Components & Accessories / Compressors / Refrigerants & Reclaim

Compressor Manufacturers Leaping Government, Refrigerant Hurdles

Companies Working to Overcome Global Compressor Challenges

March 31, 2014
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As 2014 rolls on, compressor manufacturers continue to be excited about where the market is heading, but, when it comes to things like refrigerants and regulations, challenges remain.

Market Trends

Although some market tendencies and themes are common among compressor manufacturers, a variety of factors were identified as most influential.

Joel Moseley, senior vice president, sales and marketing, Bristol Compressors Intl. Inc., said environmental drivers are the biggest concern for his company right now.

“Environmental drivers, including alternate refrigerants and elevated energy-efficiency requirements, are the most important trends for us,” Moseley said. “All of our global customers are affected and look to us to support their challenging system requirements. The regions with the most aggressive changes include Europe, the Middle East, and the U.S.”

Eric Walthall, regional marketing manager, Danfoss North America, said the most important trend to Danfoss remains energy efficiency, specifically the increasing focus on part-load efficiency in the air conditioning segment.

“Over the next two to three years, we expect to see new commercial air conditioning regulations focused on significantly improving part-load efficiency,” he said. “To address these new standards, Danfoss is building its part-load efficiency toolbox, which includes application-optimized compressors, variable-pressure ratio compressors with our patented intermediate discharge valve, and manifolding and variable-speed compressors, where Danfoss is on the leading edge of innovation.”

Walthall noted there is a clear need to reduce the global warming impact of refrigerants in the long term.

Energy efficiency continues to be a key factor for Bitzer, said Dave Sylves, director of inside sales and marketing. “The market is demanding higher full- and part-load energy efficiencies in their systems,” he said. “Bitzer meets this challenge in a couple of ways. Rather than offer a one-size-fits-all compressor, we optimize our compressors based on system conditions.”

At Emerson Climate Technologies Inc., Frank Landwehr, vice president, air conditioning marketing, said the most important trend right now is capacity modulation.

“In both residential and commercial applications, the industry is using various forms of modulation to satisfy increasing demands for high-efficiency systems. This is being driven by new regulations and general concerns about energy costs,” Landwehr said. “There have been many advances in modulation technology over the past few years, including variable-speed, two-step, digital, and multiple compressor schemes like tandems and trios. Each of these technologies has provided very cost-effective solutions in different applications.”

Michel Moreira, senior leader, commercial refrigeration products, Embraco, said refrigerant movements are influencing decisions at Embraco.

“It’s about a strong movement to ban HFC [hydrofluorocarbon] platforms, moving to green ones, mainly R290, for commercial refrigeration,” Moreira said. “It’s a reality in Europe, and Asia and South America are following very close behind.”

Next Big Thing

Chris Sorensen, OEM sales manager, Carlyle Compressor Co., is proud of Carlyle’s 06M reciprocating compressor, with non-ozone depleting R-410A, which is designed for commercial refrigeration applications.

“We will continue to innovate our reciprocating and screw compressor product lines to bring value to our customers while being good stewards of the environment,” Sorensen said.

Moseley said Bristol Compressors is expanding its product line at both ends of the capacity range. In 2014, Bristol will release a new line of fractional hp compressors to better serve its refrigeration customers and address several specialty markets. The company also has partnered with Torad LLC on spool technology, which will grow Bristol’s commercial line from 10 to 25 tons.

“Both of these fresh new products will be paired with Bristol’s inverter technology, and development considerations include alternate refrigerants R-32, R-290, and CO2,” Moseley said.

Danfoss Turbocor Compressors Inc. introduced its Variable Twin Turbo (VTT) line of oil-free, variable-speed, magnetic-bearing centrifugal compressors at the 2014 AHR Expo. It features IntraFlow technology, an innovative and patent pending technology for improving compressor efficiency, and an extended stable operating range while simplifying capacity control, said Jose Alvares, director of sales, Americas.

“This new drive technology will be exclusive to the VTT Series and is the result of integrated research and development efforts, blending Danfoss’s extensive expertise and capabilities in high-efficiency compressors and variable-frequency drives for the HVAC industry,” Alvares said.

Landwehr said Emerson is continuing to explore options including the use of electronics, such as CoreSense technology, to make its compressors more reliable and more efficient.

“[Our compressors] are also beginning to interact with other system controls, which are increasingly moving away from traditional electromechanical control methods,” Landwehr said. “We are also globally researching the development of new refrigerants with lower global warming potentials. When considering the breadth of our compressor lineup, and the number of applications we serve globally, including air conditioning and refrigeration, this effort requires a lot of cooperation across many industries and regions. Emerson Climate is working closely with many refrigerant chemical companies and our OEM customers in the development of potential new refrigerants.”

Eddie Rodriguez, director, chiller product planning, Daikin Applied, said, “We are continuously working on technologies that improve compressor performance and expand this capability in large-capacity chillers.”

Meeting Challenges

For Embraco, the biggest challenge centers on design solutions with premium efficiency and cost-competitive solutions, Moreira said.

“Some of the technologies already available in the market, including the Fullmotion technology, still have a regular penetration in sales due to their costs,” Moreira said.

Sorensen said the biggest challenge for Carlyle, and the industry, will be keeping up with refrigerant regulations and product efficiency requirements.

“There are limited acceptable options for low-global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants that have low toxicity, are nonflammable, and can achieve required energy-efficiency goals when compared to current refrigerants, such as R-404A and R-410A,” Sorensen said. “The challenge is to develop compressors with improved efficiencies to meet future efficiency requirements with low-GWP refrigerants. Our goal is to continue focusing on advancing technology in support of our customers’ refrigerant choices and application needs.”

Sylves said Bitzer is taking a proactive approach toward worldwide refrigerant rules and regulations.

“The challenge is industry-wide. For example, we’re all anticipating changes in refrigerant offerings to address low GWP,” Sylves said. “We monitor refrigerant legislation throughout the world to ensure we have the appropriate compressor for our OEM customers, and though we are a leader in CO2 compression, it is not a practical solution for all applications. Bitzer publishes an annual refrigerant report to update our customers on global developments.”

Alvares said Danfoss Turbocor is constantly educating the market on the benefits of high-efficiency, variable-speed, oil-free compressor technology. “We’re particularly focused on sharing knowledge in developing countries,” he said. “However, this is rapidly changing, and, in some developing countries, like China and Brazil, the interest in energy-efficient products has been growing heavily over the last few years.”

Landwehr said Emerson is tackling the same challenge its OEM customers and channel partners face — the rising cost of typical HVAC systems, which he accounts to the abundance of new efficiency and environmental regulations.

“Many of these regulations will likely add cost to the systems, which will, in turn, dampen consumer demand,” Landwehr said. “For Emerson Climate Technologies, and the industry, our biggest challenge will be to provide cost-effective and innovative HVAC technologies that deliver improved energy efficiency and value for our end-use customers. In addition, our industry needs to improve its communications of the economic and comfort benefits derived from high-efficiency systems so consumers can make good, informed decisions about their HVAC investments.”

Publication date: 3/31/2014

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