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!

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!

VRF HVAC Market In NYC Poised for Significant Growth

American Thread VRFThe combination of new FEMA flood insurance requirements, aging chiller and cooling tower plants, fears of legionella contamination and illness, a surging real estate market and increased population density are converging to create a perfect storm for VRF growth in the New York metropolitan area and beyond. Currently, we are involved in several multi-tenant VRF projects in Manhattan including two condominium projects converting from older traditional HVAC systems. The modular nature of VRF, its efficiency at part load and the ability to install long refrigerant line lengths from rooftop mounted equipment without oil return problems has made them the new system of choice for green urban design.

New FEMA regulations are providing significant pressure to relocate mechanical rooms which have historically been relegated to basements and sub-basements. Depending upon the market value of a building and it’s relationship to construction alteration costs, many projects located within the 100 year flood plain may be required to relocate mechanicals. VRF uniquely provides a cost effective method of relocating heating and air conditioning utilities to available roof locations in low, mid and high rise buildings in these area. This combined with the plethora of indoor unit applications for surface mounted, concealed, wall, floor or horizontal locations makes VRF perfectly suited for these types of installations.

The main design criteria, besides equipment location, will be refrigerant piping riser location, access availability and ventilation index requirements. VRF units have not typically been suited to applications with high latent loads and significant fresh air ventilation requirements, but with the advent of new lines of Energy Recovery Ventilators, this problem may be solved. Combining  a VRF system with an ERV for fresh air intake requirements now makes them more suitable for schools, public spaces and applications where significant ventilation is required.

One concern in the design and planning of VRF systems is the criteria laid out in ASHRAE Standards 15 and 34. Standard 15 was created to provide guidance for safety concerns in large refrigeration plants using ammonia and other early refrigerants. Over time, the scope of the Standard has been expanded to cover most refrigerants and systems, but the technology and features inherent in VRF systems have not been specifically addressed.  The overall purpose of ASHRAE Standard 34 is “…to establish a simple means of referring to common refrigerants… It also establishes a uniform system for assigning reference numbers, safety classifications, and refrigerant concentration limits to refrigerants. The standard also identifies requirements to apply for designations and safety classifications for refrigerants. The refrigerant concentration limit, in air, determined in accordance with this standard and intended to reduce the risks of acute toxicity, asphyxiation and flammability hazards in normally occupied, enclosed spaces” 

The concentration limit for R410A has been set at 26 lb/Mcf (thousand cubic feet). Engineers need to consider this limitation when designing and submitting plans for VRF system unit locations serving smaller occupied spaces. There are several ways that the cubic area of these spaces can be enhanced and enlarged by allowing free air return, transfer grilles and door undercuts to fall within the realms of these calculations. The standard enumerates similar concerns for the refrigerant piping locations. For a further interpretation of these standards see this Mitsubishi City-multi bulletin.

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!