The energy-efficiency trend sweeping the nation is having an effect on chiller products and systems. According to chiller manufacturers, the quest to create more efficient equipment remains unabated. And, as manufacturers continue to adapt, they’re urging contractors to stay up to date on the latest in technology and applications.

From Micro to Macro

Achieving optimum energy efficiency includes everything from a minute examination of chiller components to a holistic view of the entire system.

According to Adam Meddaugh, director, positive displacement chillers, Daikin Applied, his company is continually researching new, innovative ways to improve chiller performance and efficiency.

“The Daikin Advanced Development Center is the hub for global chiller applied research within Daikin,” he explained. “Daikin engineers research individual components, such as heat transfer, refrigerant flow, compressor technology, and digital controls. The research team also tests and analyzes complete systems to determine the most beneficial solutions in the drive for increased efficiency and reliability.”

From his perspective as a supplier, Dan Aiken, market unit manager, refrigeration, Alfa Laval, noted that his company is increasingly involved in discussions about how to improve chiller efficiency.

“As we are a supplier of the chiller barrel component, our customers are asking us to work with them to achieve overall system improvement goals,” he said. “Builders of chiller packages involve us continually in the areas of efficiency improvement, and that dialogue is increasing — at a minimum indicating that our customers are responding to demands from building operators, engineers, and installing contractors.”

More specifically, Aiken noted Alfa Laval is focusing on three key areas that impact chiller efficiency: the heat exchanger surface, refrigerant management, and distribution and fluid handling.

“These three areas all impact chiller performance, and optimizing these with an eye on the cost impact is essential,” he said.

It is also important to acknowledge that a chiller is part of a larger system, said Mutaz Yaghi, global chiller solutions and product management marketing manager, Johnson Controls Inc. “Our success is driven by recognizing that a chiller is part of a network of building systems, and identifying ways to improve every component of that network along with how they’re all integrated,” Yaghi said. “Efficiency shouldn’t just stop with a chiller. It’s similar to a car. The systems in the car all contribute to better fuel efficiency and less wear on the vehicle — not just the engine. The chiller, cooling towers, condenser pumps, and controls systems all contribute to optimized performance and improved efficiency.”

Mike Clatworthy, vice president of business development, Multi-stack LLC, elaborated that more and more data are going to become available on every aspect of a chiller system’s efficiency.

“Big data is where HVAC controls are going,” Clatworthy said. “I define big data as the exponential growth and availability of data. Many system components are capable of reporting huge, previously unavailable quantities of data that allow us to know exactly how our system is performing and where its problems are. That data is accessible via the Internet anywhere in the world on a variety of devices.”

Energy Retrofits

Chiller system efficiency and data analysis trends are not limited to new construction. Taking a holistic look at chiller system efficiency is also becoming more prominent in energy retrofits.

“While most building owners still pursue single technology improvements, the trend is shifting toward bundling improvements to get deeper savings using a more comprehensive approach,” Yaghi said. “At the chiller plant level, this means shifting away from component-based retrofits toward a more holistic view. This is possible with innovative control technology and advanced software that evaluates how the systems are working together — or not — to meet the building cooling load with the minimum possible power.”

As building owners seek to retrofit their chiller systems to achieve energy savings, Ross Miglio, president of ClimaCool Corp., said he is seeing trends toward “increased awareness for system efficiency utilizing variable flow, overall part-load performance, as well as chiller heat recovery.”

Clatworthy confirmed that he is also seeing a trend toward heat recovery. “Utilizing waste heat through dedicated heat recovery chillers is very popular and is environmentally and economically sustainable,” he said.

Clatworthy pointed out that contractors may need training to get up to speed on heat recovery chillers. “Contractors must be aware that even though they have installed conventional chillers before, they still need to understand how to properly integrate and control heat recovery chillers,” he said. “This may mean additional training or factory involvement to ensure that their clients get the efficiency, payback, and reliability they specified.”

Meddaugh also stressed the need for contractors to stay abreast of new technologies so they can properly advise customers on efficient, economical options.

“Contractors need to be aware of the new technologies that are available, and the economic benefits these technologies represent,” he said.

Miglio added that contractors need to help their clients properly estimate chiller energy costs. He recommended that contractors “utilize modeling tools to estimate total chiller/boiler plant energy cost as well as total cost of ownership.” And, he noted, total cost of ownership includes first cost, installed cost, energy cost, and maintenance/service costs.

As contractors strive to stay on top of the trends in chiller system efficiency, they will ultimately be able to assist their customers in achieving substantial energy savings.

Publication date: 5/12/2014 

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