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ALPHARETTA, Ga. — The variable-refrigerant flow (VRF) slice of the U.S. HVAC market was worth approximately $382.9 million in 2012, up a mere 23 percent from $311.7 in 2011, according to LG Electronics executives at a company press event held in October 2013. In relative terms, many HVAC executives would be quite happy with a 23 percent growth during what is commonly being tagged a slow-growth U.S. economy. However, Kevin McNamara, vice president, commercial a/c and energy solutions division, LG, led off the company event with the almost sheepish admission that the U.S. market greatly lags behind world market demands for VRF products.
|Kevin McNamara, vice president, commercial a/c and energy solutions division, LG, said the company experienced 33 percent growth in its variable-refrigerant flow (VRF) products in the U.S. multifamily market sector in 2012.|
McNamara shared observations of general growth in single and multifamily dwellings that have raised all ships during 2012, and his expectations for 2013. He particularly pointed to the multifamily market as a place where LG has found significant opportunities to showcase its VRF technologies. “Growth in single-family construction was 29 percent in 2012 and was expected to settle in at 27 percent in 2013. Multifamily growth in 2012 was up 33 percent, and we expect that to be somewhat less, but strong at 23 percent in 2013.”
In addition to the greater acceptance in residential new construction, McNamara said, “Engineers have increased their adoption of specifying VRF product on plans. Our intelligence tells us that the likelihood of engineers specifying VRF is 33 percent in 2013, up from 20 percent in 2011.”
LG’s beginnings go back to 1947 in South Korea, when Lucky Chemical Co. was founded as Korea’s first producer of toothpaste and other household products, and to 1957, when Goldstar Co. Ltd. became Korea’s first electronics company. Many Americans may remember Goldstar as a brand of electronics equipment that swarmed the U.S. coincidentally about the same time the LG air conditioning division launched in 1968. Goldstar was rebranded as LG Electronics in 1995.
Today, LG Electronics is a $45 billion international corporation with 90 research and development facilities, and about 15,000 engineers around the globe, with an annual technology investment of $1.7 billion. Changwon, South Korea, is a base of the company’s global commercial air conditioning (CAC) operations, while the U.S. CAC headquarters are in Alpharetta, Ga.
According to McNamara, the company’s Multi V is recognized as one of the VRF segment’s most efficient products. In order to reach more contractors, and help spread that message, LG has CAC training academies in Dallas; Secaucus, N.J.; Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.; and Atlanta. LG also operates many mini academies nationwide, in an effort to offer even more training support in the field. These courses are run by partners. For example, commercial VRF product academies are operated by manufacturer representatives, and residential products are bolstered through the LG Excellence Contractor program.
McNamara said he was very proud of all the recent LG accomplishments. “We provide leadership through innovation as we have launched more products in the last three years than any of our direct competitors. Our model for developing product is based on providing excellent experiences for our customers.
“The success of VRF in the USA can’t be based on the status quo. In other words, we can’t build buildings the way we did for the last 50 years anymore,” said McNamara. The inference was that HVAC equipment must step up to the new game as well. “VRF has to be a disruptive force; our focus is to position VRF to be able to replace traditional systems in the U.S.,” continued McNamara.
According to LG, such a disruptive process would include the discussion that all chiller systems connections, i.e., pipes, pumps, valves, etc., are no longer needed in commercial buildings. That will continue to be a difficult discussion, admitted McNamara, but he said that, “while we often talk about the future of HVAC, this is really a discussion about the present.”
Brian Bogdan, senior engineering manager, LG U.S., a former chiller manufacturing company employee, spoke about the complications of getting water to various parts of a building to efficiently condition the space, as opposed to routing refrigerant. “Moving refrigerant via VRF technology is more efficient,” said Bogdan, highlighting a Multi V IV selling feature touted by LG.
Bogdan also said, “VRF Multi IV compressors have more sophisticated oil control; an oil level sensor in the pump that is different than traditional oil recovery back to the pump. LG does not provide automatic oil recovery when not needed, thus saving energy.”
The Multi V IV also boasts an inverter compressor, and expanded piping capabilities up to 360 feet vertical, and up to 738 feet horizontal.
Several products that are now available were reviewed, including the Multi V IV and Multi V Water IV, and a hydro kit for domestic hot water heat recovery that can be used with both heating and cooling modes. A Multi V II Space and Multi V Water Mini featuring four different thermostat controls will be introduced in the second quarter of 2014. Both systems offer the ability to connect up to nine indoor units.
“LG hopes to provide contractors with new options to offer their customers for solving existing problems,” said McNamara, while summing up LG’s 2014 commercial air conditioning business goals. “The new products are also intended to help fill the gaps in various U.S. geographic markets.”
Publication date: 1/20/2014