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Johnson Controls, the global pioneer for smart, healthy, and sustainable buildings announced it has surpassed a milestone by filing 200 U.S. utility patent applications for innovations surrounding its OpenBlue Central Utility Plant offering and related energy optimizing product offerings. Additionally, it received its 90th U.S. patent grant for innovations related to OpenBlue Central Utility Plant product and energy optimization innovations. Central Utility Plant is a key component of the newly announced OpenBlue NetZero Buildings as a Service offering. Energy optimization The most recent grants, U.S. Pat. No. 11,061,424, awarded July 13th, 2021, and U.S. Pat. No. 11,036,249, awarded June 15, 2021, includes innovations which allow for a building energy optimizer to predict regional peak demand time periods. Peak regional demand (associated with both high cost and high emissions) predicted by the Johnson Controls system can be used to optimize energy performance based on the probability that any given period of time will be a peak contribution period. Making buildings sustainable “The innovations are being driven by our customers, who have expressed an urgent need to reduce their carbon footprint and make their buildings smarter, healthier and more sustainable --, especially as the world, navigates climate change,” said Karl Reichenberger, Johnson Controls vice president of Intellectual Property. A recent Net Zero Pulse Survey among a large group of building professionals shows the acceleration of net-zero goal setting; over 90% have significant goals to reduce carbon emissions and energy consumption by 2030 and beyond. Building management CUP automatically generates and implements optimization decisions, controlling equipment from manufacturers Johnson Controls’ OpenBlue Central Utility Plant (CUP) can monitor thousands of building variables, using information from connected equipment and external sources such as weather forecasts and utility rates. This allows customers to fully optimize their building management systems. CUP automatically generates and implements optimization decisions, controlling equipment from a variety of manufacturers. “This type of intelligence allows for Johnson Controls to help our customers solve large-scale problems that are unique to the built environment in a way that can both curb carbon emissions and their costs,” said Terrill Laughton, vice president, and general manager, Energy Optimization, Johnson Controls. CUP benefits More than 40 Johnson Controls customers have already purchased CUP, allowing them to reduce energy costs, increase productivity, ensure equipment reliability and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For example, at Children’s of Alabama, a pediatric medical center in Birmingham, Johnson Controls designed and built – and now operates and maintains – a new central utility plant. Johnson Controls also developed an innovative plant simulator that allowed the medical center to significantly cut capital expenditures. As a result, Children’s of Alabama has reduced its natural gas use by 69% and is saving $250,000 annually, with the potential to save $450,000 a year over the life of a 25-year contract with Johnson Controls. $3 billion investment in engineering, R&D Over the past five years, Johnson Controls has invested close to $3 billion in engineering, research, and development and has increasingly been awarded patents by global patent offices. These innovations reflect R&D investments in OpenBlue and other digital offerings, including air quality, energy optimization, and sustainability of services, systems, and equipment. “Johnson Controls is on an important journey -- transforming from an industrial company to a digital buildings technology company powered by software, connectivity, data, and artificial intelligence,” said Michael Ellis, executive vice president and chief customer and digital officer, Johnson Controls. “We are enabling our customers to achieve new values in sustainability and energy enhancements through building platforms, allowing customers to optimize their building management systems.” Global innovation portfolio Johnson Controls is separately investing in additional property related to OpenBlue Digital Twin and Clean Air Beyond the energy optimization portfolio, Johnson Controls is separately investing in additional intellectual property related to OpenBlue Digital Twin and OpenBlue Clean Air. Johnson Controls was also named a Clarivate Top 100 Global Innovator™ in 2021 for the sixth straight year. The 10th edition of the annual report from Clarivate Plc, a global pioneer in providing trusted information and insights to accelerate the pace of innovation, identifies companies at the pinnacle of the global innovation landscape by measuring their ideation culture that produces patents. As a pioneer in the building's space for more than 135 years, Johnson Controls has been a pioneer in sustainability. It is ranked in the top 12% of climate leadership companies globally by CDP and was recently named again to the World's Most Ethical Companies® in Honoree List and one of Corporate Knights' Global 100 Most Sustainable Companies.
The current Biden Administration’s renewed focus on climate change has expedited the phasedown of high-GWP refrigerants, kicked off by the passage of the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act, part of the December 2020 COVID stimulus bill. As the AIM Act phase-down schedule progresses, higher-GWP HFC refrigerants, while viable, have the potential to have a limited useful life and ultimately be eliminated. In response to pending changes, Johnson Controls has announced it will use R-454B, a mildly flammable refrigerant, in order to exceed key regulatory requirements. Key environmental goals This is a significant step toward Johnson Controls reaching key environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals, including: helping customers achieve a 16 percent reduction in emissions by 2030 and achieving net-zero carbon emissions before 2040, says the company. The decision was made as the HVAC industry is preparing to phase out high-GWP refrigerants Johnson Controls has selected R-454B to replace R-410A in all its ducted residential and commercial unitary products, as well as air-cooled scroll chillers, after extensive research, testing and evaluation of capacity, efficiency, safety, availability, longevity, global warming potential (GWP), ozone depletion potential (ODP) and other metrics. The 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 AIM Act. Commercial unitary products The EPA’s pending regulations could stipulate that manufacturers begin producing equipment utilizing low-GWP refrigerants prior to Jan. 1, 2025, for residential and light commercial unitary products and Jan. 1, 2024, for new chiller products. The mild-flammability (A2L) aspect of new refrigerants, including R-454B, requires that safety standards and individual state building codes must first be updated prior to the introduction of these refrigerants into the market. The process to update codes and standards is well under way and should be completed for many jurisdictions prior to the Jan. 1, 2025, proposed transition date for stationary HVAC equipment (e.g., unitary). Extensive, multi-year research and testing has 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. Refrigerant transition dates Existing R-410A equipment built prior to the EPA’s proposed manufacturing cutoff dates can be sold 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, according to the company. The pending mandates from the EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for refrigerants with less than 750 GWP will likely only apply to the sale of new residential and commercial unitary equipment as well as air-cooled scroll chillers. Existing R-410A equipment built prior to the EPA’s proposed manufacturing cutoff dates can be sold and installed indefinitely, so there will be little to no impact on contractors and customers from a R-410A equipment standpoint. Once EPA completes the allocation phase of the AIM Act, it will next address reclaim and service practices; therefore, contactors could see future mandates on the use of reclaimed refrigerants as well as enhanced requirements for leak detection and record keeping. Refrigerant management practices “R-454B is more compatible with existing R-410A equipment, requires less charge and can reduce HVAC systems’ energy use by up to 5%,” says Chris Forth, Executive Director of Regulatory, Codes and Environmental Affairs, Ducted Systems, Johnson Controls. “These similar operating characteristics will make for a smoother transition for distributors, wholesalers, contractors and owners, resulting from the commonality of critical system components and their very similar operating pressures and temperatures.” These similar operating characteristics will make for a smoother transition for distributors" “It’s vital that contractors and equipment owners establish proper refrigerant management practices and invest in available flammable refrigerant training,” Forth adds. More specifically, Johnson Controls recommends that contractors review the AHRI Safe Refrigerant Transition Task Force best practices and complete the ACCA A2L refrigerant training before new equipment enters the market (updated ASHRAE 15.2P training is expected by the end of 2021). flammable refrigerants implementation Johnson Controls also recommends that contractors strengthen their current refrigerant management practices: Ensure technicians are EPA section 608-certified for the equipment they will be servicing, train technicians not to mix different recovered refrigerants in the same cylinder, implement robust refrigerant tracking and documentation practices and establish a reliable supply chain for R-410A reclamation before 2025. Johnson Controls has been engaged in the safety standards and building codes development process from the beginning of the low-GWP, flammable refrigerants implementation. Johnson Controls engagement included safety standards such as ASHRAE 34,15; the pending 15.2P standard; as well as UL 60335-2-40 and UL 60335-2-89. ASHRAE safety standards R-454B offers the best outlook for long-term viability as phasedown regulations continue “Our first priority has been and will continue to be safety, and thus, we help sponsor and engaged in the research and testing efforts conducted through the Air-Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Technology Institute (AHRTI) and ASHRAE,” says Forth. Johnson Controls also engaged in the adoption of the UL and ASHRAE safety standards via the national model codes, such as the International Code Council (ICC) and the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO). Choosing R-454B is a long-term play for Johnson Controls. If the EPA AIM Act phase-down falls below the current 750 GWP limit proposed for stationary AC/unitary equipment, some A2L refrigerants could be phased out quickly, whereas the choice by Johnson Controls to utilize R-454B could, under the same scenario, be viable until 2034. With the lowest GWP of all EPA SNAP-approved refrigerants (GWP of 466), R-454B offers the best outlook for long-term viability as phasedown regulations continue, says the company. Aggressive efficiency standards The HVAC industry is in constant flux. For an OEM that means continually introducing innovative, new features into systems, developing new products that meet aggressive efficiency standards and, in this case, environmental regulations to phase out high-GWP refrigerants. “Transitions of this scale are not new to Johnson Controls, but it does require flexibility and equipment redesigns to utilize R-454B,” says Forth. “However, because the properties (pressures, temperatures, etc.) of R-454B are very similar to the existing R-410A, the actual performance testing did not present the same degree of challenge as past transitions. Johnson Controls has been at the forefront of environmental protection,” says Forth. “Today, our commitment to sustainability is stronger than ever, and it is reflected in the choices we make every day.”
Johnson Controls, the globally renowned company for smart, healthy, and sustainable building solutions, has significantly upgraded the testing lab facilities at its residential HVAC manufacturing plant in Wichita, Kan. upgrading HVAC testing facility The nearly US$ 15 million investment includes the addition of seven test chambers, automated testing and model shop equipment, and a new building, which adds 2,000 more square footage space, bringing the plant’s total testing facilities to 100,000 square feet total. Every product that the Wichita factory designs and manufactures undergo multiple rigorous tests at the lab, in order to ensure it operates safely and efficiently across a wide range of conditions, for years to come. Highly accelerated life testing (HALT) of equipment New advanced technology makes it possible for the lab team to better accommodate product development While Johnson Controls voluntarily performs highly accelerated life testing (HALT), which subjects equipment to extreme environmental conditions that replicate five years in the field, there is other testing that the government requires for all residential HVAC systems to ensure product safety, efficiency, and environmental sustainability. The additional space and new advanced technology make it possible for the lab team to better accommodate product development and testing for the vast number of systems that Johnson Controls produces for its YORK, Luxaire, Coleman, Champion and Fraser-Johnston brands, many of which are part of Johnson Controls' OpenBlue connected suite of technologies. Optimized testing process The following lab updates optimize the testing process to help ensure product reliability and performance: Seven 20 x 60-foot test chambers join nine existing cells used in the design and development phase to test, rate and qualify heating and cooling products for agency approval. These test chambers control temperatures within two-tenths of a degree for all rating points. This level of control provides confidence when rating equipment for SEER and EER. The additional cells will accommodate more equipment, which will help systems become available more quickly. A new automated heating lab and test stands allow technicians to setup and pre-program test stations. Compared to older, manual methods, automated testing of heating equipment, such as gas furnaces, is more efficient and precise to confirm reliability. Advanced model shop equipment, which includes a new water jet, bender, and press machine, allows model makers to precisely cut and form sheet metal to make prototype parts more quickly and efficiently. This will accelerate prototype testing and refinement so products can enter production faster. A spacious transit table building with rain capabilities gives technicians much greater control, during transit and rain tests. The new area offers better mounting, which makes installing systems for testing easier, while the enclosure improves precision during rain tests and accommodates a new high-pressure pump for recently required wind-driven rain testing for extreme conditions, which also reinforces Johnson Controls' commitment to quality. performance and reliability “When visitors tour the lab, they are simply overwhelmed by the extensive steps that we take to ensure each and every system developed in the labs are tested to ensure performance and reliability,” said Doug Dorrough, Director of Lab Operations, Johnson Controls. Doug adds, “The greater efficiency and unprecedented quality we can now achieve with this major investment will bring our premier products to market sooner and provide homeowners with enduring comfort and peace of mind.” Lab upgrades coincide with new efficiency standards The upgrades coincide with new efficiency standards, including the 2023 Department of Energy (DOE) efficiency standards and environmental sustainability requirements, including the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) low-global warming potential (GWP) refrigerant transition that will be required of all HVAC equipment manufactured by January 1, 2025. The expanded lab will better accommodate product development and testing schedules to ensure that each product meets or exceeds all requirements, as well as the high-quality standards Johnson Controls holds for its equipment. Johnson Controls will continue to invest in and expand the testing facilities in Wichita, Kan. over the next several years with new equipment and additional facilities to accommodate new product development and testing.
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