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With ongoing efforts from governments across the globe to reduce carbon emissions and with an ever greater focus on sustainability, it is vital that the HVAC sector does its part in becoming more environmentally conscious. And, while there have been steps to become more sustainable, there is a huge amount that still needs to be done to make sure that many of the targets that have been set are attainable. In buildings, both large and small, industrial heating accounts for roughly two thirds of industrial energy demand and around a fifth of global energy consumption. Figures like this show the need to have efficient and environmentally-friendly HVAC equipment in place to make the crucial steps towards reducing the contributions these systems make to our carbon footprint. High energy consumption in construction sector A 2019 report by The International Environment Agency (IEA) showed that the buildings and construction sectors combined were responsible for over 30% of global energy consumption and nearly 40% of carbon emissions. This is indicative of the steps the sector needs to take to play its role in a more eco-friendly society, some of which are already underway. However, much more needs to be done if the UK is to reach its goal of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. As we envisage what a post-COVID world might look like, businesses and governments are continuing to put sustainability and lower carbon emissions at the forefront of their planning and the HVAC sector is certainly no exception. But with change in the sector a daunting prospect, decision-makers often don’t know where to start. Smart Technology use in HVAC systems Smart HVAC uses sensors that integrate with a building’s automation system With the constant growth and greater deployment of smart technologies within the HVAC sector, this is certainly a way that systems can become more efficient. Smart HVAC uses sensors that integrate with a building’s automation system. These sensors then collect information about conditions throughout the building. Heat waves are now a far more common occurrence in the United Kingdom. The Met Office estimates they are up to 30 times more likely and will be a bi-annual occurrence by 2050. It is important that any uptake in HVAC usage doesn’t lead to a drastic increase in emission generation. This is one of the areas where smart systems will become crucial. Many scientists have been unequivocal in their sentiment that heat waves are a cause of greater emissions and expect temperature records in the UK and Europe to be broken more regularly, so sites will need to be equipped to handle these conditions. Regulating temperature with hand-held devices With wireless systems now much more commonplace, temperatures can be controlled easily from hand-held devices. With these new technologies, those managing the systems can also benefit from remote monitoring and maintenance, reducing the need to travel to the site for yet another environmental incentive. To accompany the smart systems, equipment including smart thermostats can be installed to maximize HVAC efficiency. Other smart systems available to businesses include smart furnaces and air conditioning units that are far easier to operate than their traditional counterparts. Reducing unnecessary ventilation While global temperatures continue to rise, air conditioning usage has increased and has contributed to greater levels of energy usage. A huge amount of needless emissions are generated by unnecessary ventilation, contributing heavily to heat loss and overall energy wastage. Recirculation of air is a traditionally lower energy cost method of retaining heat and keeping emissions low, however, we must be mindful of the risks associated with recirculating air. The risk of circulating diseases is negated somewhat with heat recovery ventilation, which both removes the risk of disease spreading and improves energy consumption. Efficiency performance of new AC units Air conditioning units in particular contribute significantly to a building’s energy consumption Air conditioning units in particular contribute significantly to a building’s energy consumption, equating to 10% of the UK’s electricity consumption and as such it is important that we bear in mind ways to counteract the emissions this creates. Global energy demand for air conditioning units is expected to triple by 2050, as temperatures continue to rise year on year. The efficiency performance of new air conditioning units will be the key, when it comes to ensuring that escalating demand does not equate to greater emissions. Another issue for suppliers and manufacturers to address is differing rates of consumption for AC units in different countries, with units sold in Japan and the EU typically more efficient than those found in China and the US. Modularization Modular HVACs have also become increasingly popular in recent years. Modular HVACs are responsible for heating, cooling and distributing air through an entire building, with their increase in popularity largely down to their greater levels of energy efficiency, cost effectiveness, flexibility and substantial ease of installation and maintenance. Modular HVACs can be tailored specifically for workspaces and they often allow work to be done on the systems without disturbing the workforce, achieved primarily through rooftop placement. Commercial workspaces are larger and often require differing needs to residential properties and can cater to a wide range of the specific requirements of work and commercial spaces. As we strive for lower carbon emissions, it seems that this trend will continue and will become a key area in reducing emissions that HVACs have traditionally generated. System maintenance and training To meet government and industry requirements, many new buildings will require HVAC systems that can be maintained simply in order to perform in a more energy efficient way. Many companies are looking at ways to become climate neutral and significantly reduce their footprint Many companies are looking at ways to become climate neutral and significantly reduce their footprint. Companies are following the likes of German-based company, Wilo Group, who have announced they are committing to sustainable manufacturing by developing a new carbon neutral plant and HQ in the next few years. Lowering carbon footprint As we continue to move towards an ever more environmentally conscious society, it will be of paramount importance for companies, governments and the public to think about ways in which we can lower carbon emissions. Smart technologies will certainly be at the forefront of this, negating many needless journeys and making it easier for industries to adjust settings and tackle issues remotely. Greater levels of training will help equip us with the tools to make sure we are best placed to reduce emissions and be more sustainable as a result. While the steps outlined above do show some progress and measures we can take, there is far more that we can do as a sector to significantly reduce HVAC’s carbon footprint and once we have moved beyond the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, this will surely be at the front of industry leader minds.
The modern technological world is filled with ‘extrusions’. They are all around us, in the form of small and not-so-small cross sections. The function of an extrusion is to form seals between components of complex machinery and keep them functional. And, depending on the ‘type’ used, they can make a big difference to how a machine operates. Some of the most desirable types of extrusion — and especially for use in HVAC systems — are those made from silicone. Silicone, which is a type of rubber, has a robust set of properties. For one, silicone can withstand extreme temperatures, both high and low. Semi-Exterior environments Ranging from -60°C to temperatures exceeding 200°C. (And there are even higher grades that can be manufactured to withstand temperatures well above 200°C.) Ideal for HVAC units that work round the clock to keep large numbers of people in large buildings comfortable in summer and winter conditions. In addition to this, silicone is also one of the more resistant properties to the constant vibrations of working machinery. It can be difficult to locate the source of the problem if a tiny extrusion has dislodged. Vibration-resistant properties make silicone extrusions less likely to disengage or fall out of place, therefore minimizing the need for costly repairs. Finally, silicone is also more durable than most other materials when it comes to exterior or semi-exterior environments, such as that of rain or ultraviolet light. Protecting electrical components Silicone is useful in HVAC systems because it offers enhanced sealing and compression protections As a result of this favorability, there is already a considerable number of different types of silicone extrusions that can be found in a lot of HVAC systems. These include HVAC sealing gaskets, hatch seals and vibration isolation pads. But also silicone sponges, which act as a protective layer of thermal insulation. As well as providing thermal insulation, silicone sponges can double-up as a form of acoustic insulation, with considerable noise reduction and anti-squeal properties. Silicone enclosure gaskets protect electrical components, and environmental seals — as the name suggests — help to keep everything protected from the sometimes harsh elements of the environment outside. Silicone is useful in HVAC systems because it offers enhanced sealing and compression protections over most other materials. Closed cell structure On a material level, silicone has a ‘closed cell structure’, which helps to keep out moisture ingress, along with water and dust. The combination of a closed cell structure, along with sealing and compression benefits, makes silicone ideal for exterior seals and gaskets in and around HVAC systems. The softer grades of Silicone have an excellent memory and low stress relaxation, which in turn helps to prevent common faults with HVAC systems — usually caused by gasket failures made from other materials that soften and compress inaccurately. The low stress relaxation properties require minimal force on behalf of the engineers sealing the enclosures, while the memory-properties of the silicone allow it to conform to awkward shapes and gaps of various widths. Manufacturing HVAC systems proactively with silicone in mind can allow more design flexibility on behalf of the engineers. Inevitable rapid movements General purpose solid silicone or silicone sponge is suitable for many HVAC applications And, as mentioned above, vibration isolation pads work as dampers to protect against the inevitable rapid movements of the systems as they power along. But also to help withstand the vibrations of HVAC units on transport systems, such as buses and trains, which naturally vibrate as they run over imperfections on rail and road tracks. As it happens, general purpose solid silicone or silicone sponge is suitable for many HVAC applications, not just those discussed above. The designs of the extrusions would be different, reflective of their function, but the material would be the same. In some instances, customers may also require a flame retardant silicone — certified to UL94 specifications — in order to meet safety standards in certain situations or environments. Great temperature ranges For all its material advantages, silicone is generally more expensive than the other types of material rubber that are used to manufacture extrusions, such as ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM). And while other materials do of course have stand-out benefits of their own — EPDM for example is more hard-wearing than silicone — silicone is still often the extrusion ‘type’ of choice because of its ability to withstand great temperature ranges. This is very important for heating and air conditioning systems. Because some of the most common factors that cause HVAC systems to break down are as a result of seal and gasket failure, which can come about as a result of an overheating unit. Very cold environment Chances of a unit overheating can be just as likely — in fact perhaps more so — where the system has to operate in a very cold environment. With the threat of climate change etched more than ever into the public discussion, we can predict that there will be a steady increase in the amount that this material is used to make up the HVAC seals. And not just because, as temperatures continue to increase and summers get hotter and more prolonged, there will be an increased demand for them. Effective public relations It is no secret that HVAC systems can be relatively expensive to run It will become a matter of effective public relations for managers, building regulators and transport officers to make sure that the equipment they are using — and making — is ‘green’. By using the right materials that help conserve energy and increase efficiency, this will not only sit right with the general public, it should also be more economical, too. It is no secret that HVAC systems can be relatively expensive to run. Minimizing wastage, and the time spent on call outs and repairs will make a notable difference. Of course there are many other ways to also set about making air conditioning and heating units more efficient. Using seals or gaskets made from silicone is just one small piece of the puzzle. But utilizing them will almost certainly be more beneficial than you might imagine. And anything that is a step in the right direction is a welcome change.
As the UK continues to battle through the coronavirus crisis, HVAC business owners and installers can be putting some of their enforced downtime to good use. This period of subdued trading is a rare opportunity to get into better shape for when economic activity picks up. One way of doing this is by sharpening the focus on markets which promise strong growth – and few markets are growing faster than that for heat pumps. The potential here is huge. Some 28,000 heat pumps are currently installed in the UK every year, and before the pandemic this number was rising annually at a rate of 15-30%. That equates to sales doubling every three to five years. New-builds account for the majority of those sales, but 30% are retrofits, and about 30% of those retrofits are in private residences. This means there’s a big opportunity for doing conversions from oil boilers to heat pumps at rural homes not connected to the gas grid. The ‘New Normal’ and Heat Pumps It is only realistic, of course, to expect a lingering dip in HVAC sales of all kinds, including heat pumps, until the post-pandemic world gets back on its feet. But when we do turn the corner into the ‘new normal’, heat pump sales will again climb strongly. One reason for this is consumer demand, the other is government policy. End-users are now increasingly aware of the dangers and disruptions threatened by carbon emissions and climate change – informally known as ‘the Blue Planet Effect’ – and more are being guided by their consciences to make environmentally-responsible heating choices. An Expected Spike In Demand Many end-users are also encouraged by the prospect of receiving payments from the government through the Domestic RHI tariff. When we do turn the corner into the ‘new normal’, heat pump sales will climb strongly If RHI tariffs are the carrot, however, the government is also going to wield a big stick. The Chancellor’s spring statement last year dropped the bombshell that low-carbon heating systems, not fossil-fuel heating, should be installed in all new homes built after 2025. Though this policy might perhaps get slightly delayed and diluted, there can be no doubting that radical change is on the way. With all this in the pipeline, the industry should be preparing now to cope with the increased demand. But there’s some way to go: of the UK’s 120,000 registered gas engineers, merely 600 or so are MCS-registered to install heat pumps. Many more will be needed. MCS Certification Some installers are already recognizing this opportunity. Some 28,000 heat pumps are currently installed in the UK every year, and before the pandemic this number was rising annually at a rate of 15-30% This is evident in the heightened level of interest in the one-day introductory heat pump courses run nationwide by the Viessmann Academy. These courses provide a useful overview of what heat pump installations involve, helping participants decide whether or not they would like to go on to qualify with the MCS quality assurance scheme. This is a crucial decision, because having MCS certification is an obligation when installing equipment eligible for Domestic RHI payments. Some course participants decide to take the next step to MCS certification straight away, others decide to wait a while – but standing still in a fast-moving market can mean getting left behind! F-Gas Certification So what else must HVAC businesses and installers consider about heat pumps, in order to stay ahead of the game? In addition to MCS certification, F-Gas certification is also necessary when split air source heat pumps are installed. This is because the outdoor and indoor units have to be connected on-site with refrigerant pipework. Some installers choose to get F-Gas certified themselves, others sub-contract this part of the job to someone who’s suitably qualified. Of the UK’s 120,000 registered gas engineers, merely 600 or so are MCS-registered to install heat pumps It is possible to sidestep this need, however, when it is appropriate to install a monobloc heat pump – and the widening choice and affordability of monobloc designs is making them appropriate for a wider range of properties. A good example of this is Viessmann’s new Vitocal 100-A, an outdoors unit which has no need for a complementary indoor unit and is also easy to install because most components are integrated in the unit. New, compact and affordable air source heat pumps such as this, offering much-needed space-saving solutions for urban homes, are another reason why the heat pump market will boom. The Challenges Of Heat Pump Installation Though technological advances are making things easier, installing a heat pump isn’t ever going to be quite as straightforward as replacing an old boiler with a new one. Before starting an installation, first it is necessary to assess whether a heat pump is suitable for the property. This means checking that the property is well-enough insulated; checking the existing system’s radiators, which may need supplementing or replacing with bigger radiators or underfloor heating because of the lower flow temperatures of a heat pump system; and calculating the required size of the heat pump according to the building’s heat loss (and not including hot water demand). This period of subdued trading is a rare opportunity to get into better shape for when economic activity picks up At the installation stage itself, much of the work will be familiar to boiler installers, though weather compensating controls are obligatory for all MCS-approved work and as part of building regulations Part L. It’s also important to note that planning permission requires minimum distances between the heat pump’s outdoor unit, the plot’s borders, and neighboring properties. If this seems complicated, it doesn’t have to be: some heat pump manufacturers provide a calculator to simplify the task. Now Is The Time To Be Proactive Just as installers need a little time to assess whether a property should switch from a boiler to a heat pump, end-users also need a little thinking time, to consider adopting a technology new to them. By being proactive, HVAC businesses and installers can reap what they sow When customers get in touch because their existing boiler has broken down, the pressure for a quick fix can rule this out. But right now, when many of us have time on our hands, there’s the chance to inform customers of alternative heating solutions before their boiler needs replacing. Taking such pre-emptive action, by emailing information or mailing leaflets to customers, does require a little effort, but at least now there’s the time to do it. We are heading into a new era which will see boiler sales decline while heat pump sales rise. By making preparations for these profound changes, and by being proactive, HVAC businesses and installers can reap what they sow.
After extensive research, testing, and evaluation, Johnson Controls, the provider of smart, healthy, and sustainable buildings, has selected R-454B, a lower global warming potential (GWP) refrigerant, to replace R-410A in its ducted residential and commercial unitary products as well as air-cooled scroll chillers. Systems using the new refrigerant will be available for Johnson Controls, YORK®, Luxaire®, Coleman®, Champion®, TempMaster®, Fraser-Johnston®, Guardian®, Evcon™, and Quantech® branded products in North America, as well as specific international markets where codes are in alignment. High-GWP refrigerants This decision was made as the HVAC industry is preparing to phase out high-GWP refrigerants, such as R-410A, which are now being formally addressed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) through the recently passed American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act. The AIM Act directs the EPA to phase down U.S. hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) production and use by approximately 85 percent over the next 15 years. Johnson Controls has determined R-454B be the best-in-class replacement refrigerant After evaluating several low-GWP alternatives on a variety of performance and market metrics, such as safety, capacity, efficiency, reliability, availability, and longevity, Johnson Controls has determined R-454B to be the best-in-class replacement refrigerant – a decision echoed by other HVAC manufacturers. R-454B has the lowest EPA SNAP approved GWP for unitary applications of all ASHRAE classified A2L (low-toxicity, mild flammability) refrigerants on the market, coming in at 466. Maximizing environmental benefits This is one-fifth the GWP of R-410A, far lower than the pending 750 GWP limits being proposed and offering the longest-term viability. “Utilizing R-454B was a clear decision, but one that took years of in-depth research, testing, and evaluation,” said Chris Forth, Executive Director of regulatory, codes, and environmental affairs, Ducted Systems, Johnson Controls. “This decision maximizes environmental benefits, which will help to avoid, if not completely avert, a second, near-term transition for the unitary sector. As the AIM Act phase-down schedule progresses, higher-GWP fluids such as R-32, while viable today, have the potential to be eliminated as an option due to their high-GWP values. Johnson Controls will continue to evaluate lower-GWP alternatives for future possibilities.” Improving system efficiency Existing R-410A equipment built prior to that date can be sold and installed indefinitely" In addition to reducing environmental impact, R-454B is more compatible with existing R-410A equipment designs, requires a less or similar refrigerant charge, and can reduce the energy use of HVAC systems and improve system efficiency. The similar operating characteristics with R-410A will make for a smoother transition for distributors, wholesalers, and contractors. “It’s important to note that these pending mandates from the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) would only apply to the sale of new residential and commercial unitary equipment as well as air-cooled scroll chillers. As the pending regulations stipulate a specific manufacturing cutoff date of January 1, 2025, for residential and light commercial unitary products and January 1, 2024, for air-cooled scroll chillers, existing R-410A equipment built prior to that date can be sold and installed indefinitely,” said Forth. Rule-Making processes “EPA and CARB are scheduled to begin their formal rule-making processes this year, which will determine how long of a servicing period will be granted for R-410A equipment currently in service.” As we approach the refrigerant transition cutoff dates, safety standards and building codes must be updated prior to a widespread market introduction of mildly flammable, low-toxicity A2L refrigerants such as R-454B. Extensive, multi-year research and testing have been conducted by ASHRAE, AHRTI, and others to ensure A2Ls can be safely deployed. Proper training will be critical to ensure the safe use, transportation, and storage of A2L refrigerants. Johnson Controls is committed to ensuring the safe transition to R-454B by providing in-depth training for its contractors and technicians prior to the pending refrigerant transition dates.
Johnson Controls, a global provider of smart, healthy, and sustainable buildings, is leading the charge on sustainable manufacturing with its continued commitment to green energy. The company’s 1.3 million square-foot HVAC manufacturing plant in Wichita, KS, is now powered by 100 percent wind energy. The plant manufactures residential heating and air conditioning equipment for the YORK, Luxaire, Coleman, and Champion brands. With this switch to renewable energy, the plant’s electricity is offset by zero carbon electricity, which represents 19 percent of Johnson Controls U.S. manufacturing electricity consumption. local wind power “With the Wichita plant now operating on 100 percent local wind power, this is not only a major achievement for Johnson Controls, but also the community. This change has dramatically reduced emissions and the plant’s environmental impact for many years to come,” said Joe Oliveri, Vice President and General Manager, Global Ducted Systems, Johnson Controls. “This is a prime example of Johnson Controls commitment to sustainability and a healthier planet.” Johnson Controls Wichita plant is receiving its wind energy from Evergy’s Soldier Creek Wind Farm, a 300-megawatt wind farm in Nemaha County, Kansas, that was completed in November 2020. The energy cost savings projections from the wind power agreement are expected to be approximately $2.7 million over the life of the 20-year contract - the equivalent of taking 100,000 passenger vehicles off the road. improved capacitor banks Evergy applauds Johnson Controls leadership in sustainability by using local, renewable energy" In addition, Johnson Controls will be installing improved capacitor banks to more efficiently consume the plant’s wind energy. This will lower the plant’s energy consumption by nearly 5 percent, equaling an additional energy savings of $3 million over the next 20 years. “Evergy applauds Johnson Controls leadership in sustainability by using local, renewable energy,” said Jeff Martin, Vice President, Community and Customer Operations, Evergy. “This commitment helps grow wind development in our area, driving investment in local communities and creating green jobs.” renewable electricity usage Since 2017, Johnson Controls reduced its GHG emissions intensity by 26 percent and energy intensity by nearly 6 percent. Building on this history of success, in 2021, Johnson Controls set new ambitious environmental sustainability commitments such as aiming to achieve zero carbon emissions before 2040 as well as reducing the company’s operational emissions by 55 percent and reducing customers’ emissions by 16 percent before 2030. In addition, the company aims to achieve 100 percent renewable electricity usage globally by 2040.
Women in the HVAC industry often face a unique set of challenges in the male-dominated field. Johnson Controls has worked to tear down those misconceptions by educating and empowering women in the industry. This commitment was in action recently, when Johnson Controls welcomed women from across North America for its second Coolest Women in HVAC event of 2019. The inspirational two-day program provides educational and networking opportunities for contractors, distributors, service technicians, engineers, and sales and marketing professionals. The latest event was held at Johnson Controls residential manufacturing facility in Wichita, Kan., where attendees gained first-hand experience in designing, testing and servicing of residential equipment from YORK, Luxaire, Coleman and Champion. equipment testing lab The women participated in a tour of the plant and equipment testing lab, as well as a manufacturing and engineering Q&A session. “One of our goals at Johnson Controls, and a personal desire of mine, is to increase recruitment of women in the field and give them the tools they need to excel. Creating gender diversity within the HVAC industry can only make it stronger by creating a well-rounded network of talented individuals,” said Liz Haggerty, Vice President and General Manager, Ducted Systems, Johnson Controls. “Our biannual women in HVAC events are an effective way educate attendees on Johnson Controls products and programs, while giving them the opportunity to meet and network with other women in the field.” servicing commercial equipment In September, Johnson Controls hosted its first Coolest Women in HVAC event of the year In September, Johnson Controls hosted its first Coolest Women in HVAC event of the year. Held at Johnson Controls Rooftop Center of Excellence in Norman, Okla., attendees toured the 900,000 square-foot facility, including its two-story testing lab, participated in an engineering leadership Q&A panel and engaged in a presentation on ‘Creating a Culture of Learning’ with Johnson Controls Lead Business Instructor, Christa Vanzant. The women gained first-hand experience in designing, testing and servicing of commercial equipment from YORK, Johnson Controls, TempMaster, Fraser-Johnston, Luxaire, Coleman and Champion. Johnson Controls has been at the forefront of recruiting women to pursue careers in HVAC and increasing the advancement of women in STEM roles. multiple business resource The company created a Women’s Resource Network nearly a decade ago, which harnesses the power of female employees to establish a professional development and mentoring community. Johnson Controls also launched the Next Start program in 2017 to help women who have been out of the workforce for two or more years find employment. In addition to women in HVAC, the company has established multiple business resource groups to support and empower a diverse workforce including veterans, the disabled and multicultural groups.