CHICAGO — Traditionally, heat pumps were thought of as products only for North America’s Sunbelt. However, heat pump technology has drastically evolved over the past several years with higher heating efficiencies and strong performance at temperatures well below freezing. This growth is making these units more attractive in the Northern states, and the industry is pumping them up with new technologies and features.

Northern Exposure

Daikin North America offers a number of heat pump options to meet the growing demand for these increasingly versatile products.

“It’s now very common for HVAC contractors to install heat pumps in the Northern U.S. and Canada,” said Kelly Hearnsberger, vice president of product marketing, Daikin. “Heat pumps can be an easy replacement for older oil-furnace and L.P. gas systems typical of the Northern states. Electric utility companies have also been a market growth driver, especially in the Northwest, with rebate programs.” He added, “outside of the U.S., the majority of the world is a heat pump market.”

The latest market shift for heat pumps is driven by the influx of residential ductless and commercial variable refrigerant flow/variable refrigerant volume (VRF/VRV) heat pump products, said Hearnsberger.

“As a member of the Daikin group, Goodman has enhanced its ability to grow and capitalize on ductless and VRF/VRV products in North America,” Hearnsberger said. “Daikin has also taken the inverter technology of the ductless and VRV systems and incorporated it into the newly launched Daikin 20 SEER Inverter residential split system in both air conditioning and heat pumps. This was done to meet the increasing demand for higher-efficiency ducted heat pump products in North America. The Goodman and Amana brands have both launched 18 SEER heat pump split systems.”

At Nordyne — now Nortek Global HVAC — Matt Lattanzi, director of product management, said the company is well aware of rising heat pump sales and installations in the Northern climates.

“Thanks to modulating compressors that can change and/or increase compressor speed as temperatures drop, newer heat pump systems with modulating technology are more capable at lower ambient temperatures,” Lattanzi said. “This modulating capability also increases HSPFs, making heat pump systems more attractive to consumers in Northern markets.”

At the AHR Expo, Nordyne showcased its FT4BG iQ Drive® heat pump. “This model, available in efficiencies up to 19 SEER and 10.0 HSPF, has five compressor speeds and operates down to 0°F,” Lattanzi said. “Because of its modulating technology, it’s also incredibly quiet.”

Flexibility and Connectivity

Residential contractors are likely to see customers seeking heat pump systems with zoning capabilities that provide a maximum amount of flexibility, according to Mike Smith, senior marketing manager, residential products, Mitsubishi Electric US Cooling & Heating Division.

At the show, the company exhibited the Hyper-Heating INVERTER™ (H2i®) MXZ multi-zone outdoor unit, the first Hyper-Heating multi-zone unit designed for use in residential applications. A single multi-zone outdoor unit is capable of connecting up to eight indoor units, making the system well-suited for whole-home cooling and heating. “Our patented H2i technology enables the MXZ to provide powerful heating to multiple zones in extremely cold climates,” Smith said. “With the addition of the H2i MXZ, we’re able to offer multi-zone comfort with all the benefits of hyper-heat technology — resulting in improved efficiency, quiet operation, and decreased installation time.”

Recognizing its excellence, the H2i MXZ Multi-zone Heat Pump System was honored with the 2015 AHR Expo Innovation Award
for Heating.

Nicholas Mangiapane, director of marketing, Trane, said the trend toward connected homes through systems such as Nexia is only going to grow. “One of the biggest trends in HVAC is controlling your system from wherever you are,” Mangiapane said. The next evolution of that for Trane is the addition of ‘geo-fencing’ capabilities to its Nexia system.

“We’ve had apps for years that allow homeowners to control their HVAC systems from their smartphones, and the next step is to offer the option to have the system controlled automatically based on where the phone is. For example, the system could be set to turn on when the phone comes within 20 miles of the house,” Mangiapane explained.

Efficiency Matters

Rheem Mfg. Co. and Emerson Climate Technologies Inc. have been working together on a next-generation cooling platform, and the companies jointly unveiled the results of their collaboration at the AHR Expo.

Available under the Rheem and Ruud brands, the new platform incorporates variable-speed and inverter technology to provide substantially greater efficiencies. According to Rheem, its Presitge™ Series products on this new platform will deliver a minimum of 20 SEER performance on all cooling capacities, and heat pumps will deliver a minimum of 13 HSPF heating efficiencies in all capacities. “These aren’t concepts anymore — we are shipping units,” said Chris Peel, Rheem’s president and COO.

Widespread Standards

John Miles, general manager, eco systems, Sanden Intl. (USA) Inc., said the world market is bracing for regulation regarding the global warming potential (GWP) of refrigerants. That’s why Sanden is focusing on the future choices for refrigerants for heat pumps in 2015 and beyond, he said.

Current synthetic refrigerants can have a zero ozone-depletion potential but still have a high GWP, Miles noted. For example, R-410A has a GWP of 2,100. A natural refrigerant such as carbon dioxide also has a zero ozone-depletion potential, but a GWP of only 1. And, more natural refrigerants are being introduced into the market, every day.

“These changes in refrigerants are going to require the industry to be trained in the different pressures and temperatures of the natural refrigerants when compared to those of the current synthetic refrigerants,” Miles said.

Sanden has a natural refrigerant heat pump available for North America. The Sanden SAN-CO2 split-type heat pump water heater (HPWH) uses CO2 to transfer the heat from the ambient air to water.

“The SAN-CO2 unit features highly effient performance and is capable of producing hot water in ambient temperatures below 0°F,” Miles said. “The outdoor unit is factory-charged and connected to a hot water tank with two water lines, allowing the installing contractor an easier entry to working with natural refrigerants.”

Trane featured its variable-speed TruComfort systems, which are available in two models: the HV18, which features efficiency ratings of up to 18 SEER and 10 HSPF; and the XV21i, with ratings of up to 20 SEER and 10 HSPF. According to Trane, TruComfort systems work seamlessly with Trane’s smart controls and Nexia™ Home Intelligence, allowing homeowners to manage their home’s heating and cooling remotely via any Web-enabled smartphone, tablet, or computer.

Trane’s Mangiapane noted consumers are growing more aware of variable-speed air conditioners and heat pumps, and regional efficiency standards. “We’ve been doing a lot of communicating about the changing standards, and we think our dealers are ready for it,” Mangiapane said. “But, it’s not that big of a change. It can be a little confusing for dealers who cover multiple geographies, but it doesn’t really add any complexity on the manufacturing end. We’re already making 13 SEER and 14 SEER units; it’s just a matter of shifting volumes.”

Publication date: 2/23/2015

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