HVAC manufacturers bring increasingly sophisticated commercial equipment to the building market. Their efforts are in response to the demand for integrated efficiency and simplified maintenance. These improvements aren’t coming strictly from the digital components being added to the machines; they are also coming from the mechanical improvements in the machines and methodology of heating and cooling high-performance buildings. As the equipment continues to evolve, that means more opportunities for contractors.



High-performance building equipment comes in many shapes and sizes, and the changing trends are as diverse as the equipment. Take, for example, the water-cooled and air-cooled chillers being used in commercial settings.

“When talking about high-performance buildings, it’s really hard to imagine them without a very efficient HVAC system,” said Brad Considine, global vice president of marketing and sales, Baltimore Aircoil Co. “And if you’re talking about high-performance buildings, it’s really hard to overlook the fact that you can achieve in the neighborhood of 40 percent or more in terms of energy savings by using a water-cooled system.”

Achieving these levels pushes contractors to look at water-cooled systems, he said, and they have been simplified over the past years. Designing for easy installation, easy maintenance, and low cost of ownership, Baltimore Aircoil is taking into consideration the HVAC contractor, the specifying engineers, and the owner operators.

According to Rob Landes, product manager - Positive Displacement Chillers, Daikin Applied, in 2014, the market started to shift toward air-cooled chiller dominance, compared to previous years where water-cooled chillers had dominated the market.

“Before this, many opted for water-cooled chillers, as the chillers themselves were more efficient and cost less to run,” he said. “Now that air-cooled chillers have advanced, the lines have blurred, and the two product types are more comparable than ever before. It really depends on the building type and load profile of the building.”

Landes explained that with recent increases in air-cooled chiller efficiency, the difference in total cost of ownership between the two types of systems is lessening. Many building developers are taking advantage of this and increasingly opting for air-cooled chillers.

Aside from specific equipment, generally speaking, high-performance equipment is becoming more intelligent, according to Melissa Cisewski, offering manager, Honeywell. She said that improvements are not strictly driven by wireless devices and the IoT; the equipment itself is getting smarter as well.

“Equipment and devices at the edge are getting smarter and smarter with the addition of processing power within the sensors, devices, and equipment,” said Cisewski. “This is making it easier to install, commission, and, ultimately, run high-performance buildings. Eventually, the ability to self diagnose and even heal right at the edge will be the norm.”

Looking to a different equipment category — rooftop units (RTUs) — there are several trends affecting how they are used in high-performance buildings.

“Tighter zone control in the conditioned space, a greater need for higher part-load efficiencies, and a more efficient and integrated means to induce controlled fresh air for ventilation and free cooling for the building are important trends in regard to commercial RTUs,” said Chris Opie, vice president of product marketing and platform strategy, Carrier Commercial HVAC Global Equipment. “Technological advances in RTUs will likely include more use of variable-control technology with higher integration of controls, not only for advanced operation, but for intuitive diagnostics as well.”



As current trends shift and realign, contractors are faced with choices about training and equipment for the future of their businesses. Equipment manufacturers can help contractors with these decisions as they provide observations and information from their vantage point.

One of these observations comes from Chris Stocker, product manager - Commercial Rooftops & Condensing Units, Daikin Applied, who said that there is already a shift away from the installer and product truck approach.

“With smarter HVAC equipment, contractors are needing to become technology experts as much as HVAC operators,” he said. “This shift is being driven by the demand for intelligent buildings and responded to by the education with which the trade schools are equipping the next generation of HVAC professionals.”

Landes believes it will be the understanding of this technology that will make or break contractors and technicians in the industry over the course of the next five years.

Cautioning contractors, Considine said to anticipate the substantial growth in the high-performance buildings and the need for high efficiency. He believes, according to all the macro trends, that water-cooled systems will be the solution for this need.

“Either way, if they aren’t thinking in this space, then they’re overlooking one of the central opportunities for high performance in the buildings they are working on.”

Opie suggests that contractors not only incorporate intuitive controls to aid in the service, diagnostics, and start-up of systems, but that they also incorporate unit efficiency options to meet each situation or application.



The following is a sampling of some of the current equipment options available to contractors endeavoring to keep up with the high-performance building market.


Johnson Controls Inc. — York® YVFA Free-Cooling Chiller

This air-cooled screw chiller uses a waterside economizer to cool chilled liquid as efficiently as possible.

“The YVFA free-cooling chiller features an innovative hybrid mode that combines the best technologies to boost part-load efficiency to unsurpassed levels,” said Ian Glen Grow, technical product specialist, Chiller Solutions, Johnson Controls. “Intelligent controls optimize the balance of using fans to move air over the free cooling coils with the outstanding efficiency of the variable-speed compressors.”

The product features the Smart Connected Chillers function offered on the product line. It enables network connection for buildings to achieve high performance through remote monitoring.

Honeywell — Honeywell CIPer Controllers

This product uses IP connectivity in place of traditional twisted pair MS/TP, which instead enables the use of CAT5 or CAT6 Ethernet cables.

“This is new technology for the HVAC contractor, and it opens up building performance to even better analytics, maintenance, and ultimately greater performance,” said Cisewski. “The ability to collect and quickly process the data from sensors, field devices, and other various building equipment makes CIPer Controllers truly high performance.”

The controller line offers controllers to fit small, single application situations to full plant control. They use common programming tools with Niagara.

Daikin Applied — Pathfinder®

This air-cooled screw chiller is a fully configurable unit. It can be configured to suit preexisting HVAC infrastructure such as wiring, or it can be configured to be a smaller footprint to meet physical space challenges.

“What makes these products perform at such a high level is the ability to modulate the performance according to what the space demands, as demonstrated by our modulating compressors, like Pathfinder’s variable-volume ratio compressor,” said Landes. “Modulation, combined with smart sensing, makes data available to building managers on-site or remotely, so they can analyze the performance of the HVAC equipment and make adjustments in real time.”

Carrier — WeatherExpert® Rooftop Units

This series packaged rooftop unit features multi-zone VAV control that provides efficient life cycle cost benefits and comfort control for high-performance buildings. These units provide plug-and-play integration with i-Vu® Open air terminal controls for better linkage and system commissioning.

“The WeatherExpert has highly efficient scroll compression with a variable-frequency fan drive that is integrated with controls for the base unit and linkage to the Carrier zone terminals,” said Opie. “To further increase system efficiencies, the units have Supply Air Pressure reset, Supply Air Temperature reset, and Demand Control ventilation.”

All models offer full-face coil design for temperature and humidity management with less air bypass.

Baltimore Aircoil Co. — Nexus™ Modular Hybrid Cooler

This intelligent plug-and-play fluid cooling system for light industrial applications optimizes water and energy savings and has low installation and operating costs.

“Each one of these modules can operate fully wet or completely dry, which all of a sudden introduces this extremely dynamic system that can operate as the conditions warrant — either that the operator wants to save energy, wants to optimize water use at the time, or the weather changes in a way that it just makes it more efficient to operate differently in those environments,” said Considine.

Publication date: 7/15/2019

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