HVAC’s Next Wave of Game Changers
Smart, intuitive equipment leads the industry’s next generation
The emergence of the smart home, interconnectivity, and a push for efficiency stemming directly from the White House is revitalizing HVAC equipment. Manufacturers are up for the challenge, developing highly efficient and effective products designed to decrease the environmental footprint, alleviate energy security issues, spur economic growth, and make life more comfortable for consumers.
Here are some up-and-coming, game changing HVAC components and technologies designed to propel the industry forward. According to these manufacturers: We’ve got next.
The Chromasun Micro-Concentrator (MCT) is a high-performance solar thermal energy collector that uses the same concentrating technology as utility-scale solar systems, except in a much smaller package. The MCT has been designed purposely for commercial rooftop integration.
When the MCT is combined with a natural gas and/or solar-driven absorption unit capable of delivering simultaneous heating and cooling, it forms what Chromasun calls the Solar Thermal Heat Pump (STHP). This technology is especially useful in commercial applications, such as hotels, restaurants, hospitals, and similar establishments. It can be thought of as primarily a domestic hot water heating appliance with an ancillary cooling benefit.
The coefficient of performance (COP) on the heating side is 1.60. Including parasitic loads, if driven entirely on natural gas, the net heating output efficiency for the total gas input is 140 percent. To the extent the unit is driven on solar power, the net efficiency is even higher.
“Most heat-pumps feature a condenser reject temperature of 95° or 90°F,” said Scott Reed, director of product and business development, Chromasun. “We said, ‘Instead of wasting that heat, let’s find a way to use it.’” Thus, the STHP utilizes a single — and partially renewable — energy source to offset two formerly disparate building loads.
The size can vary to handle any simultaneous heating and cooling loads in a small or medium commercial context. A current major brand hotel demonstration project is set for 850-kBtu heating capacity, which is approximately 30,000 gallons per day of hot water at 125°. The ancillary cooling capacity is 25 ton.
The total footprint is less than 200 square feet for the mechanical side (can be indoors or outdoors), and the solar panels need as little as 3,000 square feet, which can expand or contract with available roof area.
The California Energy Commission (CEC) has previously tested the core absorption technology to prove the concept. The current study is a full-scale commercial facility demonstration. The CEC is helping Chromasun install the system and documenting its performance very closely.
“The older boilers operating in most hotels typically perform at 60-80 percent fuel efficiency, and current upgrade products on the market only offer increases into the 90 percent range, at best,” said Reed. “When hotel managers consider capital budgeting, it’s sometimes difficult to justify replacing old equipment when the paybacks are so far out. With the STHP, they can go from 70 percent to 140 percent fuel efficiency — that’s doubling the savings, which gets everyone’s attention.”
The final product is currently not available on the market. Regular commercial product offerings should be available in approximately two years. Additional beta commercialization demonstration sites are being sought for construction in the next year or two.
EBULLIENT’S COOLING SYSTEM
The Ebullient Cooling System (ECS) is a safe, efficient, effective thermal management solution for electrical devices in the data center market. The ECS removes heat through localized vaporization of an equipment-safe fluid directly at the most concentrated heat sources. The ECS deploys modularly to match actual load; is compatible with existing hardware; and avoids air, water, oil, and evaporative cooling limitations, risks, and costs. The ECS provides more cooling and reduces capital expenditures, operating expenses, footprint, facility infrastructure, and energy consumption.
The ECS is composed of Ebullient’s ES line of 2N redundant fluid distribution units (FDUs), ERM rack level manifolds, and EL server loops to match heat loads from seven to 200,000 servers. The ECS rejects without chillers, compressors, or water evaporation to 130°F ambient temperatures. Operators deploy the ECS modularly to match actual load with minimal infrastructure investment by connecting to existing facility water loops or dedicated dry coolers. The ECS consumes less than 5 percent of the energy it removes, thereby freeing HVAC power and footprint for computer operation.
“It’s been very exciting to see our product take shape as the team has transformed research into a product that truly fulfills the promise of scalable, reliable, and affordable two-phase cooling,” said Tim Shedd, founder and CEO, Ebullient LLC. “We now have the cooling solution for everything from a few servers in the back room of a small business to mega-scale datacenters to the incredibly intense heat of next-generation military radar and weapons systems.”
Greg Crumpton, founder, AirTight FaciliTech, Charlotte, North Carolina, said, as the industry changes, so, too, must HVAC contractors.
“This is small and is very simple to install and maintain, which leaves a lot of room for other equipment,” said Crumpton. “It eliminates ducting, eliminates cooling towers and all of the maintenance involved, operates using much lower power requirements, and simplifies all the electrical wiring and amount of copper that is laid.”
Crumpton called the ECS a game changer because it has the potential to open up a lot of new small network and computer business opportunities for contractors.
“This is a practical, scalable data center cooling solution that affordably eliminates server heat outside without the need for traditional air conditioning,” he said. “It uses evaporation and condensation of a fluid that won’t harm the hardware in any way because it operates in a closed loop.”
HONEYWELL’S TRUEFRESH VENTILATION SYSTEM
As homes get tighter, mechanically controlled ventilation becomes critically important to a homeowner’s health and happiness. For a ventilation system to work well to improve comfort while minimizing energy costs and risks of damage, it’s important to pair an intelligent control with a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) or energy recovery ventilator (ERV). Honeywell's Wi-Fi VisionPRO® 8000 Touchscreen Thermostat paired with the TrueFRESH Ventilation system is an effective and economical way to meet this need.
“A heat or energy recovery ventilator has two main advantages,” said Kevin Graebel, indoor air and water quality leader, Honeywell Intl. Inc. “First, it controls both the supply and exhaust ventilation so it can keep the home balanced and prevent situations caused by pressure differences. Second, it recovers a large portion of the energy from the air exhausted from the home. On a hot summer day, the air inside would be much cooler than the air outside. An HRV will use the cool inside air that is leaving the house to pre-cool the air coming into the home so that energy spent on air conditioning is not wasted.”
The TrueFRESH balanced ventilation system hit the market in 2011. The unit features removable duct collars and adjustable hanging straps so a contractor doesn’t have to do a lot of work above his or her head. The balancing is done using a variable-speed control motor rather than a damper, and the wiring is simple, too.
“As long as there have been ventilation systems, contractors have been forced to install a separate control on the system,” added Graebel. “The Wi-Fi 8000 shows the ventilation operation on an easy-to-use thermostat device that homeowners will be more familiar and comfortable with, improving their satisfaction and reducing callbacks.”
RHEEM’S ECO NET
More than 37 percent of broadband U.S. households intend to buy one or more smart devices this year, according to a Parks Associates study.
Rheem’s EcoNet Smart Home System capitalizes on that trend by allowing homeowners to control their heating, cooling, and water heating systems with one control. Users can adjust temperatures, set schedules, check system status, and more from their Web-enabled devices.
In 2009, Rheem officials started work on the EcoNet system, and, four years later, released the system in 2013.
“With Wi-Fi becoming more common in homes over the years, and with more and more people ditching flip phones for smartphones, Rheem took notice,” said Bill Alderson, director of marketing, Rheem. “We wanted a product that could marry Wi-Fi with on-the-go technology in order to control a home’s air and water anywhere and everywhere.”
Prior to launching EcoNet, Rheem conducted a series of consumer focus groups to evaluate the system’s ease of use. The focus group that tested the EcoNet Control Center rated usability an average of nine out of 10.
“The Rheem EcoNet Smart Home System is great for anyone who wants to manage up to 65 percent of their home’s energy use from anywhere,” said Alderson. “It’s suitable for primary residences, vacation homes, and rental homes — or even for those who are caring for their elderly parents.”
With its near plug-and-play compatibility, the EcoNet is designed to make contractors’ jobs easier, as well.
“Setup is practically automatic when it’s powered up, and the troubleshooting or system faults are displayed on screen to help both technicians and homeowners understand how the system is functioning,” said Scott Polley, Personal Comfort Air Systems Inc., Canton, Georgia. “This control is a game changer because of its ability to control the HVAC, water heating, and pool heating equipment that, in most homes, are considered the energy guzzlers. Having the ability to control these appliances on command gives homeowners the opportunity to significantly reduce their utility costs year after year.”
Taco’s TacoGenie® is a domestic hot water recirculation solution. The system delivers hot water to faucets and taps on command, saving water, energy, and money. The silent pump attaches to hot and cold water lines in the cabinet under the most remote water fixture in the home. When activated, cool water that normally goes down the drain is sent to the water heater through the cold water line. When hot water reaches the faucet, the unit shuts off the circulator.
TacoGenie can be installed in most residential and light commercial piping systems. Typically, it’s installed at the point-of-use (sink or vanity) where hot water is desired, assuming that the piping system does not already have a dedicated hot water return line (most residential plumbing systems in the U.S. do not have one of these). TacoGenie can also be installed at the hot water source (water heater) if the piping does have a dedicated hot water return line.
“The device is activated by pushing a button or by a motion sensor near the point of use. The Genie quickly moves the ‘cooled’ water that’s been sitting in the hot line into the cold line and replaces it with hot water from the hot water source,” said Carl Perrone, product manager, residential circulator division. “The Genie has a built-in temperature sensor; when the hot water arrives, the sensor shuts the pump off to prevent over-pumping. By greatly reducing the wait for hot water, users save thousands of gallons of water each year. Financial savings are another benefit. By reducing water usage, users save by consuming less water and wasting less of it. After all, sewage waste is expensive, too. Finally, when compared to less-efficient products on the market, the Genie can provide a significant reduction in electrical consumption.”
“It does what it’s designed to do very well,” said Anthony Tosco, owner and operator, Avanti Plumbing, Cooling, and Heating, Collegeville, Pennsylvania. “I like the key fob and motion detection option, and the pump certainly has a place in the market if the application is right,” he added. “I’d certainly recommend this product to my colleagues.”
Publication date: 9/28/2015