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Packaged Terminal Heat Pumps (PTHP) - Expert Commentary

Why The 2030 Deadline For Zero GWP Isn't Achievable
Why The 2030 Deadline For Zero GWP Isn't Achievable

It’s no secret that climate change is one of the most pressing concerns facing our planet. We must act collectively on behalf of future generations to enact the change that will help us to avoid a climate catastrophe; and not least the HVAC industry, which has been, and remains, a major contributor to atmospheric greenhouse gases and global warming. In 2015, the UK Government, along with 196 parties entered the legally binding international treaty on climate change, which was adopted at COP 21 in Paris. For the first time in history, all nations committed to undertake the necessary, ambitious steps to combat climate change. Significant environmental milestone Whilst this was clearly a significant environmental milestone, how realistic is the 2030 deadline for zero Global Warming Potential (GWP), from the HVAC industry’s viewpoint? The refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump (RACHP) sector is presently the largest of the F-gas emitting sectors. The RACHP sector is in fact the UK’s main user as well as emitter of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). HFCs are now the main refrigerants used in a broad range of RACHP applications Since the phasing-out of ozone-depleting refrigerants (CFCs and HCFCs), HFCs are now the main refrigerants used in a broad range of RACHP applications, such as commercial refrigeration and air conditioning. It is therefore unsurprising that the spotlight has fallen on the RACHP sector. However, the EU F-Gas Regulation, which was introduced in 2014, is helping to reshape the sector, and lowering carbon emissions. The regulation stipulates: A 79% cut in the GWP weighted quantity of HFCs that can be sold in the EU by 2030. Several bans which restrict the refrigerants that can be used in specific types of new RACHP equipment. Bans on servicing R-404A systems in medium and large sized supermarket and industrial systems as of 2020. New rules on leak prevention and mandatory leak testing. Industrial refrigeration equipment In response to these new rules, many operating in the RACHP sector have introduced lower-GWP equipment. For instance, in the small-medium building air conditioning market, ultra-low GWP (<10) equipment is now an available option. Whilst the sector is committed to lowering its carbon footprint and has made good progress to date, the target of achieving a zero GWP by 2030 seems slightly unrealistic for a number of reasons. Whilst there is continuous improvement to RACHP equipment, an issue is the long life span of many products. For instance, some industrial refrigeration equipment typically has a life span of 30+ years; which means that approximately half of the industrial refrigeration equipment currently in use could remain so until 2030 and beyond. Reducing environmental impact The replacement of existing equipment is constrained by the equipment’s lifecycle The replacement of existing equipment is constrained by the equipment’s lifecycle, therefore, assuming that there is no premature retirement or retrofitting of the existing equipment, then implementing new alternatives could take decades, potentially. In terms of reducing environmental impact, the industry is reliant on the development of new technology, and manufacturers implementing that technology in the design of new equipment, to provide low-GWP alternatives. We are constrained by the rate at which manufacturers can bring these new products to market. The RACHP sector is also complex and contains an array of sub-sectors. The rate of progress in developing products with lower GWP varies considerably by sub-sector. For example, in the refrigeration sector, in commercial and retail applications where condensing units are used, the progress in lowering GWP is proving to be very slow. Variable refrigerant flow However, when it comes to small-sealed units, on the contrary, an impressive range of new low-GWP products have been brought to market. We can see a similar story in the air conditioning sector, where progress on lowering GWP is rather slow when it comes to large variable refrigerant flow (VRF) and large-ducted units; whereas for water chillers, they are making excellent progress. GWP rating may not be the key consideration in choosing a suitable product In the RACHP sector, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all product. Different equipment is required for different applications. For example, where RACHP systems are located in areas with public occupancy (e.g., retailers), public safety becomes a key concern, and would therefore limit our product choice, as well as the refrigerant type which could be used. Therefore, GWP rating may not be the key consideration in choosing a suitable product, it’s about selecting the right equipment for the application. Providing thermodynamic properties When it comes to RACHP equipment, there is a huge variance in temperature levels. In refrigeration, equipment temperature ranges from 0°C to 5°C for chilled food, and -15°C to -40°C for frozen food. In air-conditioning, the temperature typically ranges between 10°C to 20°Cii. These significant variations in temperature levels require a range of refrigerants to be available, to provide the thermodynamic properties to suit the specific application. It is worth noting here that not all have low GWP ratings. Despite stating that some of the targets are unrealistic, I do however believe that as an industry, we can collectively work together to make a difference to our planet. Maximum gas recovery Here are a few practical ways we can help to lower our carbon emissions: Use low GWP alternative refrigerants in new equipment – This is the key to success in the long term. As I explained previously, the long lifecycle of some of the equipment means that it will potentially be many years before the existing repository of HFCs is completely obsolete. However, it is a realistic goal that by 2050, the current generation of high-GWP HFCs could be replaced with low-GWP alternatives. Recover F-Gases from equipment - Old equipment reaching end-of-life contains HFCs. It is illegal to vent these HFCs into the atmosphere. The F-Gas Regulation has a mandatory requirement for the old HFC to be recovered. This refrigerant should be reprocessed, recycled and reused. Although this does not directly reduce F-Gas emissions in the short term, it does encourage maximum gas recovery. Leakage-Detection systems Reduce the usage of HFCs in existing equipment - Interestingly, a large proportion of total HFC consumption is actually to top-up leaks from existing equipment. If we could make advances in the area of leak-prevention, through further development of leakage-detection systems, this would reduce the volumes of HFC inadvertently entering the atmosphere. I’d also advise businesses to regularly undertake leak testing and to keep records. The world needs the entire HVAC industry to lead and drive the change required to reduce our carbon footprint. We must champion the solutions for the climate change crisis. Equally, businesses have a responsibility to ensure they remain F-Gas compliant and that their air conditioning and refrigeration systems continue to work at peak efficiency.

Why Young People Should Build A Career In Renewable Heating
Why Young People Should Build A Career In Renewable Heating

In the coming decades, the government plans to phase out gas and oil boilers and replace them with renewable heating systems. To make this possible, to give us a shot of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, more people need to train as renewable heating installers. But when you were a teenager, if old people like Boris Johnson or George Eustice had told you that you ‘should’ choose a certain career, would you have listened? No, me neither. Yes, there will be plenty of environmentally motivated young people looking for a career that will make a difference in the world, but we cannot expect those people to carry the weight of the task ahead. Addressing the need for renewable installers The government has pledged to install 600,000 heat pumps per year in UK homes by 2028. It is an ambitious target, not least because there are currently not enough certified heat pump installers to meet expected demand. For example, at Boiler Guide, we are receiving 250% more heat pump enquiries than we were just 12 months ago. The Environment Audit Committee has warned that the UK is unlikely to achieve its net-zero carbon targets for all homes by 2050, without significant recruitment incentives for heat pump installers. Becoming an asset to the government’s ‘Green Revolution’ One route to success is for existing boiler engineers to up their skill in renewable technology One route to success is for existing boiler engineers to up their skill in renewable technology. This will certainly have a big part to play, as these people already have many transferable skills that will make them an asset to the government’s ‘Green Revolution’. However, given that more than half of Gas Safe-registered engineers are due to retire in the next decade, this is not a long term solution to growing the renewable sector. Younger generation to define the future of heating The second and more effective option would be for more young people and school leavers to choose a career in renewable heating. Of course, we cannot expect young people to make their career choice based on the fact that the government has targets. To strengthen the renewable industry’s frontlines, we need to speak directly to school leavers and young people, and to explain why a career in renewable heating could be a great choice for them on a personal level, as well as the planet. Here are some of the most compelling reasons why a young person should consider a career as a renewable installer. Renewable heating is the future From 2025, gas boilers will not be installed in newly built homes, and low carbon heating systems will need to be incorporated into properties as standard. Every existing home in the UK needs a heating system, and as fossil fuel boilers are phased out over the next 30 years, the renewable sector (including air source and ground source heat pumps, solar thermal, biomass boilers) will continue to grow.  Heating installers are essential workers Young people should consider that during COVID-19, heating engineers were deemed, essential workers A major consideration for anyone choosing a career is whether the industry that they have chosen will provide them with long-term security, and the renewable heating industry certainly has that in its favor. To illustrate this point, young people should consider that during the COVID-19 pandemic, heating engineers were deemed, essential workers. Even when the country’s social and economic activities were halted, heating engineers were still needed. Renewable technologies are diverse While gas and oil boilers have dominated the heating landscape for many years, this is changing. In the next 30 years, it is likely that different properties will need different renewable heating systems, including plenty of hybrid systems, so the career promises plenty of variety and opportunities to diversify. In the future, a heating installer may be able to work not just with a boiler, but also with heat pumps, biomass, and solar. The more renewable technologies a person can install, repair, and service, the more varied, interesting, and lucrative their career will be. Renewable heating installers are in demand Because renewable heating installers, particularly air source heat pump installers, are in great demand at the moment, it is a great time for young ambitious people to be entering the industry. By getting started now as the industry is still blooming, they have the chance to corner the market in their area, and establish a positive reputation. Self-employment opportunity for renewable heating installers Renewable heating installers have the opportunity to start their own business and may work alone or with others Renewable heating installers have the opportunity to start their own business and may work alone or with others. This means that they will be in charge of their own hours, the projects they take on, and to an extent, how much money they earn. With the right business skills alongside technical knowledge, self-employment can be rewarding in multiple ways. However, for the many people that feel more secure when they are employed by a company and working with others, the industry could be ideal for them too. Renewable heating installers can be employed and they often work alongside other tradespeople, and as part of larger building projects. Many people cannot imagine a career that involves sitting in an office all day, every day. For people who enjoy being physically active, getting outside, meeting new people, and solving different problems every day, becoming a renewable heating installer is ideal. How to become a renewable heating installer There are several stages to becoming a renewable heating installer, and the training required obviously varies depending on the technology, the training provider, and the individual’s skill/experience. For example, a school leaver might begin by achieving NVQ Level 2 in Plumbing and Heating (or equivalent), as well as Water Regulations/Byelaws, Energy Efficiency Certificates, and G3 Qualifications. The NVQ typically takes around 1 year to complete alongside a practical apprenticeship. Renewable heating educational courses With that foundation, they can then move on to study Low Temperature Heating and Hot Water Systems (typically a 2-day course), a Heat Pump Foundation Course (2-day course), followed by a 1-day course specific to the type of heat pump they wish to install, i.e., air or ground source. Finally, renewable heating installers need to become accredited by the Micro-generation Certification Scheme (MCS), or an equivalent competency scheme.

Strategic Electrification And The HVAC Industry’s Role
Strategic Electrification And The HVAC Industry’s Role

Strategic electrification encompasses a host of solutions aimed at decarbonizing Earth’s atmosphere, decreasing pollution and reducing the costs of modern comfort and technology. Also known as “beneficial electrification”, this movement requires increased energy efficiency and end uses powered with electricity from cleaner grids and renewable sources. The movement will transform both the built environment and society’s modes of transportation. Despite the complexity of its challenges, strategic electrification can no longer be dismissed as a niche or a possibility of the far future. The movement is happening now, driven by a mix of public and private entities on various levels proceeding along voluntary and mandatory paths. What Is Being Done? In the absence of formal federal action on climate change — including the Clean Power Plan and Paris Accord — cities, states, municipalities and utilities are continuing to develop their own decarbonization strategies. There are now nearly 450 cities in the U.S. that have committed to 80% carbon reductions by 2050 The goal is to achieve this through a variety of policy mandates such as taxes, building codes and portfolio standards. This is in addition to voluntary approaches that can include utility rebates and construction decisions such as choosing a passive house design; updated building efficiency targets; system-specific electric mandates; and comprehensive gas bans. Just recently, Santa Cruz became the 30th city or county in California to enact a measure limiting or prohibiting the use of natural gas in new construction, according to an article published by Yale Environment 360.  The Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance Many organizations have rallied around these strategies. For instance, the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance (CNCA) is one of the many organizations that have rallied around the strategies that must be employed to reach carbon neutrality. CNCA is a collaboration of leading global cities working to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80-100% by 2050 or sooner. They’ve adopted some of the most aggressive GHG reduction targets undertaken anywhere by any city. Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US was one of the organization’s first HVAC participants, providing expertise and product knowledge to support their continued efforts. Major CNCA cities include New York City, NY, San Francisco, CA and Washington, DC. If We Don’t Electrify, How Could That Impact the Environment? Cities are working aggressively to reduce fossil fuel use because our CO2 levels are trending in a dangerous direction. As a naturally-occurring greenhouse gas (GHG), CO2 helps earth retain enough warmth to sustain life but too much can lead to excessive warming. If our global energy demand grows and we continue to use fossil fuels in the same way, the average amount of atmospheric CO2 will likely exceed 900 ppm by the year 2100 For 800,000 years, before the Industrial Revolution and the widespread adoption of fossil fuel-burning technologies, the highest global average atmospheric amount of CO2 was 300 parts per million (ppm), according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 407 ppm is the current average amount, per a trend report published by the Global Carbon Project. The NOAA also reports that if our global energy demand grows and we continue to use fossil fuels in the same way, the average amount of atmospheric CO2 will likely exceed 900 ppm by the year 2100. As atmospheric CO2 increases, the global temperature also increases, potentially reaching 1.5° C above pre-industrial levels between 2030 and 2052. At this temperature, the majority of climate scientists expect environmental changes to include rising sea levels, increased flooding, droughts, extreme heat, wildfires and new risks to human lives, infrastructure and biodiversity. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, buildings (residential and commercial) account for nearly 40% of the nation’s total energy demand — and about 75% of all electricity use. Where Does The HVAC Industry Fit In? Worldwide, all-electric heat pumps are the most popular technology for decarbonizing heating and cooling. VRF heat pumps and heat-recovery systems contribute to lower carbon footprints and benefit strategic electrification by reducing overall costs for commercial building owners, consumers and society. Instead of burning fossil fuels, a VRF heat pump provides heating to zones by introducing ambien heat its outdoor unit extracts from the air or a nearby water source. During cooling, VRF heat pumps reverse this process as indoor units transfer heat from zones to the outdoor unit which then rejects the heat. Until recently, some specifiers in northern regions felt obligated to select a gas-powered furnace or electric resistance for heating systems due to air-source heat pump derating at sub-freezing temperatures. Today that’s not the case. Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US' SUZ universal outdoor unit uses Hyper-Heating INVERTER technology Air-source VRF systems now use advances such as flash-injection technology in the compressor to offer unprecedented levels of capacity and efficiency at low outdoor ambient temperatures. This creates opportunities to replace fossil-fuel-burning equipment in more regions than before. VRF heat pumps and heat-recovery systems help building owners, architects and engineers solve challenges associated with decarbonizing the electric grid as well as emerging building codes, standards and legislation related to decarbonization. Federal standards and programs like ENERGY STAR®, tax credits and utility rebates will continue accelerating adoption of energy-efficient alternates to fossil fuel burning systems. The Decarbonization Challenge The decarbonization challenge is significant and complex, but change is happening now. At Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC US, we’re passionate because we recognize the dangers of climate change and acknowledge the significant role we can play in decarbonization efforts. The decarbonization challenge is significant and complex, but change is happening now Legislation, codes, financial incentives, product innovations and environmental advocacy encourage the transition from fossil-fuel-burning equipment and will continue to evolve. We’re doing our part by researching, developing, manufacturing and providing training for the all-electric heat pumps and VRF systems that enable society to enjoy improved comfort while reducing both costs and carbon emissions. Ultimately, strategic electrification can only be successful if it’s associated with personal comfort and prosperous communities. 

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