ORLANDO, Fla. — Government intervention is shaping the HVAC compressor market.

As the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) mandates minimum efficiency performance and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) delists ozone-depleting (ODP) refrigerants, manufacturers are being tapped to create speed-controlled compressors that run on an array of natural refrigerants.


The HVAC industry continues to desire system technologies that simultaneously meet the needs of high-ambient efficiency ratings and those that are more moderate. In response, several compressor capacity modulation technologies have been developed in both residential and commercial applications, such as two-step, continuous digital, variable-speed, and multiple-manifolded compressors.

“While fixed-capacity systems will continue to play an important role within the U.S. air conditioning space, the industry’s ability to apply the right modulation technologies to certain higher-efficiency application needs will garner much focus,” said Brandy Powell, vice president of variable speed, air conditioning business, Emerson Climate Technologies Inc. “We will continue to provide a variety of cost-effective compressor modulation solutions to meet the needs for regulation compliance as well as other key benefits, including comfort, IAQ, and the need to keep end-user costs low.”

Emerson’s Copeland Scroll variable-speed ZPV2 compressors and EV2 drives are optimized to increase efficiency across a range of conditions while maintaining Copeland Scroll technology’s reliability. The second-generation Copeland Scroll variable-speed ZPV2 compressor features intermediate discharge valves to boost efficiency, optimized scroll elements for variable-speed performance, positive displacement oil pump for enhanced reliability in low-speed operation, and brushless permanent magnet (BPM) motor technology for maximum efficiency.

Integrated CoreSense technology is also built into the new Copeland Scroll variable-speed EV2 motor control drive for optimal compressor performance. The drive protects the compressor from operating outside of the design parameters and against electrical power variations.

These compressors and motor-control drives can enable system manufacturers to exceed 25- SEER and 13-HSPF performance.

“Homeowners expect superior reliability, lower energy costs, and consistent comfort and temperature throughout the home, and modulating technologies are becoming increasingly important when it comes to meeting these expectations,” said Powell.

Eric Walthall, marketing manager of HVAC, Danfoss, said ASHRAE 90.1 and recent DOE regulations have put a strong emphasis on off-peak operation in air conditioning applications, which is where the equipment operates roughly 98 percent of the time.

As a result, compressor manufacturers are challenged to optimize equipment performance at part load while maintaining existing full-load performance.

“Danfoss is focused on delivering fixed-speed compressors that help air conditioning equipment manufacturers meet the new chiller IPLV [integrated part load value] and rooftop IEER standards, as well as variable-speed compressors that exceed these standards and offer superior energy savings.”

The new Danfoss DSH scroll compressors with Intermediate Discharge Valve (IDV) technology were designed to reduce power consumption by the motor during part-load conditions. IDVs avoid over-compression and extra effort by the motor during part-load operation, thus reducing energy consumption. The compressors are backward compatible for the new design of relevant rooftop units and chillers with fixed-speed scroll compression technology, meaning minimal redesign and implementation costs are necessary. The compressor range includes units from 7.5-40 ton and can be manifolded together to reach up to 120 ton in a single circuit.

The compressor gained an honorable mention honor in the 2016 AHR Expo Innovation Awards program.

“We are honored to again be recognized in the AHR Innovation Awards,” said John Galyen, president of Danfoss North America. “We consider this a testament to our global Engineering Tomorrow promise — engineering innovative, reliable energy-efficiency, climate, and infrastructure solutions that enable our customers to meet the challenges of today and look toward the standards of tomorrow.”


The EPA’s Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) is opening the door to new, lower-GWP (global warming potential) alternatives, like R-450A and CO2 in transport refrigeration applications, and R-448A and R-449A in several end uses. SNAP Rule 20, which prohibits the use of certain high-GWP hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) as alternatives, is perhaps the most impactful on refrigeration compressors, resulting in the delisting and eventual phaseout of many commonly used refrigerants.

Greg Hutchinson, senior manager of sales, aftermarket and distribution, North America, Embraco, said the company is embracing natural gases in many of its newest compressors, including the EM3 compressor.

Designed for use in beverage coolers, vending machines, ice makers, and other applications up to 1,400 Btuh, the EM3 uses R-290, which has zero ODP and nearly zero GWP. It features a smaller platform with an extended capacity level that can replace some larger compressors inside warehouses and stores, creating more internal space.

“Natural refrigerants are more energy efficient by nature than the current popular refrigerants,” he said. “Lower pressures and smaller charges prevalent in the natural refrigerant systems, particularly propane, lead to longer compressor life. Propane has a higher volumetric efficiency than R-134a, so it’s going to naturally provide more capacity in a smaller displacement.”

Additionally, with the new shock-loop technology, the EM3 Compressor delivers low pulsation on the system’s tubes, minimizing the total noise level. In more severe applications, it’s possible to aggregate the liquid-handling feature by using the process tube instead of the suction tube. Thanks to this innovative technology, the EM3 can handle liquid return with a minimum impact on the energy efficiency.

“Each of these innovations contributes to the creation of a powerful, yet efficient, machine,” said Hutchinson.

The compressor was recently recognized as an honorable mention in the 2016 AHR Innovation Awards program.

“At Embraco, we are constantly investing in research and development in order to craft innovative equipment,” said Doug Schmidt, commercial sales manager for the North American region. “Advancements like the EM3 compressor are shaping the future of refrigeration by providing solutions that are sustainable and efficient.”

Peter Narreau, president of Bitzer North America, is confident CO2 will play a major role in the compressor sector’s refrigerant future.

“CO2 offers key benefits, including a GWP of 1 that is practically climate-neutral and, at the same time, is exceptionally efficient, versatile, and quiet,” he said. “That’s why we developed and began manufacturing CO2 compressors more than 15 years ago.”

Bitzer showcased its CKH reciprocating compressors for transcritical CO2 applications. The compact and efficient four-cylinder model on display belongs to a compressor range with displacements between 1.9 and 22.3 cfm. All of the models in the series offer 30- to 70-Hz speed adjustment, thanks to their modern cylinder heads, and work with low-pressure pulsation. CKH compressors help reduce the amount of service required as well as the costs of operating refrigeration systems. The CO2 compressors are designed for standstill pressures of up to 1,450-psi low-pressure and 2,320-psi high-pressure.

Tecumseh continues to test various low-GWP options with the objective of determining suitable replacements for R-404A and -134a. The company’s TC Series commercial refrigeration compressors are optimized for use with eco-friendly R-290, R-134a, and R-600a and provide the refrigeration market a more efficient and expanded capacity range unit to suit commercial application needs. The units utilize an overall smaller footprint with a 300-1,500 Btuh capacity range in low/medium- and low-temperature models. The company’s interest of its customers and the environment in mind by promoting eco-friendly refrigerants that don’t have an adverse effect on product reliability,” said Keith Gifford, director of global marketing, Tecumseh. “Another key objective is to limit the number of medium-term refrigerants that can work across our product range and within commercial refrigeration operating temperatures. In addition, Tecumseh continues to work in conjunction with industry associations AHRI [Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute], ASERCOM [Association of European Refrigeration Component Manufacturers], and affiliated member companies in the evaluation and testing of low-GWP refrigerants.”

In addition to efficiency, Emerson’s Powell said the company is actively watching the refrigerants sector, which she agreed is largely being driven by various governmental concerns related to greenhouse gas emissions and GWP. “We are in the process of evaluating many new refrigerants as part of the AHRI’s AREP [Alternative Refrigerants Evaluation Program], and this is being done in close cooperation with the chemical refrigerant providers as well as our OEM customers,” she said. “Even though there are currently no pending GWP regulations for air conditioning refrigerants in the U.S., we will continue to support ongoing industry research and the development of potential solutions in this area.”

Dean Groff, regional marketing manager, refrigeration, Danfoss, said the new refrigerant landscape dictated by the EPA includes refrigerants with different capacities and discharge temperatures as well as some flammable refrigerants. “Contractors should expect to see more complex systems emerge with possible additions of liquid or vapor injection in certain applications,” he said. “As more flammable refrigerants come into the market, it will be critical that installers be properly trained in their use.”

Publication date: 2/22/2016

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