If you’re interested in learning more about the intricacies of variable refrigerant flow (VRF) technology, you may want to book a trip to Dallas.

Johnson Controls Inc. (JCI) recently opened the doors to a 12,600-square-foot training facility devoted to increasing the industry’s awareness of VRF technology, equipment, and operation. The center, which officially opened in July, boasts a hands-on lab, two 25-person-capacity classrooms, audio/video conferencing capabilities, and a full curriculum to help HVAC contractors and sales professionals deliver quality VRF solutions.

The center is one of few VRF training facilities operating in the U.S. and has already graduated more than 40 students.

“This technology is a growing part of our industry, yet a large number of people remain unfamiliar with it,” said Justin Patrick, vice president and general manager, VRF solutions, JCI. “Our new training facility allows us to make sure there’s consistency in the VRF experience — from the design of the project to installation, service, and commissioning. This facility will drive our success and continue to differentiate JCI as a leader in the market.”


Kerry McIntyre Sr., training and technical services manager, JCI, said the training center was built specifically to service the needs of this expanding market.

“Technology is changing, and energy efficiency continues to be a top priority for building operators. Our York VRF systems offer exceptional flexibility and efficiency in new-construction projects or in retrofit situations,” he said. “Our goal is to become the premier training facility in the country and to equip contractors and consultants with the expertise necessary to address customers’ needs, and we’re off to a great start.”

McIntyre, a former U.S. Army corporal and U.S. Navy petty officer who’s worked in the HVACR industry for two decades, has vast VRF experience. He hand selected the center’s instructors and trainers, including Marco Verdugo, VRF technical trainer, and Joe Glenn, VRF and ductless technical trainer, whom he’s networked with through industry functions.

“We’ve assembled a talented team with an enormous amount of VRF experience,” said McIntyre. “Our staff consists of the utmost professionals.”

Verdugo said the multi-day course delivers the skills necessary to be successful with VRF.

“We hammer home a number of important points, including why a nitrogen purge is a necessity, why it’s a bad idea to use soft-soldered brazing materials, the importance of measuring torque, and more,” he said. “After we discuss these aspects in the classroom, we go to the lab and put them to the test.”

During lab sessions, students execute exercises on 4-way cassettes, wall-mounted units, 1-way cassettes, ducted high-static units, and more. Troubleshooting is provided via the company’s service checker, where students diagnose issues and perform maintenance procedures.

Facilitators are aiming to add new equipment — including floor mounts, ceiling mounts, ceiling suspended, two-way cassette, ducted slim, ducted medium, ducted high static, mini cassettes, and more — by the start of 2016.

“The individuals taking this course often enter with little to no experience. After the lecture and gaining hands-on experience with our service checker, software tool, meters, and more, they leave with the confidence they need to put their hands on the equipment.”

Glenn teaches the design portion of the course, explaining the customizable, customer-oriented configurations a VRF install offers.

“When setting a building up, the installation piping, controls, application, and maintenance are all important considerations,” he said. “It’s important that an installer understands how to route piping and that all parties understand the controls. These controls allow maintenance to look at the position of all the valves and understand exactly what’s going on in the system.”

JCI’s computerized central controllers can manage up to 2,048 groups of systems with a maximum 2,560 total indoor units from a PC. This option increases management and setting possibilities and allows instructions to be carried out from any point on a local communication network.

While VRF may be considered a luxury by some, McIntyre insists the technology is becoming more desirable by the day.

“Technology is bringing the efficiency where it needs to be,” said McIntyre. “Sometimes, people will say, ‘I don’t need anything this fancy.’ Well, you never thought you needed that phone, did you? You never thought you needed that camera on that phone, but you use it every day. It all goes back to comfort and functionality. You never know you need it until you have it.”


JCI unveiled its VRF line under the York brand in January at the 2015 AHR Expo in Chicago. The York VRF systems are available in heat pump or heat-recovery configurations in capacities ranging 3-30 ton. Both models boast outdoor ambient temperature ranges as low as 14°F in the cooling mode and minus 4° in heating mode. The heat recovery models heat and cool spaces simultaneously.

The core technology is credited to high-efficiency scroll compressors designed by Hitachi, which offer high compression ratios, exceptional reliability and efficiency, and lower compressor noise levels. Hitachi and JCI recently completed a global joint venture agreement to establish Johnson Controls-Hitachi Air Conditioning, which combines Hitachi’s 30 years of experience in VRF with JCI’s buildings expertise and robust portfolio.

“We believe this joint venture will put us in a great position to win in the VRF space and take that business globally. This is a big step for us,” said Bill Jackson, president of building efficiency for Johnson Controls. “When VRF is your best choice, our solution uses compressor technology that operates at unmatched efficiency levels.”

“We designed a high-quality VRF system that is flexible and designed to meet the changing needs of the industry,” said McIntyre. “Our VRF systems use an orbiting scroll to maximize the compression process, ultimately operating with greater efficiency that translates to savings for building owners. As industry standards dictate greater efficiencies, Johnson Controls is ready to deliver,” said McIntyre.

Classes at the new VRF center are currently booked through December and filling up quickly. For more information, visit www.johnsoncontrols.com/vrf. To see footage of The NEWS’ recent visit to the facility, visit http://bit.ly/AchrnewsVideos

Publication date: 11/23/2015

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