Window Air Conditioners (A/Cs) (41)
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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.
Air conditioning has become a huge part of our lives whether we know it or not. Most offices have them so that members of staff can enjoy a regulated working environment without having to shiver or overheat. This often makes the office a nice place to work in and helps staff to stay productive throughout the day, regardless of what is going on with the weather. Commercial air conditioning is something that we often take for granted because we barely realize that it’s there. The only time that we notice it is when it breaks down or it doesn’t function as efficiently as we want it to. Why is it important to regularly maintain an HVAC unit? When an AC unit isn’t looked after in the right way, there can be a number of things that can either go wrong Air conditioning maintenance is something that so many people overlook. This can be for a whole host of reasons, including whether it’s that they are unaware that it needs regular maintenance or they think it’s too costly to take on. These are often the most common reasons that air conditioning units aren’t looked after properly. When an air conditioner unit isn’t looked after in the right way, there can be a number of things that can either go wrong and disable air conditioning or just hinder its ability to do its job. Temperatures With a well looked after, fully functioning commercial air conditioner, you’ll find that the temperatures are very accurate and work as intended. This means that everything within your unit is in top condition and working well. For example, on a hot day, when you set your thermostat to a low temperature, you’ll get exactly that. Over time you may find that your air conditioning starts to struggle a little. This can be in a few different forms. You may detect that it takes a lot longer for your air conditioning to get up or down to the right temperature. This can be for a whole host of reasons and so keeping it regularly maintained will help to reduce this risk. Cost-effective As mentioned, a poorly maintained air conditioning unit will likely mean that it takes longer to get to the right temperatures or it may not be efficient enough to even reach the temperature you’re after. With that in mind, it can start to cost a lot more to run your HVAC system in this state. Due to the fact that it might take longer to reach your preferred temperature, you could end up paying more as time goes on. If you don’t rectify this problem, you may end up with an air conditioning unit that no longer works enough to be worth running. This will have adverse effects on the working environment and your members of staff. Safety of staff Depending on where you are in the world, heatstroke is also a very dangerous problem One of the biggest concerns for a business owner, the HR department and the individuals themselves, is that the office needs to be suitable to work in. From a health and safety standpoint, employees need to be safe and protected. Often air conditioning maintenance falls under this and is a necessity. Depending on where you are in the world, heatstroke is also a very dangerous problem. Having an inefficient air conditioning unit that can’t keep up with the rising temperatures could potentially put your employees at risk! The same also goes for those in more densely populated cities like London, New York City and even France. The air quality in and around these cities can be awful and so having air conditioning to clean and filter the air before it arrives in your office can make a big difference. Preventative maintenance Preventative maintenance is possibly one of the most important parts of owning any sort of machinery. Whether we’re talking about a car or air conditioning, preventative maintenance is a must. Preventative maintenance is just the act of regular maintenance throughout the lifetime of a product. It often involves changing of parts or fluids, even if they don’t need it in that instant. For example, if you take your car for a service and the engine oil is still sort of okay but will need replacing in 2 months’ time, would you just leave it or get it changed there and then? This type of preventative maintenance is designed to make sure that everything is in top condition and works perfectly all of the time. The biggest problem we face is that people think preventative maintenance isn’t necessary and while, yes your AC system will run without it, it’s likely to cost you so much more in the long run and could end up upsetting your staff too with a drop in temperatures. Employee satisfaction Commercial air conditioning is still a huge part of employee satisfaction Although at the time of writing this, many people are working from home, commercial air conditioning is still a huge part of employee satisfaction. Having an operating office, warehouse, school or indeed home, with air conditioning can help to keep people happy throughout the year. As a business owner, HR or general manager, it’s part of your job to keep employees happy and working in an optimal environment. Without this, employees may start to get fed up with attending an office that’s way too hot to work in. Importance of a regular maintenance plan A regular maintenance plan is going to help you keep your air conditioning system in the best state possible. You‘ll be able to detect faults and malfunctions before they have a direct impact on your commercial air conditioning system and prevent any further damage. Through the utilization of a proper plan, you should find that your system has a longer lifespan than those that don’t and should work more efficiently saving you time, money and the hassle of a broken system. Keeping your staff members happy is also a must and so dedicating some of your budget to air conditioning maintenance might just help you to keep morale and employee satisfaction on the right level.
HVAC systems have never received more widespread attention and media coverage than they have this year. As researchers determined that air transmission was a major factor in the spread of COVID-19, HVAC systems quickly became an area of intense discussion. Much of the news coverage from outlets like the New York Times, NPR, CNBC, or USA Today focused on air filtration. HEPA and MERV have become acronyms that people recognize, and UV Light and Plasma Ionization air purifiers have almost become dinner table topics. The need for discussion and debate about these topics is evident. As we look to resume some resemblance of normal life we need to feel safe sharing spaces with other people. Commercial HVAC Systems At the forefront of all of these discussions regarding air purification, is the massively flawed assumption that we must recirculate a large amount of the air from space to save energy. Most commercial HVAC systems only utilize 20% fresh air. That means that 80% of the air you are breathing in a public space has been on this ride before. The underlying principle here, from a thermodynamic perspective, is sound. I just spent a lot of energy (and $) conditioning this air for human comfort and now you want me to just throw it away?! In the name of all things public health, yes, throw it away! Energy Consumption It takes a large amount of energy to cool, dehumidify, and/or heat air so we humans can enjoy our time indoors in comfort Now before you draft your eloquently worded hate mail, let me take a minute to explain why we think you can just throw away perfectly conditioned air and still maintain a high level of energy consciousness. It’s true that it takes a large amount of energy to cool, dehumidify, and/or heat air so we humans can enjoy our time indoors in comfort. However, it is possible to exhaust ALL of the contaminated air from an occupied space and still conserve a large portion of the energy in that air. This can be done by passing the outside air (fresh air) and the exhaust air through separate heat exchangers where the energy can be transferred without the two air streams physically making contact. From a hygiene perspective, this process is ideal. Hospitals and industrial plants have been using one form or another of this technique for decades. The challenge for wider, commercial, adoption has been packaging restrictions of these systems and in a lot of cases the energy consumption of your supposedly energy-saving equipment. Energy Recovery Technology Cue ACT’s award-winning energy recovery technology, the Pump-Assisted Split Loop Energy Recovery Heat Exchanger. This product recently won the AHR Expo 2021 Innovation Award in the highly competitive Green Building category. The magic of the technology relies on the efficiency of the boiling and condensation process. When harnessed properly, one can exchange huge amounts of energy between two air streams just by circulating a particular fluid from one system to the next. A major benefit of allowing the fluid to boil and condense around the loop is that it allows the system to operate passively, using just the forces of good old fashion gravity. As a fluid boil, a portion of the liquid is converted into vapor which naturally wants to rise. Once that vapor gives off its energy it condenses back into a liquid that naturally wants to fall. If you can provide a source of energy input for boiling and a source of energy removal for condensing you can create a naturally circulating loop that requires absolutely zero electrical energy to operate. Two Separated Air Streams Transferring energy between two separated air streams with the least amount of total energy consumption and no cross-contamination In commercial HVAC systems, the warmer air stream can be the source of energy input and the cooler air stream can be the source of energy removal. As the seasons change, the air that is exhausted from a space flips from being warmer than the outside air (in the winter for instance) to be the colder air stream (in the summer). This means that at some point during the year you lose your gravitational advantage so for the other half of the year when you need to transfer energy in the opposite direction of gravity, ACT’s system uses a fractional horsepower pump (hence the pump-assisted part). The end result is a method of transferring large amounts of energy between two separated air streams with the least amount of total energy consumption, and with no cross-contamination. And because the fluid is circulated between the two air streams (either by gravity or by way of a small pump) this technology is highly geometrically flexible and customizable. With this product, HVAC systems can take in 100% fresh, outside air and throw it all away without having to worry about being wasteful. Improving HVAC Systems Most of the focus and efforts around improving HVAC systems have so far been centered too much on how we make old technology deal with new problems. These kinds of approaches are band-aids, at best, and often result is short-sighted solutions that never really advance the industry as a whole. ACT’s new product helps solve the problems of the new normal while moving the HVAC industry closer to that breath of fresh air we could all use right now.
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