With another AHR Expo in the books, it’s clear that even though the industry is gradually progressing, overall it’s ripe for innovation. Four areas in particular stand out where forward-thinking manufacturers can have a powerful impact. Although the industry has a long way to go, these areas can at least provide a solid foundation of innovation upon which to grow and boost building efficiency.
1. SYSTEM-FOCUSED PRODUCTS
In order to maximize efficiencies in design, implementation, and operations, HVAC products must no longer be considered as stand-alone components and instead should be seen as working together as part of a larger system. When products are more system-focused, the whole apparatus will be strengthened, thus reducing the use of precious resources, decreasing costs, and enhancing efficiencies.
Today’s car can serve as a strong example for how the HVAC industry should be structured. Cars now use the best and most innovative technologies to integrate all of the vehicle’s systems and improve the driving experience. In the HVAC industry, little thought is put into how everything within a building works together, and companies are more concerned about individual puzzle pieces as opposed to the big picture.
An example of a successful systems-focused HVAC concept is modular construction, and one company doing it well is Systecon. This manufacturer of modular chillers is part of a paradigm shift from an inefficient and piecemeal field-based project model to an efficient factory-built product one. This shift will bolster quality control, shorten implementation schedules, and generate substantial time and cost savings.
2. SMARTER TECHNOLOGIES
Technologies also need to be smarter, with an emphasis on plug-and-play and mobile functionalities. Smarter technologies result in simpler-to-use products, and one example is Franklin Control Systems’ Bluetooth-enabled service tool that provides full visibility into system diagnostics. All data can be accessed on a mobile device, thus providing operators with the information they need to be successful, 24/7.
3. ENERGY-EFFICIENT WATER FILTRATION
New methodologies in water filtration are raising the quality of the process while lessening the amount of energy that’s required. One company achieving this best-of-both-worlds scenario is VAF Filtration Systems, which manufactures self-cleaning screen filtration technology that’s characterized by fewer moving parts, simpler controls, the lowest flush flow available, greater cleaning efficiency, and lower maintenance requirements.
4. HEAT RECOVERY
Applying the heat produced by one HVAC system to another through recovery technologies immediately supports building efficiency, yet only a handful of companies are in this area. One of the few doing this well is AERMEC, which is constantly introducing new and innovative ways to recover heat from chiller systems and integrate free cooling into air-cooled systems, all while saving space and reducing sound levels.
The 2016 AHR Expo demonstrated that despite incremental advancement, the HVAC industry has a long road ahead as it innovates. We see the most potential in four areas where building-efficiency technologies can have a tremendous impact, including system-focused products, smarter technologies, energy-efficient water filtration, and heatrecovery. The industry is ripe for change and 2016 is the year to make it happen.
Publication date: 2/8/2016