In the Spotlight: HVAC and Refrigeration

Heating, ventilation and air-conditioning technology is in the midst of a dramatic evolution brought on by a variety of factors, including regulations, retailers’ needs for technological sophistication, operational and cost efficiency, and ease of implementation and use. These and other topics were discussed in the SPECS session, “Evolution, Revolution: The Future of HVAC and Refrigeration.”

Session moderator Bob Keingstein, president of Boss Facility Services, asked panelists to discuss several pointed questions focused on different key areas of the evolution of HVAC.

When asked to name the single most important piece of technology they are working on, panelist Steve Maddox, VP engineering of York International/Johnson Controls, replied, “Smart controls.”

Kevin Bolton, VP engineering and technology for Trane, cited a “product concierge” his company is developing. “We’re delivering a solution for the building that even a second-shift retail manager, who might be a 17-year-old kid, can really use and deliver.”

Keingstein also asked panelists about what factors they think are driving HVAC evolution. Richard Lord, engineering fellow at Carrier Corp., mentioned the age-old concern about cost.

“We got hit with efficiency-improvement mandates in 2010,” Lord said. “Now there is a 30% improvement in efficiency typically delivered without a 30% increase in cost. We need to re-engineer the product without the material cost going up.”

Increases in energy regulation are also driving change.

“In the last 18 months, the Department of Energy has set specific regulations for heating and cooling requiring certification,” Bolton said. “Also for many of us there has been local regulatory activity, which makes it hard to copy and duplicate buildings. It’s a game changer.”

Maddox said that the development of one uniform refrigeration standard would provide the benefit of alleviating a rampant pattern of theft of copper from HVAC units.

Currently, Maddox said companies use 24-hour equipment-monitoring tools or even simply lock HVAC units in a cage, but an advanced standard that minimized the need for copper parts in refrigeration units would better serve the industry.

When asked to provide final recommendations, Maddox said that HVAC technology providers and users need to ensure a proper startup to commissioning.

“Self-configuration to controls is a plus,” he said. “Proper maintenance maximizes the lifespan of the HVAC unit.”

Lord agreed that HVAC users need to look at the actual HVAC application and consider the whole system when commissioning and employing it.

Shailesh Manohar, VP advanced technologies, Lennox Industries, said HVAC users should consider the entire picture when evaluating the CO2 impact of a particular system.

“Global warming potential includes its efficiency,” Manohar said. “Look holistically over the life of the product — are you better off?”

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