ORLANDO, Fla. — HVACR refrigerants, regulations, and a look to the future were the topics of discussion at Emerson’s E360 Breakfast on Tuesday, February 4, the second morning of the AHR Expo at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.

Jennifer Butsch, regulatory affairs manager, a/c at Emerson, began the discussion with an overview of recent policy shifts and efforts by organizations including CARB (California Air Resources Board) and the U.S. Climate Alliance, the latter of which 24 states plus Puerto Rico are members. One update of note is a proposed CARB rulemaking on a/c and chillers, released in a stakeholder meeting last Thursday. Among other things, it would change definitions of HVAC equipment, which could end up impacting the way HVAC contractors do business.

“When you read it, focus on definitions, because those definitions actually mean an awful lot now,” urged Dr. Rajan Rajendran, vice president, system innovation center and sustainability, Emerson. “They have defined what a chiller is, and what a chiller is not. What's commercial refrigeration equipment? What does ‘new’ mean; what does ‘remodel’ mean?”

“How they define new air conditioning equipment may not be consistent with how you would define new air conditioning equipment,” continued Butsch. “For example, in this draft that they just put out last Thursday, they suggest that if you replace an outdoor condensing unit, that would then make the system new,” which would necessitate a stricter set of requirements to comply with in what was formerly a remodel. “I'm sure the industry will provide comment back to them to say why that may not be acceptable to the industry. But right now, that's their starting point, so we need to provide input.”

Public review and comment will likely take place in June.

Ken Monnier, chief technology officer at Emerson, discussed several “megatrends” to keep an eye on over the next few years.

“There are really three things that I think are going to implode…and shape the way we do business, the way we live our lives, the way we play, and how we communicate with others and other things around us,” he said. For him, those three factors were decarbonization, connectivity and cognition, and health and wellness.

“We talked a lot this morning about the efficiency of systems over their life cycle, a very important element of that,” he said. In the future, he predicts the conversation to broaden to “talk about the efficiency of where those systems go, how they interact, how they work with one another, in terms of the opportunities to enhance.” Future hot topics, he predicted, include dynamic energy production, healthy buildings, mass customization, and connectivity and computation — the ability for humans and machines to work closely together.

“Think about how we can influence that,” he concluded. “For the HVAC industry, I think it's pretty significant.”

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