Global Supplier Directory
Supplier Solutions
Whitepaper Library
Calendar of Events
Association Locator
Contents Pages
Market Research
Subscription Center

issue: November 2005 APPLIANCE Magazine

42nd Annual Report on HVAC
The SEER Season

 Printable format
 Email this Article

by Jill Russell, Associate Editor

Environmental mandates and industry-savvy consumers are leaving HVAC producers no choice but to hit the ground running with new product technologies and designs in 2006.

Designed to meet the 13 SEER minimum, Whirlpool Corporation’s Whirlpool® and Whirlpool Gold™ line of air-conditioners, heat pumps and furnaces will be released in 2006. The units range from 13 to 16 SEER, feature R410A refrigerant and include two-stage models for increased humidity and temperature control.

Industry insiders didn’t necessarily want it, but it happened. The 13 SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) era has arrived, and manufacturers have devised innovative designs, technology and components to achieve it successfully. Effective in January 2006, air-conditioners and heat pumps must meet a 30-percent increase in minimum energy efficiency over the former 10 SEER standard.
Additionally, the deadline mandating the phase-out of hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), including R22 refrigerant commonly used in HVAC applications, by 2010 is also demanding attention with new product designs. In response, appliance producers are working to integrate R410A refrigerant in their new higher-efficiency products. Appliance producers are also integrating additional design features and aesthetics while redesigning for the new requirement to meet the increasingly critical mind and eye of the consumer.
According to appliance producers, consumers are becoming more educated and conscious of the HVAC products installed in the home. With the help of the Internet, homeowners are now weighing the considerations of indoor air quality, energy efficiency and aesthetics when making purchasing decisions, and manufacturers are taking note. The bottom line: more educated consumers want more features, savings, and reliability from their HVAC appliances and they want it in a pretty package. A look into what HVAC OEMs are planning for their product lines illustrates how consumers are increasingly driving the market.

Integrating form and function, LG Electronics introduced its Art Cool line of split-system air-conditioners. The units feature several finishes, colors and artwork, such as Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night (pictured). LG says the line integrates a multi-power system (MPS) compressor line that enabled it to design 13 SEER units at or below the footprint of its previous units. The MPS comprises twin compressors, one of which handles 40 percent of the load and another that handles 60 percent of the load to enable higher operating efficiency.

Meeting the Mandate

With the 13 SEER deadline set for Jan. 23, 2006, HVAC producers are gearing up to release some of the most advanced and energy efficient comfort appliances in the industry to date. Mandated for residential air-conditioners and heat pumps up to 65,000 BTU, the new regulation was not approved without criticism and controversy.
First introduced by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) under the Clinton Admin-istration in 2001, a majority of the industry took a stance against it, saying a 13-SEER minimum would be too costly for both the manufacturer and consumer to realize substantial, if any, savings from energy costs. In May 2002, the newly inaugurated Bush Administration and the DOE agreed to lower the energy requirement to a 12 SEER minimum. However, in April 2004, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit overturned the reduction, citing that the DOE had lowered the standard improperly and the standard was once again increased to a 13 SEER requirement. Now forced to overcome design and cost challenges associated with a 13 SEER standard, HVAC producers are working hard to ensure they maintain a competitive edge.
This year also saw its share of regulations. On August 8, President Bush signed an energy policy act that established minimum efficiency standards on commercial air-conditioning and heat pumps from 240,000 to 760,000 BTUs, as well as commercial refrigeration and ice-making equipment. The new national efficiency laws are set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2010 and according to the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI), will help manufacturers develop new products that not only meet the efficiency regulations but also help them meet Energy Protection Agency (EPA) refrigeration regulations regarding the phase-out of HCFC refrigerants. However, industry insiders say the current primary focus is 13 SEER.
“The whole industry is in a state of flux preparing for the 2006 energy standards that have been mandated by the U.S. federal government,” Chris Campbell, senior product manager for Whirlpool Corporation, tells APPLIANCE. “If you talk to any manufacturer, any dealer or distributor, that is what everybody is preparing for. It is a major transition, larger than what the industry probably has seen in several years, causing total new redesigns for all compressor product platforms.”

Reinventing the Wheel

One of the challenges associated with the new mandate, according to HVAC producers, is maintaining the same-sized product footprint, while increasing component size to meet the 13 SEER energy level.
Whirlpool says that in order to achieve the efficiency regulation, it focused on shrinking product components. The global appliance maker redesigned its entire compressor-driven product line, including air-handlers and evaporator coils, to ensure its units remain close to the same size as older units for the replacement market. “From a technology perspective, the utilization of optimized fin-on-tube combinations for heat exchanger size optimization as well as component efficiencies, such as compressors and motors, are driving and enabling a lot of this change,” Campbell explains.
Rheem Air Conditioning has introduced 24 new products in the last 18 months, many of which the company says were to fill in previous gaps and extend product lines. “The technology driving air-conditioning applications are two-stage, variable capacity condensers with increasing features that provide increased comfort and energy efficiency,” Alan Kessler, vice president of Research and Development, explains. In response, the company is set to launch its 18 SEER equipment as part of its Rheem Prestige Series® and Ruud Ultra Series®, which feature a two-stage condensing unit, on-board diagnostics, and a system monitoring system. The 18 SEER model is reportedly the lowest profile condenser in its class, adding to the aesthetic value, and is also available in a variety of 13- and 16-SEER condensers and heat pumps.
Also successful in creating higher efficiencies in a smaller package, HVAC manufacturer Fedders Corporation met the 13 SEER requirement and is maintaining its current footprint on most models, Donna Williams, vice president of Global Product Planning, tells APPLIANCE.
Fedders says by optimizing its refrigeration system and compressor design, it was able to achieve the smaller footprint in its new product line up. The 1-1/2 to 5-ton unitary split air-conditioning and heat pump line features a wrap-around coil, copper tube aluminum fin coil construction, an enclosed permanent split-capacitor motor, and smaller, more efficient compressor. The company also developed a 13 SEER packaged terminal air-conditioner (PTAC), according to Williams, that will be the first to feature center-mounted controls, for ease of use, and it incorporates an IR remote control and digital temperature display. Fedders says the line is its quietest, as the company integrated a tangential blower wheel in a two-motor design and added compressor sound blankets. Also available as a packaged heat pump line, models range from 7,000 to 15,000 BTUs.

Anticipating a rising trend in the commercial tankless market, Rheem Water Heaters introduced its Rheem-Ruud Commercial Tankless Gas Water Heater that features a manifold design that can accommodate up to 20 interconnected units. The units are available in both indoor and outdoor models for use with natural or LP gas, and are said to be more than 80-percent efficient.

Reinventing the Wheel

Meeting the 13 SEER is not the only technical challenge facing HVAC. Water heater manufacturers are working to meet the second and third phases of the ANSI standards for flammable vapors ignition resistance (FVIR) for power-vented water heaters.
With the deadline for phase two pushed back until January 2006, the standard requires that 30-, 40- and 50-gallon power-vented water heaters be resistant to igniting flammable vapors outside the water heater. Phase three concerns all other high-capacity gas models of 75,000 BTU or less. This includes high-capacity water heaters (60-, 65-, 75-, and 100-gallon capacities), direct-vent water heaters and manufactured housing water heaters. To meet the standard, Rheem Water Heaters says it incorporated a flammable vapor sensor, a hydrocarbon sensor that disables the control to the spark ignition system in the presence of flammable vapors. For the third phase, Rheem Water Heaters says a majority of its designs will be much like that of its sealed combustion chambers for phase one, as both the product segments are standing-pilot type water heaters. The third phase also includes high-capacity, power-vented water heaters (greater than 50 gallons) that will have similar technology as the second phase power-vented water heaters.
Besides traditional tank-type water heaters, Rheem Water Heaters says it is finding an increased trend to tankless systems. This, according to Jim Conners, specialty water heating manager for the company, is due to the increased ability to incorporate advanced technology in the products. “From a technology standpoint, it enables new and improved designs,” he tells APPLIANCE. “You will see features that you can’t get with a standard atmospheric gas water heaters, meaning digital temperature controls and maintenance codes.”
In line with the residential tankless trend, which has seen 40- to 50-percent growth in the last year, Rheem Water Heaters recently introduced a tankless product for the commercial segment. The commercial water heater can heat water up to 180°F and can be connected to up to 20 units in a manifold configuration via a control that monitors the flow rate and temperature of each unit. A diagnostic control system allows each unit to be programmed and maintained. Each tankless water heater features a range of 19,000 to 199,900 BTUs in addition to a nominal flow rate of 7.4 gallons per minute.
Although not designed for a new regulation, Bradford White improved upon its water heater heat trap design in order to provide additional energy savings over traditionally used ball-type heat traps. The design utilizes a disc-type trap that is installed on the cold inlet and hot outlet water fittings, which is said to minimize energy loss up through the water piping. The design also incorporates at plastic formed-end over the steel nipple, creating a di-electric water connection that prevents corrosion at the site of piping connection to the heater, explains Jim Resnick, director of product development for Bradford White. “The disc design is different than the traditional ball-type heat traps that were prone to noise issues,” he says.
As many OEMs are integrating new components and design into their products, others are producing new products entirely. One such company is Climate Energy, LLC, a joint venture between ECR International and Yankee Scientific, which recently introduced a combined heat and power generator. With the help of motor and generator supplier American Honda Motor Company, Climate Energy’s Micro-CHP (micro-sized Combined Heat and Power) System converts the heat given off an internal combustion engine to generate both heat and electricity. The technology typically used in industrial applications is new to the U.S. residential market and can reportedly produce an estimated 50 percent of a household’s electric power per year.
Made up of the engine-generator, a gas furnace and a control system, the Micro-CHP generates heat for the home using both the engine and, if needed, the gas furnace. “The energy in the fuel is used to generate both electric power and space heat. Most of the fuel energy shows up as heat, but a significant fraction of the fuel energy is converted to electricity,” Eric Guyer, CEO of Climate Energy, tells APPLIANCE. “The heat from the engine is captured and is brought over into the heating system component and provides more or less a constant level of heating flow into the building.” Set to be released in the U.S. this year, the Micro-CHP features internal diagnostics and is Internet-ready to allow maintenance, status and service checks and generates 11,000 BTU. Starting with 30 units in the northeast U.S., the company says it plans to expand soon after. “Ultimately, we will be going further to the customer. But right now, our job is to educate the electric and gas utilities with regard to the possibilities of Micro-CHP.

Texas Instruments’ DiagnosTECH ignition control platform is said to increase product reliability, as it tests and detects component or wiring errors after final assembly, ultimately reducing product defects.

Heating Up the Industry

In redesigning its Affinity gas furnace line, York International Corp., Unitary Products Group (UPG) utilized an ignition control platform to create new product features and enhance reliability and performance.
The redesign process was one of many for York, as it had decided to continuously improve its products to gain an innovative advantage. York turned to Texas Instrument Sensors & Controls (TI) to update the controls of its 80- and 90-percent, residential single-stage gas furnaces, and eventually, its two-stage models as well.
"One of our challenges was to integrate a control family that gave us design consistency across different models, but allowed us to personalize the control features versus what our competitors have,” explains Bryan Rocky, product manager of Heating Products, North America for York UPG. York says that TI’s control platform allowed it to do exactly that. “We analyzed the value that TI brought to the process and moved forward when they showed the desire and the abilities to make this project a success for both companies,” Rocky says.
Designed as a platform system, TI’s DiagnosTECH™ provided York with increased functionality, including enhanced diagnostics that allow units to store up to five error codes in a time-stamped, non-volatile memory that can be retrieved via a push button. According to TI, this ensures that even if the unit’s power is shut off or if the system self-corrects, the error codes will be stored, providing history for future repairs or maintenance.
TI says this feature also helps to eliminate the “black box” perception of a control board, in which service technicians often replace the board first in the trial-and-error process of servicing a unit. Steve Johnson, HVAC program and design engineering manager for TI, explains. “Now, we essentially have a written history of what occurred in the furnace. It [the control board] becomes a useful tool rather than something that automatically gets ripped out and sent back for warranty.”
The DiagnosTECH platform utilizes advanced algorithms and software analysis not only to detect faults, but also predict their cause. TI says this turns the control into a diagnostic tool for technicians, helping them to locate specific problems. “The system literally pinpoints the problem so that the service technician can fix it rather than going through a trial-and-error process to determine at which point the fault occurred,” Johnson tells APPLIANCE. “This truly streamlines the process.”
Other control options include single- or two-phase heating with hot surface or direct-spark ignition, two cooling speeds for multi-stage compressors, a field-selectable continuous fan speed, and hot-surface igniter warm-up times for multiple heater types.
Designed as a platform system, York says it has marketed the update furnace line under a good, better, best strategy, differentiated by various product features added to the ignition control. For example, York’s value line includes the non-volatile memory and retrieval push button, and its higher tier products include functions to support two-stage heating and cooling operations. In other models, the platform works to maintain air flow for variable speed applications and replaces the need for an additional control specific to that function.
In addition, the control platform was designed to enable communication capabilities that allow homeowners to remotely monitor the furnace via a broadband hard-line or a wireless Internet connection, or allow a service technician to download information to a PDA. According to TI, the control board’s layout allows the use of daughterboards to increase the number of features on a particular model, according to York’s preference.
Although the communication feature has not been incorporated into York’s designs as of yet, the company says it is considering it. “We’ve been letting things settle out there in the field and get an idea from our customers what the preferred direction is,” Rocky says. “There will be future activities to take full advantage of the DiagnosTECH controllability.”

York International Corp., Unitary Products Group says it has achieved consistency in its product features, flexibility in differentiation and lower warranty costs by integrating an ignition control platform from Texas Instruments Sensors & Controls in its redesigned line of Affinity furnaces.

Ditching the "Brown Box"

Regulations are not the only driving force of the HVAC industry. Just as important are consumer’s requirements regarding aesthetics, indoor air quality and sound. Already having 13 SEER products on market with its Affinity Series air-conditioners and heat pumps, York International Corp., Unitary Products Group is offering consumers color and design options with a new line of collegiate-inspired units.
After introducing color options to the comfort-conditioning segment last year, York is now enabling consumers to personalize the look. “Homeowners want their HVAC unit to be stylish,” Cos Caronna, vice president of Residential Products for York UPG, says. “Now, loyal alumnus and sports fans can further personalize their units by selecting collegiate logos from among 25 schools and universities.” York says that, as licenses are approved, it plans to offer a total of 55 logos for homeowners to choose from as a decorative element to their outside landscape.
The Affinity line includes 13-, 15- and 18-SEER models that make use of R410A refrigerant, scroll compressors and the company’s QuietDrive™ System. The company says the system consists of an engineered base pan, refrigerant piping designed to reduce vibrations and an insulated compressor compartment to virtually eliminate compressor sound.
LG Electronics is also offering consumers artistic options. The company’s Art Cool split-system air-conditioner line allows consumers to incorporate stylish comfort appliances inside the home. The 22-1/2-inch by 22-1/2-inch wall-mounted evaporator units feature six design options that include colored panels and well-known art. Next year, the company is planning to release models that homeowners can decorate with personal photos and portraits in 23-1/2-inch versions.
With widths of 7 to 10-inches, and only 5 inches for next year’s models, the Art Cool line is said to be the only duct-free line that features computer-controlled vanes to simulate a natural breeze. Dubbed the Chaos Swing feature by the company, the control’s logarithms schedule the blower motor to operate in a randomized supply from 5 to 100 percent to create a more effective cooling system. “This mixes the air within the room, so you have even cooling throughout the room,” Don Wojcik, regional sales manager of LG’s Digital Appliance Central Air Conditioning Division, explains. “The turbulence coming out of the unit mixes the air more efficiently so that the return air comes from many areas within the room instead of just one section of it.” Additionally, the unit features a four-layer air purification system, which includes an anti-bacterial filter, a plasma ionizer, a nano-bio filter, and a deodorizing filter. It is available in four BTU levels—9,000, 12,000, 14,000, and 18,000.
Whirlpool is also highlighting the aesthetics of its designs, as it updated the grill design of its HVAC product line across its brands. The new looks include corporate badging and color schemes that are said to complement a home’s décor. The company’s new Whirlpool Gold line, which contains air-conditioning models rated at 13 and 14 SEER, will feature a louvered cabinet design that creates a totally enclosed appearance. Made from baked polyester pre-painted steel, the units are available in 1-1/2 to 5 ton capacities and feature a Copeland Scroll™ compressor and Comfort Alert™ Diagnostics.

A Mixed Climate

The 13 SEER standard is expected to effect industry shipments and industry leaders are forecasting mixed results next year. Despite the anticipation that 2006 industry shipments will decline 2 to 5 percent due to the SEER changeover, Whirlpool anticipates market share gains from its 2006 product launch and market strategy. “I think the industry is in a state of flux right now and will probably take about 18 months to calm down after the 2006 launch,” Campbell says. “The transition to the high efficiency and R410A will help drive improvements in the revenue, but we do believe that we will see some reduction in overall industry shipments.”
Fedders agrees and says that, although a warmer summer helped to clear out inventories at retail, shipments will not recover for another year. In addition, Fedders says 13 SEER will change the industry, unlike anything seen previously. “We do not think it is going to be business as usual. Companies that are not embracing the change and not meeting customer expectations of high-quality products for a competitive price will be left behind,” Williams says. “We think we will see a lot of changes in the future, particularly in the areas of the 13 SEER requirements.”
Others are optimistic that 2005 will end on an upturn before the 13 SEER mandate takes effect. Rheem Air Conditioning is expecting another good year, although not a record-breaker. The company says it is anticipating 2005 unitary shipments to be between 7.1 and 7.3 million units, lower than 2004’s record-breaking 7.4 million heat pumps and unitary air-conditioners. York believes that the industry in 2005 will see a similar year to 2004, as shipments have been running high year-to-date and the trend will continue throughout the 13-SEER regulation. “We see no reason to expect any major slowdown and believe the industry will exceed last year’s record,” Coronna says. “New home construction has been strong and as the general economy improves in addition to the 13 SEER mandate, more homeowners will replace their old HVAC systems.”
Water heater and furnace manufacturers, however, are more unified in their belief that 2005 will end strongly. Bradford White anticipates the water heater industry will grow slightly by 1 to 2 percent—and level off by 2007. The company says it anticipates the growth from new housing starts, although the replacement market is also expected to grow slightly. “There has been a boom in the housing industry and that has really impacted the water heating industry,” Resnick says.
As of press time, the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association reported 2005 U.S. shipments of both gas and warm-air and oil-air furnaces were down 1.3 and 11.9 percent, respectively, compared to 2004. Residential electric water heaters were down 3 percent, as residential gas water heaters were down 5.9 percent. The commercial segment shipments are also down for the year, as electric water heaters were down 4.8 percent and gas water heaters were down 17.1 percent.
Despite the numbers, the industry is feeling confident about the end of 2005 and start of 2006. The notion of comfort, despite the number of regulations and consumer demands, is continuous. As new technologies evolve, and efficiencies and user demands increase, there will always be a need for climate control. “When I look at the past and project the future, there is one thing that is constant,” Dan Dempsey, director of Heating Products Development at Carrier, tells APPLIANCE. “That is the need for people to control their environment for health, comfort, safety, and productivity. That is what HVAC is all about. Certainly, there are seasonal factors, and the impact of the global environment and the economy, but HVAC has a strong future.”

Suppliers mentioned in this article:
Texas Instruments
Copeland Corp Ltd

Daily News


Dec 19, 2014: Whirlpool Corp. provides guidance for 2015

Dec 19, 2014: Panasonic to showcase built-in appliances at LivingKitchen 2015

Dec 19, 2014: New residential construction in November 2014

Dec 19, 2014: 2014 U.S. steel production up 0.7% from 2013

Dec 19, 2014: Strong North American PCB Order Growth in October

More Daily News>>

RSS Feeds
Appliance Industry
Market Research


November 2014: Appliance Magazine Market Insight Annual Subscriptions
November 2014: U.S. Appliance Industry: Market Value, Life Expectancy & Replacement Picture 2014
October 2014: Portrait of the European Appliance Industry
September 2014: Appliance Industry Focus: HVAC

Contact Us | About Us | Subscriptions | Advertising | Home
UBM Canon © 2014  

Please visit these other UBM Canon sites

UBM Canon Corporate | Design News | Test & Measurement World | Packaging Digest | EDN | Qmed | Plastics Today | Powder Bulk Solids | Canon Trade Shows