WaterFurnace’s Synergy3D geothermal comfort system provides forced air heating and cooling, hydronic heating for radiant fl oors, and a desuperheater hot water assist option that provides free supplemental domestic hot water, all in one unit.
There has never been a more urgent need to develop heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning technologies that will help users cut energy costs.
Comfort conditioning energy efficiency has been front-and-center for years in much of Europe, Australasia, and Japan. In the United States, it only moved to the top tiers of the priority list comparatively recently. High-profile media coverage of environmental issues and rising energy costs have helped create a new mind-set in consumers. Whether most concerned about the environment or cash flow, these consumers want to see their energy usage drop, particularly in the home’s biggest energy–user—the heating/cooling system.
One way to make equipment more efficient is putting in variable-capacity components.
In terms of motors, that may mean changing from inefficient shaded-pole motors to variable speed. Instead of simply turning on or off, the motor speed can be adjusted more precisely to fit the demands on the system at a given moment. In burners, variability may mean changing to modulating burners. Instead of just two states of operation—at 100% output (on) or 0% (off)—a modulating burner can fire at a percentage of full power to precisely fit the current demand.
In June, Johnson Controls Inc. (Glendale, WI, U.S.; www.johnsoncontrols.com) staged a large-scale launch of LX-series air-conditioners and heat pumps, offered with R-410A refrigerant and 33-in. gas furnaces. The products span the York, Coleman, and Luxaire brands. Mike Simunic, operations director at Johnson’s Wichita campus, pointed out two industry firsts in the furnace models: a fully modulating gas valve and an 80% AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) modulating gas furnace. “The fully modulating gas valve varies or modulates the gas input and the circulating airflow to closely match the amount of heat needed at any given time,” he explained. “As a result, the furnace is able to deliver improved efficiency and home comfort.”
Designed by Distributors
Good design doesn’t happen in a bubble. Every well-conceived product development team consists of manufacturing, marketing, management, and purchasing personnel. But distributors?
“This is the first time I’ve ever seen everybody—the manufacturer, distributors, and dealers—involved in the product development process,” observed 35-year industry veteran Van Cothren, branch manager for Shollmier Distributors (Springdale, AR, U.S.), while attending the York product launch.
McQuay is among those OEMs offering R-410A-only commercial HVAC systems. It launched a new line of rooftop systems, in 30- to 140-ton capacities, with high efficiencies that exceed ASHRAE 90.1-2010 requirements. In addition to meeting the 2010 standards, the efficiencies help reduce operating costs and help fit the bill for sustainable buildings and LEED-certified projects.
Skip Ernst, marketing manager for Applied Air Products at McQuay, says the units will protect the owner’s investment as well as the environment over the 20–30-year operating life expectancy. “R-410A is an HFC refrigerant which has no ozone depletion potential and faces no mandated phase-out date,” he explains.
“Alternative” HVAC Technologies
The United States is stimulating the adoption of geothermal heating and cooling systems in homes and commercial buildings through tax incentives, which are part of the energy act passed October 3, 2008. The credit is essentially a 30%-off coupon, up to $2000, for residential ground loop or groundwater geothermal heat pump installations. Commercial installations get a credit of 10% of the total investment, with no maximum credit.
Cogeneration units, producing heat and electricity for the home, are also attracting attention for their high efficiency and multifunction capability. Users like the idea of becoming at least partially independent of the electric utility. Honda Motor Co. (Tokyo) launched compact cogeneration units in Japan in 2003 and had sold 50,000 units there by mid-2007. In the United States, American Honda Motor Co./Climate Energy LLC launched the freewatt Micro-sized Combined Heat and Power (Micro-CHP) unit with an internal combustion engine to produce heat and electric power.
Advanced systems like cogeneration may make the idea of burning wood for heat seem antiquated—but wood pellet heating appliances saw recent surges in sales in the face of rising petrofuel prices. As automatic feeding systems make them more practical for everyday use as primary home heating appliances, and as consumers become educated about the inherently low emissions from these appliances, their use may continue growing.
Consumers, and the makers of HVAC appliances, are clearly more open to new technologies that will save energy and money.