HVAC Commercial Market / Chillers & Towers / Standards & Legislation

Many HVAC Contractors Unaware of Pending Chiller Standards

June 16, 2014

[Editor’s note: This is the second installment in a two-part series of articles summarizing the State of HVAC survey Emerson conducted and is sharing exclusively with The NEWS. The survey was sent out in February and was a follow-up to the first survey, which was sent in September.]

While much attention has been given to HVAC regional efficiency standards, the 2015 changes coming to chiller standards, which include both full- and part-load requirements, have been flying further under the radar.

The 2015 standards are part of the ASHRAE 90.1 standard. There are two ways to measure the efficiency of a chiller: The first refers to the full-load efficiency of the chiller and is measured in EER. The second is part-load efficiency, which is measured by the Integrated Part Load Values (IPLV).

“Generally, ASHRAE 90.1 is requiring a modest, single-digit improvement to the full-load efficiency of the system,” said Bart Powelson, director of commercial marketing, Emerson Climate Technologies. “However, in terms of part-load efficiency, the IPLV metric is increasing by a substantial double-digit margin. That is a significant increase that will affect chiller design and cost. With improvements of that magnitude, it is disappointing to not have as much of the contractor base aware of the standards.”

Unlike the regional efficiency standards, the chiller changes are not a federal standard. The chiller standard will need to be adopted more on a state-by-state basis, making it highly unlikely it will be evident throughout the country by 2015.

“This might take many years. The ASHRAE 90.1 standard says the change will be effective in 2015, but I would expect to see this first in some of the more progressive states like California, which revises its building codes to be more in line with the recent versions of 90.1 while other states may take many years to adopt these standards,” Powelson said.

Survey Results

In the Emerson State of HVAC survey, 43 percent of the commercial respondents said they were unaware of the upcoming requirements. That is not much change from the results of the September 2013 survey, when 46 percent stated they were unaware.

When asked which is more important to you and your customers, 52 percent believed part load was more important while 48 percent chose full load.

“I would make the case to a building owner or contractor that these part-load metrics are more indicative of the end-user’s energy use. Full-load efficiency is a metric that utility companies are worried about due to potential brown outs,” Powelson said. “But, to reduce your energy spend, I encourage end users to think about the part-load efficiency of a system. A lot of contractors have been trained to think EER means efficiency because, in the past, it was the only metric. We now have new metrics and, as an industry, we should be marketing more toward the part-load efficiency of equipment that is being marketed and sold.”

In terms of the impact of the new regulations, 42 percent of respondents believe the regulations will have no impact on their businesses at all. A total of 40 percent of respondents see this as an opportunity to upsell with higher revenues and margins. Additionally, 16 percent said the impact has them concerned about their ability to compete and remain in business.

“This has a lot to do with if you are a contractor who sells the base tier equipment or if you are a contractor who is actively promoting mid-tier and premium-tier systems. We will continue to watch this going forward,” Powelson said.

When asked how they expected the sales of the following systems to be affected by the regulations, respondents believed variable-capacity systems, ductless mini splits, and ductless variable-refrigerant flow (VRF) systems would experience a 13 percent increase, while they expect tandems/trios to jump 7 percent.

“Variable-capacity systems are getting a lot of attention in the marketplace,” said Powelson. “It is surprising that this survey shows the tandems/trios so low. We are expecting the actual adoption of tandems and trios will be higher as the industry begins to learn more about the details of these changes.”

Publication date: 6/16/2014

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