available from NYSERDA, Con-Edison and PSEG. They have been proven to provide consistent heating down to sub-zero temperatures. They have also proven to be one of the most maintenance free of all available alternatives. Consumers want a reliable, low cost heating and air conditioning system. Although the initial installation cost of these systems is higher than a standard cooling only system, the gap is closing between VRF and combined forced-air heating and cooling systems.
The only thing that could derail market penetration of VRF at this point is if a new government decided to significantly increase tariffs on imported HVAC equipment. The vast majority of VRF products are still manufactured in foreign markets (primarily Asia), including those that are name-branded by most American manufacturers. Although there are several VRF plants in the US, most of them are assembly lines for primary components that are manufactured elsewhere. It is only the finished product that rolls off the line here. So, until new trade agreements are put in place or new tariffs added, it is a good bet that VRF heat pump market share will continue to grow, especially in the wake of the fall-off of ground source heat pump demand.

As always, to keep up to date with what’s new in HVAC technology and energy, visit our website at airideal.com and follow us on Twitter @airideal , LinkedIn and at our Facebook page!

Ecovent – High Tech Disruptor of HVAC Air Distribution

 Just as Nest disrupted the thermostat industry with its Nest Learning Thermostat, there is a new tech start-up attempting to solve home comfort and air distribution balancing issues.   Ecovent stealthily started up around May 2015, but really debuted recently at the 2016 Consumer Electronics show. This time, the disruptor wasn’t developed in Silicon Valley, but in the northeast in Charlestown, Massachusetts. Ecovent markets itself as room-by-room temperature control with automatic adjustable air outlets that open and close based upon feedback received from a plug in room mounted sensor. The Ecovents replace standard supply registers and ceiling diffusers in ceiling, wall or floor models and receive feedback from a smart sensor that doubles as an electrical outlet that plugs into a standard wall receptacle. Multiple sensors communicate with a central “smart hub” that can be integrated with the home WiFi for control.

Ecovent Smart Sensor

Ecovent Wall Outlet

 

 

 

 

 

 

My immediate initial concerns regarding automatic air outlets that shut off a register while a system is running would be increased static pressure and velocity. In cooling mode, closing off registers could lead to less air movement accross the evaporator coil leading to decreased coil temperature and possible freeze ups. However, when researching their site, it is found that the outlets contain pressure, temperature and humidity sensors that prevent issues that could cause noise, temperature, humidity and pressure issues. In rooms with multiple air outlets, a single wall sensor can be set up to control multiple outlets. The entire connected system of multiple outlets and sensors is controlled via a smartphone or tablet app.

Econovent Control App

Ecovent, like Nest, has gone to marketing directly to the consumer instead of via installing contractors. Obviously, they are making similar claims as to the simplicity of installation that any consumer with a screwdriver and correct WiFi key should be able to perform. However, lowering cost and maintaining margin may be the real reason here as the claim is that an average 4 bedroom home will cost about $2000 to outfit, depending upon how many rooms, outlets and sensors are required. I priced out my 4 bedroom home and it was more like $2400. Certainly, this will be for the high end residential market for consumers who either really want to be on the cutting edge of technology and climate control or for those who have some serious system balancing problems that they have been unable to address with volume dampers. It will be interesting to see how Ecovent manages to find growth and who it’s angel capital investors will be. Google gobbled up Nest quickly, perhaps the folks at Ecovent are hoping for a similar outcome. However, this system will really actually be in competition with Nest and WiFi thermostats in general because individual zone control may potentially eliminate the need for smart thermostats with a sophisticated enough Android or iOS app.

As always, to keep up to date with what’s new in HVAC technology and energy, visit our website at airideal.com and follow us on Twitter @airideal , LinkedIn and at our Facebook page!

 

 

 

VRF is Unique Solution for Historic Tribeca Landmark

The Wool Exchange, 1896. Later the American Thread Building.

260 West Broadway Today

260 West Broadway Today

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the eleven story building at 260 West Broadway was built by the New York Wool Warehouse Company as the New York Wool Exchange in 1894-1896. Designed by William B. Tubby in the Renaissance revival style, the building was advanced in the simplicity of its overall design. The Wool Warehouse Company, a business venture by a group of wool men, sought to create not only a building exclusively for the wool trades but also an actual trading organization, the Wool Exchange, with the intent of wresting control of the wool trade from Boston. Both the Wool Warehouse and company and the bank that supported it failed in 1898.

In 1907, the American Thread Company occupied the building and since the 1920’s the building has been known as the American Thread Building.  The building was later converted to residential and commercial condominiums in the early 1980s.

Today its impressive, broad facades curving from Beach Street into West Broadway make the former New York Wool Exchange a distinguished downtown landmark fronting Tribeca Park.

In 2012 Air Ideal Inc. had been the HVAC contracting company that had been providing service and maintenance for the existing cooling tower and condenser water system that served the commercial offices and some of the residential spaces in the building. After the system reached its life expectancy it was struggling with water quality, pipe integrity and chemical treatment issues.  John Ottaviano, Air Ideal’s President, recommended that the old water cooled system be replaced with a new VRF system.  A VRF system was presented as the ideal solution because of the long refrigerant line runs required throughout the building and because one of the building’s priorities was to have all outdoor equipment located on the roof of the 11 story building. The building board also wanted to have the capability of billing condominium owners for their individual electric power consumption based upon usage. The board requested a system that could be expanded as more owners decided that they wanted HVAC systems and better environmental control that would enhance their residential resale values.

As the building is located in a very busy area in Tribeca in lower Manhattan, Air Ideal also wanted to have the ability to provide a remote monitoring capability that would allow it to view any problems that might be corrected without dispatching service technicians to diagnose the issues.  Individual condominium owners wanted the ability to select indoor units that could satisfy a multitude of different applications since each loft style condominium is unique in size, layout and design. Mitsubishi City-Multi was presented to the board as the product that had the flexibility to meet these unique criteria.  Subsequently, New York City developed stringent inspection and cleaning requirements for all cooling towers because of the recent legionella outbreak and the elimination of the cooling tower became a major benefit for the building leadership, its liability and its residents’ health concerns. Replacement of the existing cooling tower and the condenser water risers had been a consideration, but the costs for such far exceeded that of the ultimate solution.

After much consideration, the board selected Air Ideal’s proposal for the Mitsubishi City-Multi System with Phase I consisting of 94 ton of outdoor equipment and 102 tons of indoor equipment (43 units). The control system would consist of an AE-200A central controller with electronic sub-meters and AG-2000 software for tenant billing and monitoring capability. As the building did not require simultaneous heating and cooling (there was a building hydronic heating system to remain), the Y series was selected to reduce the overall project costs. The project would become a collaborative effort between Air Ideal, the building’s leadership and staff, individual condominium owners, the building management company (Orsid Realty) and the project managers (IP Group and Jonathan Rose Associates).

The project was started in December, 2014 and completed in August of 2015. The system has been operating without service issue to date and the building is happy enough with the outcome that there is a desire to expand the system with capacity to potentially encompass the entire building (A proposed Phase II would add approximately 81 tons).

Mitsubishi City-Multi heat pumps on the roof of 260 West Broadway with the Freedom Tower in the background

Mitsubishi City-Multi heat pumps on the roof of 260 West Broadway with the Freedom Tower in the background

As always, to keep up to date with what’s new in HVAC technology, visit our website at airideal.com and follow us on Twitter @airideal and at our Facebook page!

How Sandy and Flood-Resistant Codes Impact HVAC in NYC (and Beyond)

The reverberations from construction code revisions as a result of Hurricane Sandy are now being felt for HVAC installations in New York City. Have you tried to file for installation of an HVAC system in lower Manhattan lately?  If so, you may have been pulled for audit to assure compliance with Appendix G – Flood Resistant Construction if your installation cost is greater than $40,000 and/or considered a substantial improvement to the property.

“Every alteration application in a special flood hazard area that is not classified as substantially damaged or as a substantial improvement, and has an estimated cost of over $40,000, must include calculations of buildings’ market value and relevant documentation. For more information, see 1 RCNY 3606-01, FEMA’s Substantial Improvement/Substantial Damage Desk Reference and/or FEMA’s Substantial Damage Estimator Tool.

The vast majority of properties in lower Manhattan below Canal St. are in affected flood zones. The City has thrown an additional wad of red tape into the permit application process to ferret out any buildings that do not comply with FEMA’s new flood standards in order to compel them to bring themselves in line with new flood-resistant construction codes that call for the relocation of any utilities (HVAC included) that are located below the new flood map’s Base Flood Elevation (BFE). For most buildings, this will not be a problem as long as the cumulative construction costs are less than 50% of the market value of the building:

“Substantial Improvement: The applicant must compare the cumulative construction cost of the alteration work, regardless of the time necessary to complete the work, and all other alterations and repairs during this timeframe, to the market value of the building prior to Hurricane Sandy (calculated per 1 RCNY 3606-01). If the cumulative construction costs equal or exceed 50 percent of the market value of the building, then the building MUST comply with the flood zone regulations for new buildings in Appendix G, even if the owner does not want to elevate the building.”

However, this does not relieve the applicant and/or contractor from providing the additional plans showing the flood zone location, the additional calculations to show that the work does not exceed the 50% rule, and mechanical plans showing that all equipment being installed is above the DFE (Design Flood Elevation), which in some instances is the BFE + 2 feet. Those who replace HVAC equipment located in basements in lower Manhattan and other designated flood zone areas do so at their own peril. Machinery and equipment servicing a building must be elevated to or above the base flood elevation in many designated flood zones. To find out if your building or home is in a designated flood zone and find out what your Base Flood Elevation is, refer to FEMA’s BFE Address Look-up Tool. For more information on flood zone construction filing requirements in New York City, see the NYC Department of Buildings Bulletin for Architects and Engineers. As always, to keep up to date with what’s new in HVAC technology and energy, visit our website at airideal.com and follow us on Twitter @airideal , LinkedIn and at our Facebook page!

Major Natural Gas Expansion Underway in New York Metro Region

There will be a significant increase in the volume of natural gas being brought to the New York Metro region as a result of multiple pipeline expansion projects from the Marcellus shale region. Several distribution pipelines will be put into service this winter.  According to the US Energy Information Administration, the pipelines will bring “3.5 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) of additional capacity to New York/New Jersey and Mid-Atlantic markets”. In addition to this, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission granted permission to Spectra Energy to put into service a new pipeline that has been run to Manhattan from New Jersey to bring additional natural gas from Marcellus to the city. The expansion will provide enough energy for Con Edison to heat about 2 million additional homes.

National Grid also appears to be expanding its gas distribution on Long Island. For the fiscal year 2013, which ended March 31, the utility added 8,815 new commercial and residential customers. Because of the lack of natural gas main expansion on Long Island, only about 43 percent of Long Island businesses and residents use natural gas as a primary fuel. As demand continues to grow, the utility has undertaken an $83 million expansion project that will install 1.6 miles of new pipeline under the Rockaway Inlet, connecting parts of Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island to existing natural gas lines. “We’re making large infrastructure investments,” said Kenneth Daly, president of National Grid New York. “You have to build out the network, which we’re doing.”

As always, to keep up to date with what’s new in HVAC technology, visit our website at airideal.com and follow us on Twitter @airideal and at our Facebook page!

LG Brings New Indoor VRF Heat Pump to the US Market, Filling a Void for Urban HVAC Design

New LG Multi V Space

For some time now I have been advocating for an indoor single phase VRF (variable refrigerant flow) split system with a horizontal discharge condensing unit for window, through the wall and/or louver applications. Even though VRF systems have the capability for long refrigerant piping runs for outdoor roof or areaway space, sometimes that space is just not available to designers and contractors. Many condo or coop boards will not allow multi-dwelling building unit owners to put there equipment in common areas like roofs or courtyards. Inevitably, many are forced into using thru-the-wall condensing units in order to have central air conditioning in their residences. As a result, the highest efficiency alternative, VRF,  is not a consideration because a through wall system was not available. Consequently, condo owners and smaller commercial tenants would have to settle for a 12 SEER thru-the-wall condensing unit instead of a 18+ SEER VRF alternative with variable speed compressor for additional partial load efficiency.

LG has answered the call for a single phase through wall option with its new Multi V Space hi-rise VRF solution. This 4.4 ton unit has a front condenser air inlet and outlet that sits flush against an exterior louver. It is designed to operate in turbulent wind conditions, which is often the case in hi-rise buildings in urban settings like Manhattan, San Francisco or Chicago. Condenser air discharge airflow is adjustable in three directions to prevent condenser air short cycling. Service and control access is all through a single interior panel located within the space. Refrigerant piping is flexible with connections at the rear or either side. Unlike the larger commercial 3 phase units, no condenser air discharge ductwork is required indoors. An optional automatic louver can open and close with system interlock to prevent draft in off cycles. The unit is quiet with projected sound power ratings at or below 55 dB(A). At only around 19″ deep, the unit footprint will mean very little floor area loss in an apartment or office.

Although the Multi V Space has been announced in the US, it is only currently available for purchase in Europe and Asia, but will be available in the US market shortly.  Click here for a link to preliminary PDF literature on the equipment.  This unit can be paired with any of LG’s indoor evaporators, both ducted and ductless,  just like its standard outdoor heat pump counterpart. The flexibility of the system should open up a world of options for HVAC design and layout in multi-tenant urban environments where exterior HVAC equipment space is not an alternative. It will be interesting to see if competitors develop a similar alternative once the Multi V  Space hits the market. More on this product as it becomes available.

As always, to keep up to date with what’s new in HVAC technology, visit our website at airideal.com and follow us on Twitter @airideal and at our Facebook page!

Conversion from Fuel Oil to Natural Gas Even Sweeter in 2013

Spot Market Prices 2013In our annual review of home heating fuels on Long Island, nothing has changed except for the widened gap between fuel oil and Natural gas prices. Today, “Prices for crude oil and natural gas moved in opposite directions after the U.S. government issued weekly supply reports for both fuels. Benchmark oil for October delivery gained 93 cents, or 1.1 percent, to close at $108.37 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. But natural gas futures fell 10.5 cents, or 2.9 percent, to $3.575 per 1,000 cubic feet.” Read more here

The impact that shale hydraulic fracturing has had on the suppression and reduction of natural gas prices is phenomenal. According to an article this week in USA Today, “Now, the United States produces more natural gas than it can use. As a result, prices have plummeted… When supply eclipses demand, the only way to increase prices is to reduce the supply or increase demand. Reducing the supply is not an easy proposition for natural gas producers — their contracts on wells often require them to keep drilling in order to maintain the lease. That is why natural gas producers, like Exxon Mobil have pushed the Department of Energy to speed up its approval of applications to export natural gas.

In fact, while home heating oil and gasoline prices continue to escalate, the natural gas glut continues to suppress natural seasonal price spikes. The wellhead price of natural gas is down to less than $4 per thousand cubic feet. This is why it is an extremely good time for those who can convert to natural gas from oil to do so now.  According to NYSERDA, the current price of natural gas in New York State is $1.56 per Therm (or 100 CCF). There are 100,000 BTUs per Therm of natural gas.  Therefore, if you were to price natural gas versus no. 2 fuel oil by the BTU content of a gallon of oil (138,000 BTUs) the current rates would be $4.07 for a gallon of oil and $2.17 for a “gallon” of natural gas with the same heating capacity. Here in the northeast, a consumer can easily burn 1000 gallons of No. 2 fuel oil in a heating season, when equated to about 1000 CCF of natural gas for the same BTU output at $4.07 per gallon of oil and $2.17 per Therm, this equates to a $1900 savings in just one heating season. Based upon a 5 year Return On Investment payback, even a $9500.00 oil to gas conversion would put you ahead of the game.

For more information on heating fuels comparisons, including propane and geothermal, see our previous article here.

Try the following calculators for your own comparison:   ConEd Oil to Gas Heat Conversion Calculator     PSE&G Residential Oil to Gas Spreadsheet Calculator

As always, to keep up to date with what’s new in HVAC technology, visit our website at airideal.com and follow us on Twitter @airideal and at our Facebook page!