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issue: April 2003 APPLIANCE Magazine

Home Comfort - IAHR 2003
The Climate Within


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by Linda Abu-Shalback Zid, Associate Editor

An aging population, energy efficiency concerns, and the desire for comfort conditioning products to be more compact means that consumers are relying on their HVAC products to do a lot more than maintain indoor temperatures.

According to The Freedonia Group, a market research firm, air purification system shipments are expected to increase from U.S. $750 million in 2001 to $965 million in 2006, fueled by ongoing consumer concern about indoor air, and an increasing willingness to act on those concerns.

 

On Location...

APPLIANCE magazine traveled to Chicago, IL, U.S. to attend the 2003 International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition

The WeatherMaker(R) 8000 gas furnace from Carrier Corporation (Farmington, CT, U.S.) is said to enable simpler, more flexible installation and service. A newly designed vent elbow, with three reportedly easy-to-access screws, is the only adjustment necessary to convert to any of the unit's four multi-poise positions. The advance is also said to enable distributors and dealers to inventory fewer models/SKUs, while enabling more applications.

"Today's consumers are interested in much more than simply heating or cooling their environments," Scott J. Boxer, president of Lennox Industries Inc. (Dallas, TX, U.S.) and member of the board of the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) tells APPLIANCE.

"Our research shows a growing number of residential and commercial HVAC customers are becoming increasingly interested in many other aspects of indoor comfort - for example, air purification and humidity control - provided by products that are quieter, more energy efficient, and more environmentally friendly."

Thus, Lennox is introducing its Healthy Climate line of indoor air quality products, which were developed to meet the needs of a growing number of consumers demanding healthier, cleaner indoor air. The line includes PureAir, which the company says is the industry's most efficient air purification system

"As customers become more sophisticated in their knowledge of indoor air quality and energy efficiency, the demand for these types of products will continue to grow," he says.


Broan-Nutone's new GuardianPlus(TM) adds energy recovery as a feature to its standard whole house HEPA air systems. The GuardianPlus ERV transfers both latent (moisture) energy and sensible (temperature) energy from opposing air streams, heating/cooling incoming air and minimizing incoming humidity.

Aprilaire (Madison, WI, U.S.) also offers an energy recovery ventilator. The company says that the appliance reduces unhealthy indoor air pollutants, such as radon, formaldehyde, smoke, and odors. "Ventilation is one of the areas that a lot of states and even municipalities are looking at, with a lot of new homes being so much tighter and more energy-efficient. They need to bring outside air into it to ventilate it," says Sean McCarthy, national sales manager for Aprilaire.

HVAC manufacturers are also looking to the materials they use in their products to make for a healthier environment. During the International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating (AHR) Exposition, held in Chicago, IL, U.S. in January, Carrier Corporation announced an agreement with AK Coatings, Inc. (Middletown, OH, U.S.) to use AgION(TM), a silver ion-based compound that is said to suppress the growth of bacteria, molds, mildew, fungi, and other microbes, in the production of Carrier's top air handling unit line.

"Recently, public awareness about mold, mildew, and other microbes has increased, particularly in the education and healthcare sectors, as the general public has learned that heat and humidity allow these elements to infiltrate their buildings," says Todd Bluedorn, Carrier's president of North American Commercial.

Comfortably Cool

In addition to the 100th anniversary of Willis Carrier's invention of modern air-conditioning, 2002 marked the 80th anniversary of Mr. Carrier's invention of the centrifugal chiller. August 2002 also marked the production of the 130-millionth air-conditioner, according to ARI figures.

The celebration doesn't need to be over yet. William G. Sutton, president of the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute told APPLIANCE that 2003 will see record or near-record residential/light commercial unitary shipments for the second year in a row. That potential growth will continue to be driven by the consumer, as the industry works to give the end user the types of products they want.

Many new residential air-conditioner products seem to be based on a "smaller is better" theory as consumers seek compact, sleek designs. And, as always, increased energy efficiency and reduced noise levels also continue to drive the industry.

Haier America (New York, NY, U.S.) has introduced an indoor air-conditioner unit, which is said to be compact enough to fit in a closet or utility room. It is said to be fully convertible with upflow, left, or right horizontal, and counterflow positions and features a direct-drive, multi-speed motor for higher efficiency and greater comfort, according to the company.
LG Electronics U.S.A. (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, U.S.) recently introduced its Low Profile air-conditioner. At only 12-in high, it reportedly provides consumers with more window exposure than conventional window units. It has an 11 Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER), surpassing the U.S. Department of Energy's mandated 9.7 EER.

GE Appliances (Louisville, KY, U.S.) has introduced what it calls an "out-of site, out-of-mind" design for hotel rooms. The company's Zoneline(R) Vertical Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner has been reconfigured to fit into a corner closet, as opposed to being installed under a window. The unit fits into a sleeve, which is directly connected to the duct, drain, and outside plenum. This means that when the unit needs to be serviced, it only needs to be unplugged and slid out of the sleeve. It is said to be quiet, as unwanted noise is further muffled by the closet in which it is installed.

Another type of product seen throughout the AHR Expo was the portable air-conditioner. Soleus Air(R) (El Monte, CA, U.S.) has introduced a unit on wheels, which the company says does not aesthetically alter the appearance of a building and needs no installation. The air-conditioner features a remote control, as well as panel control and reportedly moves easily from room to room.


Ductless mini-split systems are catching on in the U.S., although slower than in other regions where energy and space constraints are of more concern, according to Jack Earnest, vice president of Marketing at Quietside Corporation, the U.S. and Canada marketing company for this Samsung model.

"We're seeing more and more mini-splits installed in high-end condos," he tells APPLIANCE. "Samsung provides individual room control and greater filtration in each room with ductless mini-splits, not to mention less noise."



Staying Warm

With the likelihood of a more stringent federal standard looming and the demands for energy-saving equipment increasing, manufacturers are producing more high-efficiency residential gas furnaces, according to the Boston, MA, U.S.-based Consortium for Energy Efficiency, Inc. (CEE). CEE reports that 22 percent of all available models are rated at 90 percent Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) or higher, compared to just 12 percent in 1998.

Nordyne (O'Fallon, MO, U.S.) is just one of the companies working toward higher efficiency. The company will make its Maytag M1010 Series 92 percent plus AFUE gas furnace available in a compact size beginning June 2003. It features an insulated blower compartment, upflow or horizontal configuration, and an optional variable speed blower.

On the other side of the spectrum, the company will also begin manufacturing its first Frigidaire two-stage 80-percent AFUE furnace in April. "This 80-percent AFUE Frigidaire furnace allows our dealers to offer the comfort benefits of the two-stage feature to homeowners who may not be in the market for the highest-efficiency equipment," says Dennis Kloster, Nordyne vice president, Marketing and Sales, Residential and Light Commercial.


Grundfos Pumps Corporation (Olathe, KS, U.S.) introduced this Comfort Series Instant Hot Water system for the retrofit market. The company says it provides instant hot water and significant water savings to owners of existing homes, and is the most successful HVAC product launch in the company's history.

"The market was waiting for a practical way to retrofit hot water recirculation," says Michael Easterly, director of Sales, HVAC, for Grundfos Pumps North America. "Other retrofit HWR systems require multiple pumps, electrical installations at each sink, and often still require a wait for hot water at the tap, even if the water is delivered hot."



Getting Into Hot Water

According to the 51st Annual Appliance Industry Forecast in the January 2003 issue of APPLIANCE magazine, electric water heater shipments are expected to increase 2.2 percent this year, while gas water heaters should have a 1.7-percent increase. Several issues will affect what the increased end-product will be, however.

"The number one story in the water heater industry in 2003, affecting the entire chain of distribution including the consumer, will be the new technology for flammable vapor ignition resistance," says David R. Martin, vice president, Marketing for Rheem Water Heaters (Montgomery, AL, U.S.)

Effective July 1, 30-, 40-, and 50-gallon, gas-fired, atmospherically vented water heaters with input ratings of 75,000 BTU/hour or less and produced on or after the date must be tested to a new American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Standard: ANSI Z21.10.1-2001.

Rheem has addressed this issue by unveiling the Rheem Guardian System(TM), its new line of residential gas-fired, atmospheric water heaters featuring an exclusive air shutoff system.

Like all FVIR water heaters, the Guardian System will include a flame arrestor plate to shield the burner and prevent its flame from spreading beyond the arrestor and igniting vapors outside the water heater. Since shutting off the gas supply does not stop vapors from continuing to burn inside the water heater's combustion chamber, Rheem's safety control shuts off both the air supply and the gas supply whenever a flammable vapor incident occurs.

The FVIR transition is scheduled to affect power-vent designs in 2004 and direct-vent and the remaining (larger) gallon capacities in 2005, according to Mr. Martin.
"This ongoing, voluntary industry approach to developing FVIR technologies calls for manufacturers to invest their own resources in new product designs and the methods to test them," he adds.

According to Allen Wicher, global market manager, Water Heating Control Systems for Therm-O-Disc, Incorporated (Mansfield, OH, U.S.), a supplier of electronics and electronic controls to the water heating industry, another driver is a shift in industry distribution structure. "Where wholesale used to dominate the channel with about 60 percent of the volume, that has flip-flopped and retail is now approaching 60 percent of the total market channel," he says.

"So now water heater manufacturers are not only looking to meet governmental legislation, but they're also looking to maintain differentiation schemes for their products to remain competitive. So products like electronic control systems run themselves through kind of an upsell," Mr. Wicher adds.

Therm-O-Disc is working to provide that differentiation by incorporating diagnostics to help consumers and technicians troubleshoot a water heater. He gives an example of a dry-start failure where the consumer plugs the electric water heater in, without any water in it, burning out the elements. This results in increased returns to the manufacturer.

Manufacturers want a dry start prevention feature to reduce these types of returns.
"The manufacturer is looking to reduce its total cost while increasing thermal management, and creating increased safety and functionality. Control electronics will continue to play a role in helping water tank manufacturers meet environmental and energy usage requirements and end-user consumer demand for greater functionality and economy. That's something we have tied into electronic control systems," he says.

"The mantra of OEMs is differentiation, technology and diagnostics."
Another issue affecting water heaters is increasing energy efficiencies. Quietside Corporation (Whittier, CA, U.S.) has launched a new product, which is multipurpose as a water heater and boiler. The company's Transax-90 stainless steel heat exchanger is said to provide hot water for less energy, with energy savings in a typical residential application ranging from 20-35-percent annually. It is said to deliver up to 370 GPH of domestic hot water and up to 175,000 BTUH heating capacity.

Instantaneous or tankless water heaters are also said to address the energy crunch. While they can cost up to two times as much as a 50-gallon gas tank initially, the residential versions "pay for themselves" within 2 years or less and commercial versions are sometimes less expensive at the onset, according to Robert Kirkpatrick, national sales manager of the Water Heater Group at Rinnai Corporation (Atlanta, GA, U.S.).
While a tank water heater stores and heats water 24 hr a day, a tankless system heats water as it is used, explains Mr. Kirkpatrick. While such water heaters are becoming the standard in most of the world, they are slower to take off in North America because of the long history of not having a choice other then tank type heaters, he says.
"With tankless products versus storage, the advantages are space savings, efficiencies, and aesthetics because it is one less stack sticking out of your roof," he says.

Mr. Kirkpatrick also says that the company's customers of the Continuum water heaters say they can operate up to two showers, a washing machine, and a dishwasher at the same time, and if the homeowner left them running for a year, they could return and the water would still be ±2°F.


The NH Series of electrode steam humidifiers from Nortec Industries Incorporated (Ogdensburg, NY, U.S.) features a patented auto-adaptive water management system, allowing the unit to operate in various water conditions with minimum water usage and ensures full output throughout the life of the cylinder, according to the company.

The Comfort Zone

So what does the immediate future hold for HVAC appliances? According to APPLIANCE's Forecast, the entire comfort conditioning category should see 0.3-percent growth in 2003. The largest of those increases is expected for gas duct furnaces, with growth of 6.5 percent expected for that category in 2003. Dehumidifiers (up 4.4 percent), gas unit heaters (up 4.3 percent), and gas vent-free inserts (up 3.9 percent) are also expected to see strong growth. But that, of course, depends on the consumers, who may take their home comfort for granted.

"Purchasing a home is one of the largest financial investments an individual or a family will make," says Mr. Earnest of Quietside. "However, most people are more concerned about looks than taking the time to think about the comfort system."
Another concern is the struggling global economies. "With consumer spending being tighter than it has, people tend to repair their equipment rather than replace it with new equipment," says Mr. McCarthy of Aprilaire. But he says that older products aren't as energy efficient and that, combined with indoor air quality, is really what's on the mind of consumers.

"People are always trying to figure out ways to save money on their energy costs, and consumer awareness of indoor air quality has improved significantly over the last 5 years or so," Mr. McCarthy says.

"It's actually a great thing, because it's presented a lot of opportunities for companies in the HVAC industry, such as Aprilaire, to help meet that need."


The Certified Technician Challenge

When asked what challenges are facing the HVAC industry, many manufacturers told APPLIANCE magazine that the lack of certified technicians is a major issue.

"Information is power and in an age with so much information available at our fingertips, we continue to rely on the HVACR technician for consumer satisfaction," says Jack Earnest, vice president of Marketing at Quietside Corporation. "With the power of information comes an even greater need for communication. Our greatest challenge is the constant need for technical training," he says.

According to Scott J. Boxer, president of Lennox Industries and member of the board of the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI), based on independent research, 87 percent of consumers want a certified technician to service their HVAC equipment. However, discounting changes that the war on terrorism might bring, in 2001 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that the HVAC/R industry will face a labor shortfall of 104,000 by 2004.

Government, trade associations, and companies have been working to establish apprenticeship and other educational programs.

For example, in 2001, HR 1950 was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives and referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. The bill would require applications relating to apprenticeship programs be processed within 90 days by the U.S. Department of Labor, or the Department has the option of requesting additional time.

In 2002, ARI launched a pilot program in Milwaukee, WI, U.S. to give students the skills necessary to enter a career in the HVACR industry immediately after high school. The idea also spawned the development of a how-to guide called Establishing an HVACR Program in Your School.

ARI has also joined with more than a dozen industry organizations to form the Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, Refrigeration and Plumbing Career Education Coalition which launched a web site (www.coolcareers.org). In addition, the group distributed kits to 1,300 training programs to recruit high school students and adults seeking retraining to applied technology courses offered across the country.

The Partnership for Air Conditioning, Heating, Refrigeration Accreditation (PAHRA) a partnership between HVACR educators and the HVACR industry, is also now available nationally for training programs that volunteer to have the quality of their program compared to national standards validated by the profession.

Partners in PAHRA include the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI), the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA), the Gas Appliance Manufacturing Association (GAMA), the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the North American Heating, Refrigeration & Air Conditioning Wholesalers Association (NHRAW), and the Plumbing Heating Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC).

Programmatic accreditation will help HVACR training schools obtain federal, state, and local funding because they have been accredited by a recognized body. HVACR training programs have been declining in number in part due to inadequate funding.
But more needs to be done for training and certification, according to HVAC manufacturers.

Mr. Boxer notes that Lennox is encouraging its dealers to promote certified technicians and is offering significant marketing benefits to dealers whose technicians are certified by North American Technical Excellence (NATE), a non-profit U.S. certification organization for HVAC technicians.

"Good training and education will make a big impact on our industry's reputation among consumers in the years ahead," says Mr. Boxer. "Certification can be a powerful marketing tool, but more importantly, it is the right thing to do for our customers and our industry."

Going By The Book

As regulations for HVAC manufacturers evolve from different agencies, it can be difficult to keep track of them all. Listed below is some of the latest standards and certifications news.
  • The U.S. Department of Energy set a 12 SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) standard for central air-conditioners and a 7.4 Heating System Performance Factor (HSFP) for most central air-conditioners and heat pumps to be manufactured for distribution in the U.S. beginning Jan. 23, 2006.
  • Under the Montreal Protocol, industrialized countries agreed to the eventual phaseout of hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) production by 2030, beginning with a 35-percent reduction in 2004, followed by a reduction of 65 percent by 2010. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established a chemical-specific phaseout schedule to meet the obligations that would eliminate production of HCFCs in order of their ozone depleting potential. HCFC-141b reportedly has the highest ozone depleting potential of any HCFC. The deadline for phaseout of HCFC-141b production was Jan. 1 of this year, although stockpiled HCFC-141b produced prior to that date may still be used.
  • To combat toxic mold, the "United States Toxic Mold Safety and Protection Act of 2002," HR 5040 was introduced in U.S. Congress. It is said to be the first proposal of a federal indoor mold bill in the U.S. Among its specifications are the design, installation, and maintenance of air-ventilation and/or air-conditioning systems to prevent mold growth or conditions that foster mold growth. The goal, according to the Act, is to ensure adoption of such standards by June 1, 2004.
  • The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Standard Z21.10.1-2001 requires that the design of gas-fired residential water heaters of 75,000 BTUs or less, manufactured in the U.S., "shall not ignite flammable vapors outside the water heater created by the spilling of...gasoline onto the floor."
  • ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 62-2001, "Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality" has been revised. Changes include the addition of Addendum 62u requiring mechanical ventilation systems to include controls that enable fan operation whenever spaces are occupied. It also requires the system be designed to maintain the minimum outdoor airflow under any load condition. Addendum 62v adds requirements to assure that the air distribution system is capable of delivering outdoor air to the occupied spaces. The addendum also requires that the design documents specify minimum requirements for air balance testing and that exhaust ducts conveying potentially harmful contaminants be negatively pressured relative to the spaces through which they pass.
  • Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL) has launched a new Mark for gas-fired products. The new Mark features the "UL in a circle" with the words "GAS-FIRED" and "LISTED." It signifies that a product has been certified to the appropriate U.S. and Canadian standards referenced in the fuel gas and mechanical codes.
  • ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 135-2001, BACnet - A Data Communication Protocol for Building Automation and Control Networks, has been approved as an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and as a European Committee for Standardization (CEN) standard. Standard 135 will be published as international standard ISO 16484-5 and as European standard EN/ISO 16484-5.
  • The General Standards Committee of the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) has approved and released an addendum to ARI Standard 550/590-1998 "Standard for Water Chilling Packages Using the Vapor Compression Cycle." Standard 550/590-98 combines two previously separate standards: ARI Standard 550-92, "Centrifugal and Rotary Screw Water Chilling Packages," and ARI Standard 590-92, "Positive Displacement Compressor Water Chilling Packages." In 1999, ARI's Large Tonnage Liquid Chiller Product Section voted to combine the two standards to reduce confusion in equipment application and assure consistent treatment for rating and testing of two very similar and overlapping product lines.

 

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