AAON’s RQ/RN Series Low-Ambient Variable-Speed Air-Source Heat Pump rooftop heating and cooling units, from 2 to 10 tons, won Gold this year in the HVAC Light Commercial Equipment category. The units can produce heat-pump heating at ambient outdoor temperatures down to 0°F, according to the company.
The low-ambient operation allows the use of RQ/RN Series pumps in a wide variety of climates; the units also have an option that allows for gas or electric backup heating for continued space heating during below-zero conditions.
“This product provides a real-world solution for the decarbonization efforts in commercial buildings. Air-source heat pumps provide a more efficient heating method than gas or electric heat … and packaged rooftop unit air-source heat pumps do not require expensive upgrades to an existing HVAC system,” said Eric Taylor, marketing manager at AAON.
“Spot on for where the market is heading,” wrote one DDA judge. “Good engineering and well built.”
The units have direct-drive fans with either variable-frequency drive (VFD) or electronically commutated (EC) motors for variable airflow, operating cost savings, and less fan noise, Taylor said. Double-wall polyurethane insulation on the galvanized-steel cabinet walls also reduces fan and compressor noise, he said.
Options include MERV-13 filtration, ultraviolet lights for air disinfection, and modulating hot-gas reheat humidity control. Optional electric preheat and energy-recovery wheel functions can warm incoming air and further limit the need for supplemental backup heat, even in colder climates.
Further options include interior and exterior corrosion protection, stainless steel drain pans, burglar bars, condenser coil guards, smoke detectors for the air supply and return air, phase and brownout protection, and electrocoated coils.
Taylor said the RN/RG Series pumps have several features designed to make technicians’ jobs easier, including:
- Isolated compressor and control compartments that provide easy access to a majority of the components that need regular maintenance.
- Hinged access doors with lockable handles for easy servicing of the unit, including for the economizer, supply fan, air filters, and energy recovery wheel.
- Controls that provide an intelligent system of maintaining the compressors within a safe operating range, plus on-board BACnet capability and Windows-based software that allow for easy setup, configuration, and troubleshooting.
Five years of research went into developing the RQ/RN Series; the research included gathering feedback from sales representatives, contractors, and service technicians, plus market research.
The RQ model is available from 2 to 6 tons, while the RN model is available at 6 tons and up. Taylor said AAON plans to continue developing the models in order to make greater tonnages available.
Two products tied for the Silver award: the Architectural Contour Air Curtain from Berner International and the Split Terminal Heat Pump (STHP) from Fujitsu.
Berner’s Architectural Contour Air Curtain has a cabinet made of anodized aluminum; stainless steel and custom color options are also available, said Philip Thomas, a products manager at Berner. It’s designed to be mounted on the wall above a doorway or suspended from a ceiling using threaded rods.
“Both quiet and high performing, this air curtain saves energy and supports healthy, comfortable interiors when the door is open,” Thomas said. The air curtain is designed for front doors where aesthetics are important, he added.
The Architectural Contour is operated via a built-in digital controller and activated by either a door switch or a thermostat. It has four common sequences of operation and can also be custom-programmed by the user. The hinged bottom cover is held in place by Phillips-head screws, allowing the unit to be easily accessed for maintenance.
Six years of research went into designing the Architectural Contour. Berner worked with industrial designers, conducted market research, and interviewed architects and interior designers, he said.
“Combining their input with our strong engineering foundation allowed us to meet our goal of a quiet, technologically advanced, and beautiful air curtain that performs as well or better than our previous models, while being simple to install, operate, and maintain,” Thomas said.
The new Split Terminal Heat Pump (STHP) from Fujitsu is touted as an alternative to the packaged terminal air conditioner (PTAC) units often found in hotels, motels, and high-rise apartments. The STHP is an inverter-driven heat pump that provides both heating and cooling, with heating available at outdoor temperatures as low as 5°F, said Khal Bou Hamdan, residential product manager at Fujitsu. It’s a combination of a wall-mounted indoor unit and a condensing unit, and fits into the sleeve of a more conventional PTAC.
“Applying inverter-driven heat pump technology in this type of application is a natural next step,” Hamdan said.
The STHP is available in two depths in order to fit into different wall thicknesses; can accommodate line set lengths of between 6½ and 25 feet, allowing the indoor unit to be moved to the best location for optimum comfort and airflow; and connects to a wide range of control systems. It offers cooling efficiency of up to 21.3 SEER.
Hamdan said that two years of research, including market reports and voice-of-the-customer focus groups, went into the new STHP.
“In the future, we will expand the product offering to enable the connection of multiple indoor units for a whole-home or multi-space comfort approach,” Hamdan said.