CHICAGO — Furnaces are growing smarter and more efficient, specifically to meet new U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) standards and to fulfill the comfort demands of end users. Terminology talk at the AHR Expo focused on variable-speed compressors, electronically commutated motors (ECMs), and variable-capacity systems as well as diagnostics and troubleshooting tools for contractors.

Meeting the Government’s Rules

“Although we think about the new DOE efficiencies with respect to air conditioner and heat pump matches, the furnace plays an integral role with fan efficiency for the system match,” said Jeff Preston, product manager, Johnson Controls Unitary Products Group. “More applications featuring furnaces with high-efficiency fan motors and fewer with PSC [permanent split capacitor] motors will emerge. Technicians will need to familiarize themselves with the operation of electronically commutated motor products.”

In this regard, JCI showcased its York Residential Package Unit at the show. Servicing is available from the top, side, and front, and there is a slide-out aluminum evaporator and various options.

According to Tom Brittain, brand manager at Lennox Intl. Inc., “Higher-efficiency equipment for residential heat pumps and package units will be key in 2015, given the higher-efficiency standards from the DOE that went into effect at the beginning of 2015.

“In addition to higher efficiencies, contractors and service technicians will also see an influx of home connectivity products and variable-speed and variable capacity technology to keep up with energy- and money-saving needs of consumers.”

Brittain also notes rebates will continue to remain important in 2015. “Utility rebates provide a ready-made vehicle for contractors to offer and sell higher-SEER equipment, generate more revenue dollars per sale, and add to their bottom line,” said Brittain.

“With the new standards in place, Lennox released products with improved SEER models that go above and beyond regional standards. Newer heating systems feature the Lennox Quantum outdoor coil for durability and as a quiet living environment. Lennox also improved the efficiency of its 26 SEER XP25 heat pump. The XP25 communicates seamlessly with Dave Lennox Signature furnaces and air handlers, and the brand-new iComfort S30 smart thermostat uses location-based geofencing technology.”

Intelligent Efficiency

Matt Lattanzi, director, product management, Nordyne, said he anticipates a bigger push toward AFUEs that are 95 percent and greater as well as ECM motors.

“The higher AFUEs will be driven by both utility rebates and manufacturer rebates that start at 95 percent. In 2015, these rebate levels will create a mix-shift as sales of 92 percent furnaces move towards 95 percent and higher.”

Lattanzi also mentioned the company is keeping an eye on an ECM standard that is gaining momentum in Canada.

“The migration on this standard is happening province by province. In the U.S., we will see this same transition ramping up for 2019, when the new furnace fan-efficiency rules take effect,” he said.

At the AHR Expo, the company showcased its R8HE 95 percent AFUE gas/electric packaged system, which is a condensing gas/electric system for residential use, and its FG7TC-VS furnace, which features an ECM motor and 95 percent AFUE heating.

“Contractors should expect to see the emergence of smarter technology within our industry, which would not only give homeowners connected heating, cooling, and water heating equipment, but it would also yield better diagnostics and troubleshooting tools for contractors,” said Farooq Mohammad, director, product management, air conditioning division, Rheem Mfg. Co. “As 2015 progresses, contractors can also expect to see some of these smart products begin to connect into home automation and energy management systems.”

Rheem showcased products from its new 80 percent- and 90 percent-plus Gas Furnace Platforms, which were completely redesigned with input from contractors to help improve installation, service, and performance at the show.

“The 80 percent- and 90 percent-plus product lines feature a 34-inch cabinet and hemmed edges. These furnaces also include a seven-segment LED display, which allows contractors to reference an easily readable error code on service calls.

Gary Michel, president, Trane Residential, anticipates further inverter technology commercialization, specifically for the average homeowner. This trend provides cost savings, energy efficiency, and increased comforts, he said.

“Inverter technology allows the unit to run all the time and match the performance for the actual need of the house,” said Michel. “Temperatures can be held to within one-half degree while also controlling humidity.”

Trane exhibited its new TruComfort line of heat pumps. The Trane XV18 and XV20i boast up to a 22 SEER, according to the company, while continuously adjusting to a home’s heating and cooling needs.

Matthew Pine, vice president of marketing, Carrier Corp., said contractors are interested in the rise of variable-speed compressor technology in heat pumps to boost unit performance and provide greater comfort for homeowners.

“To satisfy minimum-efficiency standards, manufacturers are in-
creasing the size of indoor and outdoor units,” said Pine. “More energy-efficient blower motor technology benefits contractors by allowing additional Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute [AHRI]-certified system combinations with smaller indoor coils for common width matches with furnaces.”

Carrier showcased several new technologies at its booth, including the Infinity® 18VS heat pump.

“Our Infinity 18VS heat pump provides tremendous benefits for homeowners and contractors,” Pine said. “Leveraging inverter technology to drive the variable-speed compressor and fan motor enables the equipment to provide better load matching, improved humidity control, increased reliability, quiet operation, and increased efficiency.”

And, he noted: “We are improving and expanding our energy-efficient blower motor technology in condensing and noncondensing furnace lines. These expanded lines include multiple levels of energy-efficient blower motors paired with modulating, two-stage, and single-stage furnace technology. We have condensing units for the new standards and furnaces to keep these units within a manageable size.”

Publication date: 2/23/2015

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