Rooftop units using an intelligent control system, like the Prodigy unit controller demonstrated here, can reduce start-up issues by guiding the installer through the setup process.

Does price matter? Of course it does, but the selling price of a rooftop unit is becoming less of an issue than it has been in years past. Today the number that drives sales is the total lifecycle cost - the expense of operating the system for the next 12 to 15 years, the estimated life of a typical rooftop unit.

And that lifecycle cost is now influenced more profoundly than ever, thanks to recent technologies that help contractors make the case for buying premium systems - even when the economy is down and budgets are tight.

The factors that determine a unit’s total lifecycle cost - energy bills, maintenance hours, repair - are so malleable with today’s premium HVAC systems that one of the best rooftop units can pay for itself in as little as three years. After that, the building owner gets 10-12 years of energy savings at no extra cost.


• High-tech tool 1:As much as half of the energy used by a commercial building is consumed by its HVAC system. That’s why maximizing energy savings was the driving force for our company’s engineers striving to break the 17 SEER barrier with the Energence™ rooftop unit line.

One of the most effective ways for them to increase energy efficiency was instituting the MSAV™ (multi-stage air volume) supply fan technology, which conserves energy during partial-cooling operation. The technology provides the right amount of cooling to maintain comfort while controlling energy use.

It’s estimated that a school in Sacramento, Calif., could reduce its annual cooling costs 38 percent by replacing a single 9 SEER, 5-ton unit with a 17 SEER, 5-ton unit. (Based on the area’s average electricity cost of 11 cents/kWh, annual cooling costs would be lowered from an estimated $783 to $478 per unit.)

When high energy savings are combined with a leasing program that features little or no down payment, buying a 17 SEER system can actually free up cash flow for a business owner.

• High-tech tool 2: Flawless installation is critical to achieving the projected savings out of a high-efficiency unit. However, lean staffing at most contracting firm’s demands high productivity from every technician. A unit that’s designed to be easier to install can help ensure units reach the efficiency levels they are designed to achieve. A faster, more reliable installation and setup can make each job more profitable for contractors as well.

Traveling with our Energence demonstration truck in recent months, I’ve watched hundreds of contractors testing our new SmartWire™ system. Time after time, the contractors said they appreciated how the connectors were color-coded, labeled, and most importantly, keyed to provide a three-pronged approach to verifying that field sensors and other components were set up correctly. These advances, plus the system’s intelligent wire routing, help reduce start-up issues by up to 60 percent.

• High-tech tool 3: Eliminating startup issues and callbacks helps building owners (and their contractors) eliminate expensive delays and downtime. Testing the operation of critical components - such as compressors, sensors, the supply fan, economizers, and other parts - is crucial.

Identifying these needs, our engineers developed the Prodigy™ unit controller for Energence units to incorporate a self-test mode that analyzes each component, one at a time, verifying correct operation. This allows contractors and other users to verify the performance of the HVAC system. The unit controller can also reduce setup issues with a series of questions that guides the installer upon powering on the unit. It ensures that the time, date, and unit number are set, and verifies set points for critical options such as the economizer, demand control ventilation, or a dehumidification system.

After the unit is completely set up, a USB port allows the technician to save the unit profile, with all its set points, to a standard thumb drive. The set points can be instantly uploaded to a similar unit on the roof, making it ready for operation in a matter of seconds.

• High-tech tool 4:Quality service and maintenance are keys to keeping a rooftop unit running efficiently and effectively. This is where choosing a system equipped for a high level of verification makes the biggest difference. It’s as important to controlling service hours as hinged access panels or service outlets.

The USB port on these units also allows a service technician to save a service report directly to a flash drive. The report will show the time and date that service was performed, along with the unit’s serial number - all of which are recorded securely in an encrypted format that cannot be altered without manufacturer decryption software.

The report also shows run times and on-off cycles of critical components such as compressors, condenser fans, filters, and power exhaust, as well as total power-on time. Sensor readings for outside air temperature, return air temperature, and discharge air temperature are included, so contractors can see exactly how the system is performing. The technician can get a snapshot of unit operation before and after service, illustrating the change in operation and verifying that service was performed.

The service report also includes a log of up to 80 status or alarm messages, all of them stamped with the time and date. This helps verify that the unit has been operating correctly and that there were no issues since the last service or maintenance call. By improving reporting and analysis of unit operation, both past and present, contractors and owners can make sound decisions on service versus replacement.

Intelligent controllers, serviceverification USB technology, self-test modes and keyed wiring connectors are just some of the technological advances that are helping contractors crack the tight construction market. Your HVAC manufacturer can show you exactly which technologies it offers to help you sell premium systems that lower your customers’ operational costs and increase your company’s profitability.

Publication date:08/16/2010