ORLANDO, Fla. — In situations where emergency or spot heating and/or cooling is needed, portable HVAC units help stabilize the indoor environment in order to improve occupant comfort and productivity and increase safety. Many of these stand-alone units were on display at the 2016 AHR Expo in Orlando, Florida, as manufacturers proudly showcased their portable products to the more than 60,000 attendees.
From evaporative cooling to heat pumps and everything in between, portable HVAC equipment manufacturers are finding innovative ways to meet their customers’ demands for safe, efficient, and effective equipment. On the industrial side, Portacool LLC, which manufactures portable evaporative coolers, unveiled its 48-inch Portacool Hurricane™ 370 for industrial applications, which operates powerfully at 28,500 cfm.
“Performance is a key factor, and worker health and safety is a priority,” said Ben Wulf, CEO of Portacool. “The Hurricane 370 can help make unbearable, hot work environments more comfortable, which translates into more productive and safer working conditions. Customers for the Portacool Hurricane Series are looking for sheer power and knock-you-down airflow, and the Portacool Hurricane™ 370 provides a dramatic surge of cooling power and lower temperatures by as much as 30°F.”
Additionally, the Hurricane 370 comes uniquely equipped with six technologically advanced Cat5 Air Boosters™ that are calibrated to engage automatically when the internal pressure rises inside the evaporative cooler.
“In large industrial arenas with overly oppressive heat, workers suffer because the easy option — to do nothing — is often chosen,” Wulf said. “Our products move massive amounts of air while allowing for cost-efficient portable cooling that workers need.”
Heat pump technology is also growing in popularity among portable HVAC equipment manufacturers and has largely been driven by regulations for safety and corporate demand for higher efficiency and safer products, said David Keller, sales manager for MovinCool, a brand of Denso Intl. America Inc. The company recently introduced its 1-ton Climate Pro 12 Heat Pump, which provides cooling and heating relief in a variety of environments, including offices, schools, warehouses, and assembly lines.
“Due to the inherent design of heat pump products, there are no hot surfaces or fuels to handle,” Keller said. “Made to exacting Denso standards and backed by a three-year warranty, system performance is 46 percent higher in cooling capacity, 42 percent higher in heating capacity, and has a 16° lower operating temperature.”
While industrial equipment is becoming more powerful, residential and light commercial portable equipment is following a different trend toward a smaller footprint and improved installability.
“We’ve been minimizing the physical size of the product while still trying to maintain the Btu ratings,” said Tom Kelly, vice president of sales and marketing integration, air quality, Haier America. “Our largest Btu size historically was 14,000 Btu, but, this last year, we went to a physically smaller chassis and reduced the rating by about 500 Btu. It’s now a 13,500-Btu unit, but it’s about 30 percent smaller than our previous product.”
Haier’s 13,500-Btu dual-hose HPND14XCP unit can cool rooms up to 500 square feet in size and includes a dehumidify mode, washable filter, three cooling/fan speeds, an easy-to-install window kit, and more. The unit also comes in a 13,500-Btu heat pump version, the HPND14XHP.
“For consumers, it’s a much smaller footprint,” Kelly said. “We’re seeing physically smaller units as the refrigeration systems become more optimized and design improves. The coil construction is becoming more efficient, the air system design is becoming more efficient, and some of the smaller Btu units are using single-motor designs [instead of] dual-motor designs, so you can get it a little more compactly packaged.”
Shane McCourt, regional sales manager for Airrex USA LLC, said Airrex has also been working to decrease the size of some of its products, including the company’s new HSC-12 portable air conditioner.
“This is a 12,000-Btu air conditioner,” McCourt said. “We’ve made the unit smaller — it’s a little more compact — and we have it in a heat pump model, as well.”
Decreasing the size of the units is especially appealing for those who occupy spaces where square footage is limited.
“I think space is always an issue, and if you look at buildings, there’s a price per square foot, and, you want to maximize your space as much as possible,” McCourt said. “So, the smaller you can make it, and the less room it takes up, the better.”
McCourt predicts this particular trend will continue, especially as component technology improves.
“I would say there’s probably room to get smaller,” he said. “As components get smaller and systems become more efficient, we can condense the size of the units as we go forward.”
Smaller equipment size also improves the transportation and storage processes, he added. “Space is at a premium, whether it’s on the showroom floor or during delivery. How many units can you fit onto a truck? If it’s a smaller unit, you can fit 25 instead of 20, and that makes a difference in shipping.”
In addition to decreasing the size of the units, Michael Renier, vice president of sales for KwiKool Portable Cooling Systems, said dual-duct design is also increasing in popularity.
“We have added two additional models: a 1.5-ton and 2-ton single-duct portable a/c unit,” Renier said. “These models are much smaller than similar capacity competing brand models. Our standard dual-duct feature on all air-cooled 1- to 10-ton Iceberg models is more efficient than single-duct systems, since it provides a balanced air pressure in the space being cooled. This means a better match of capacity to heat load that is not affected by outside unconditioned air pulled into a room due to a negative pressure. The impact is a 25 percent more efficient system.”
A PORTABLE EVOLUTION
As technology improves, portable equipment manufacturers will continue to work to meet the growing needs of their customers, from those needing small-scale residential solutions all the way up to data centers and factories in need of industrial-grade solutions.
“Customers want more control over the air conditioning systems that are used in critical server rooms, which means remote monitoring and control of these systems,” Renier said. “Manufacturers must continuously adapt to the changing needs of end users.”
Portacool is focused on providing comfort and improving safety, Wulf said. “Comfort means different things to many people. To workers, comfort means enjoying their work environments without heat stress and fatigue. To managers or owners, comfort means providing the safest, most productive work environments. Our goal is to enable each industry to provide an efficient comfort solution to operate safely and productively.”
“When it’s hot, safety becomes an issue, and it makes sense to have these types of units rather than putting in a permanent system,” McCourt said. “Maybe it’s only going to be hot two to three months out of the year, so it’s more efficient for customers to rent — or buy — products like Airrex’s to cool their people.”
Keller said MovinCool is seeing a rise in the need for supplemental cooling and heating and will continue to work to anticipate their customers’ needs.
“We see the portable market integrating more specifically with processes and people to increase productivity,” he said. “Availability of low-cost communications and increasing sophistication of global value chains are driving this change.”
Haier’s Kelly said there is a wealth of opportunity available in the portables market going forward.
“The portable market is probably, in the home comfort arena, the fastest growing category of product,” he said. “Window a/c sales are flat and dehumidifiers plateaued at a relatively high level, so it’s definitely a growing category, and we expect it to continue to grow. We’re going to continue to try to make [our equipment] more compact, and we’re also paying attention to noise levels, comfort levels, and making the installation a little more user-friendly.”
Publication date: 2/22/2016