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issue: August 2009 APPLIANCE Magazine

International Report China
Chinese OEMs Take the Spotlight


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Liu Zhao, China correspondent

Major players stayed home and dc variable-capacity systems took on a high profile at China Refrigeration 2009.

APPLIANCE magazine was in Guangzhou for China Refrigeration, April 5–7.

China Refrigeration has traditionally been the country’s platform for showcasing the latest in refrigeration technology trends. This year, however, brands like Daikin, Trane, Carrier, McQuay, Mitsubishi, Samsung, and Haier were absent. This allowed domestic brands like Gree, Midea, Galanz, and Chigo to take the spotlight.

“Domestic firms have made tremendous progress. Gree, for example, has many exciting new products with high technological content on display,” says Shi Wenxing, assistant professor at the Department of Building Technology in Tsinghua University’s School of Architecture. “And this year dc variable-capacity systems are significantly more prevalent than digital scroll systems.”

Gree championed the idea of “Green Energy, Wireless Intelligence” at this year’s exhibition. Its display included heat recovery systems, ground-source and water-source heat-pump systems and heat-pump water heaters, wireless remote monitoring and control capabilities, as well as building self-management technology. Especially noteworthy was the Gree Multi Variable (GMV) series of dc variable-capacity multiconnected air-conditioning and water heating units. With five operational modes available, the units’ modular design allows for flexible configurations from 8 to 64 hp depending on the number of units used. On-site demonstrations showed that the systems’ exergetic coefficient of performance (ECOP) can reach as high as 6.6. A Gree technician explained that by adopting R410A, the units overcome the limitations of traditional heat-recovery systems and can simultaneously cool air and heat water. It can be used in air-conditioning, water heating, and floor heating applications.

Gree also exhibited China’s first centrifugal chiller system, which tests indicate can achieve a coefficient of performance (COP) of 8.6 under standard cooling conditions (30°–35°C). It is said to be 40% more energy-efficient than even Class I–rated products, the top category in China’s energy-
efficiency rating system. When used in large buildings, it can reduce energy consumption by more than 50%.

The company also displayed its proprietary G-Matrik dc variable-capacity technology, which allows compressors to operate stably at 15 Hz and lower. Gree engineers report that with this new technology, systems running at 15 Hz do not suffer the intermittent starting and stopping seen in systems running at 30 Hz. This not only improves user comfort, but also reduces energy consumption by up to 50–80%.

Midea, another big name in China’s refrigeration industry, played up its capabilities in offering comprehensive solutions. Its exhibition space was divided into sections displaying all-in-one solutions for commercial and residential use, commercial water heaters, and core technology. Through the use of displays, simulations, and models, Midea demonstrated how its comprehensive central air-conditioning solutions are used in factories, commercial spaces, offices, and homes.

The company recently released two products worldwide: the dual-core air-source heat-pump water heater and the R410 dc variable-capacity residential central air-conditioner. Jointly developed with GE, the dual-core air-source heat-pump water heater brings water to as high as 65°C by transferring heat in ambient air into the water. It is also equipped with electric water heating technology, so when the air temperature is below 5°C, electricity is used to heat water up to 70°C. This hybrid system uses R134a (HFC-134a) refrigerant, which is 75% more energy-efficient than most standard water heaters.

Midea’s R410 dc variable-capacity residential central air-conditioner is said to be 20% more energy-efficient than the previous generation. The digital heat-recovery central air-conditioner Midea launched last year was also at the show. With a COP of 6.55, it uses heat extracted during the cooling process to produce hot water.

In addition, the firm’s latest variable-capacity centrifugal chiller system for industrial and commercial uses has an efficiency rating of 9.1, which is over 30% more energy-efficient than fixed-capacity systems.

Midea also showcased several high-end models intended for use in the base stations for the telecommunications industry. Designed for harsh outdoor environments, those include the all-in-one air-conditioner, constant temperature/humidity air-conditioner, split air-conditioner with underfloor air supply, and outdoor-air cooling and heat-exchanging system.

Like domestic market leaders Gree and Midea, Guangdong Chigo Air-Conditioning Company, Ltd., featured dc variable-capacity technology at China Refrigeration 2009. The firm successfully developed its CMV (VI) series, a multiconnected system that uses R410A, in 2008, and has already started commercial production—mostly for export orders. Chigo also displayed a three-in-one air-conditioning, water heating, and air heating system, which has a power output of 2 hp, and is currently pending certification for release onto the market.

At Galanz’s exhibit, there was also a dc variable-capacity multiconnected module on display. A Galanz engineer explained that the indoor unit includes a light-wave disinfecting function, which differentiates the products from competitive models.

There was a definite sign that dc variable-capacity technology is gaining popularity this year. In the previous two years, digital scroll systems and dc variable-capacity systems were equally represented. This trend, industry experts say, shows that the many years of research on dc variable-capacity by domestic companies has finally come to fruition.

Chigo’s CMV (VI) series is a multiconnected system that uses R410A.

 Limited New Compressor Launches

With Emerson missing from the show, Danfoss was easily one of the largest exhibitors present. Its 120-m2 exhibition space was occupied by the firm’s range of refrigeration and air-conditioning products, such as refrigeration and air-conditioning system control components, household compressors, commercial compressors, industrial refrigeration control valves, the AKD102 variable-capacity drives for supermarket applications, and heat exchangers. Products that drew high interest from attendees include the MCX unit controllers for commercial air-conditioning applications, refrigeration scroll compressors, SLV compressors, Apexx VSH series commercial ac variable-capacity scroll compressors, brazed-plate heat exchangers, and condensers. The TurbocorTT400 compressor, which uses magnetic bearings and no oil, was displayed last year, but remained the company’s most high-end offering at the show. The firm said it will soon be available in China. Danfoss also organized three technical seminars, respectively named “Green Solutions—Danfoss Light Commercial Compressors and System for Light Commercial Refrigeration Applications,” “Danfoss’s New Compressors and Their Refrigeration Applications,” and “Energy Conservation Solutions for Supermarkets and Danfoss’s Variable-Capacity AKD Refrigeration Systems Applications.”

Brazilian compressor maker Embraco also showcased a variety of products manufactured in Brazil, the Slovak Republic, and China, including commercial refrigeration compressors, light commercial compressors, variable-capacity refrigerator compressors, and condensers. Marino Bassi from Embraco’s Italian factory told APPLIANCE, “We have participated in China Refrigeration several times and have been pleased with the results. With the economy the way it is, it’s impressive to see so many exhibitors. [The show covered an area of 60,000 m2 and attracted 900 exhibitors and more than 40,000 attendees.] We’re also happy to see a lot of interest in Embraco’s products.” The company’s VEMX9C and VEMY9C high-efficiency variable-capacity refrigerator compressors will be exported to Japan beginning in June, and the VEGT variable-capacity refrigerator compressor will be imported into China from Brazil. The EM series, compact and environmentally friendly, offers both R134a and R290 refrigerant models.

Embraco also displayed the CK6210CD and EK6160CD, which are manufactured in Brazil. Those freezer compressors use CO2 (R774) refrigerant, and have been in production for about a year. Bassi said sustainability was the central theme of Embraco’s exhibition, and that the firm is striving to develop higher-efficiency, quieter, and greener products.

Other exhibitors of compressors include Shanghai Hitachi Electrical Appliances Company, Ltd. (SHEC), and Shanghai Konor Electromechanics Company, Ltd., both of which are partly owned by Shanghai Highly Group. In addition to the 3- and 5-hp twin-rotor compressors, the firms exhibited new dc variable-capacity air-conditioner compressors, as well as compressors for the industrial dehumidifier market and for small window A/C units in North America. SHEC displayed a heat-pump water heater and gave a sneak preview of the compressor it is developing specifically for this application. Xu Liang, director at SHEC’s Technology Center, says that the compressor uses a new hybrid R417A, an HFC blend, and was scheduled to hit the market soon.

Panasonic and Sanyo displayed relatively few compressor products. Wang Hui from the Guandong office of Dalian Sanyo Compressor Co. says that Sanyo’s 4.6-hp scroll compressor, which uses R22 refrigerant, can achieve class II energy efficiency and low-temperature heating.


Galanz displayed a dc inverter multiconnected module and an air-source heat-pump heater

Wider Variety of Refrigeration Accessories

Perhaps because there were fewer exhibitors of full systems manufacturers, the presence of refrigeration accessories suppliers at this year’s show seemed more prominent than in the past. Booths displaying copper pipes, valves, generators, refrigerants, and ventilation products took up nearly half of the total floor space.

A.O. Smith displayed a comprehensive array of products, including water-pump motors for the China market, air-conditioner motors, and general-use motors. The air-conditioner division of Welling Holding Ltd. exhibited new refrigerator condenser motors, as well as brushless dc air-conditioner motors, to tap market trends. King Long exhibited some recently developed aluminum tubing products and internally threaded copper pipes, and Luvata also displayed some industrial and commercial refrigeration pipe products.

The refrigeration accessories displayed at the show provided an indicator of broader technological trends within the industry, according to Wang Xunchang, professor at the Air-Conditioner Research Institute of China Academy of Building Research. He observed that at last year’s show, Danfoss’s all-aluminum microchannel heat exchanger products and technology were all the buzz in the HVAC industry, but this year there wasn’t much product offering in the area to match the attention it received last year. Four prototype outdoor units from Gree employed the microchannel heat exchangers, but had yet to be installed with compressors.

Fin-Machine Co. (FMC), a UK manufacturer of machinery that produces all-aluminum microchannel heat exchangers, was also at the show. The company’s fully automated production lines can manufacture aluminum microchannel heat exchanger cores up to 4.5 m long and 2 m wide. FMC said that its new system can produce up to 60 cores per hour. It comes with a fin mill, tube mill, and core builder, but not the brazing furnace.

In terms of material, Solvay Fluor exhibited the Nocolok soldering flux made of potassium fluoroaluminate, which dissolves the oxidation layer of aluminum surfaces at welding temperatures and prevents further oxidation during the welding process. It can be an indispensable material for manufacturing the aluminum microchannel heat exchanger. Wang said FMC and Solvay Fluor seemed to be the only exhibitors offering products related to the production of microchannel heat exchangers. He believes that there are still many production issues to resolve before this technology can find broader application in China.

Several manufacturers, including Parker Hannifin and Siemens, displayed large-diameter electronic expansion valves, which have been used in household split air-conditioners and commercial multiconnected units for years but are rarely used in smaller stand-alone units, water coolers, and heat-pump water heating/cooling equipment. Wang said this is primarily because domestic manufacturers had the impression that large-diameter expansion valves are much more expensive than thermostatic expansion valves. But he said some suppliers revealed that the price differences are generally only between 10 and 20%. This, he said, should encourage more domestic manufacturers to start looking into adopting electric expansion valves.

Nearly 30 suppliers of refrigerants participated in this year’s show, including Honeywell, Solvay, Xinteng, Dongyue, Juhua, 3f Fluorochemical, and FLTCO, while DuPont was absent. Honeywell launched HFO-1234yf, HFO-1234ze, and HBA-2 products, all of which feature low global warming potential (GWP). Wang noted that as more low-GWP products are being developed, domestic sales of R134 products have soared. He believes it was because companies like DuPont and Honeywell are no longer producing R134a themselves and are instead sourcing the refrigerant from Chinese contract manufacturers while focusing on developing new refrigerants. Wang warned China’s refrigerant suppliers not to be carried away by short-term profits and expand their HFC134a production capabilities only to find that HFCs are losing favor with the HVAC industry.


The Gree Multi Variable (GMV) series serves as both air-conditioner and water heater.

Alternative Energy in the Spotlight

The Chinese Renewable Energy Society’s Geothermal Heat Pump Group picked China Refrigeration as the venue for its training sessions on geothermal heat pumps. According to Li Yuanpu, executive director of the society, “China’s geothermal heat-pump central air-conditioner market is currently valued at more than RMB 5 billion per year and is growing at an annual rate of more than 20%. Installation fees have dropped from RMB 400–450 per square meter to 220–320.” Due to the lack of regulations and standards, Li explained, China’s geothermal heat-pump market is populated with products of disparate quality, and he hoped to use the show as a platform to promote the advantages of geothermal heat pumps, as well as call for stricter industry regulations.

Rinnai and Sanyo both displayed gas heat pump (GHP) technology, but Sanyo did not have any actual products on display. A Rinnai representative explained that the firm’s GHP air-conditioner compressor is driven by a gas-powered engine, and can thus achieve much higher efficiency and better performance-to-price ratio compared with electric heat pumps. Furthermore, with natural or liquid gas rather than oil or coal as its energy source, the system greatly reduces CO2 emissions. The GHP system has been installed in numerous buildings in Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. It can operate for 30,000 hours maintenance free and is designed to last 15 years. By making efficient use of the heat generated by the engine, it is capable of operating in temperatures as low as –15ºC without the need to power off and defrost, making it particularly well suited for colder climates. Composed of a low-speed Toyota engine and an Aisin scroll compressor manufactured in Japan, the GHP system uses R410A refrigerant. It is said that Rinnai has been able to keep the costs of this model low by moving the assembly operations to China three years ago.

This year’s China Refrigeration Expo also included evaporative cooling and ventilation systems. The systems are often used in factories and hotels, although there are smaller versions designed for residential use. According to Liu Zhongming, representative from Easy Wind International Development Ltd., these products use the same cooling principle as the air coolers (also known as air-conditioning fans) popular in China nowadays, but use cooling pads and water pumps as core components, which make them much more efficient than air coolers. Easy Wind has been making evaporative coolers since 2001, primarily for export to Indonesia, Malaysia, and South Korea. “These products are less expensive than air-conditioners, and provide good cooling and ventilation capabilities,” says Liu. The firm is currently marketing these products domestically to large malls, schools, factories, and farms.

Easy Wind has also launched residential models in Xinjiang, Harbin, Shandong, and Hebei provinces under the brand names Keruilai and Junbao, and is planning to make these products available nationwide.

Integration of household heating and cooling products was a noticeable trend at this year’s show. Manufacturers of all types of central air-conditioners are striving to bring cooling, heating, and water heating functions into one unit. Liu Yang, engineer at Guangzhou Missouri Electronics Co., demonstrated to APPLIANCE one such product from his company—the home energy center. This system uses a scrolling compressor made by Sanyo, though the company is currently developing a system based on Emerson’s digital scrolling compressors. The system provides both heating and cooling, and uses solar energy for heating. Its indoor component looks like a large refrigerator with an internal compressor, and the outdoor unit is equipped with a heat exchanger and is suited for use in stand-alone villas. The company’s products are mostly exported to Europe and North America under the brand PHNIX, but will be available in China this year.

 

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