VRF systems obtain their high efficiency through the use of inverter compressors. Inverter systems allow the compressor to ramp up or down based on the needs within each space. A non-inverter system ramps up the compressor at full capacity all the time. Essentially it’s either on or off. With inverter systems operating at lower speeds and capacity, the efficiency gains can be substantial.
Devices intended for air conditioning of larger facilities, an ideal and increasingly used solution are VRF (Variable Refrigerant Flow) systems. They enable the construction of extensive systems, height differences of several dozen meters between the outdoor and indoor units, and the largest selection of indoor units.
Unlike split AC equipment, VRF allows multiple indoor units to run on the same system, which is designed differently depending on the application. VRF systems are considered either a heat pump system or a heat recovery system, which can heat and cool simultaneously.
What is the difference between VRF and VRV?
Both of these terms refer to the same technology. VRV is a trademarked term that stands for variable refrigerant volume. An air conditioning manufacturer sparked this innovation 40 years ago, and VRF refers to the general technology.
How does VRF work?
In a VRF system, the refrigerant passes through condenser units to indoor units, cutting down on the need for extensive ductwork and air handlers. The smaller pipes make it a bit easier to retrofit in older buildings than traditional HVAC systems.
As technology advances, previous limitations are disappearing. VRF systems can now be an ideal choice for commercial buildings and residential homes.
Removing ducts from the equation is part of the increased energy efficiency. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Saver reports that more than 30% of energy consumption could be due to losses of cool air through ducts.
What are the types of VRF systems?
There are several types of these systems that contractors discuss: heat recovery or heat pump, two-pipe or three-pipe, and air-cooled or water-cooled.
A three-pipe VRF heat recovery system enables users to heat one zone while simultaneously cooling another. Three-pipe systems can be useful for facility managers of buildings with mixed temperature needs who are striving to reduce energy consumption. Typical applications would include multifamily buildings, large office complexes and religious buildings with multiple classrooms, among others.
A VRF heat pump system typically uses two pipes and can also heat and cool but not at the same time. Two-pipe systems have their own advantages, such as less pipe and connections to create opportunities for leaks. Less lifetime maintenance means more savings on the system over the long term.
Air-cooled VRF systems rely on outside air (even using ducts occasionally). Water-cooled VRF can be hidden away inside and, in some situations, can use geothermal systems already in place for increased efficiency.
What are the benefits of a VRF system?
If you’re weighing the advantages for a new building or home, a renovation or your current client base, here are a few examples of what you and your occupants will gain from VRF AC and heating over traditional HVAC.
- Energy efficiency: As mentioned above, leaky or unprotected ducts lead to a lot of wasted energy. Customers typically enjoy cost savings in utility bills and increased comfort after the initial installation.
- Customizable temperature settings: If the right VRF HVAC system for the building is selected, occupants can heat and cool different zones at the same time, allowing workers and sensitive equipment to stay safe.
- Sleek and compact: Compared to traditional equipment, VRF HVAC units are much less bulky, making them an excellent solution for retrofitting, renovating or outfitting areas with limited space.
- Scalability: Once thought to be mainly for commercial buildings, VRF systems have advanced to be compatible with a range of heating and cooling products. They can scale to control the climate in a small single-family home or a commercial high-rise.
- Quiet: VRF systems reduce ambient noise both inside the building as well as outside, particularly in comparison to traditional HVAC technology.
- Easy to install: Ducted HVAC equipment is notoriously heavy. While VRF should be installed only by trained and certified professionals, based on the type of VRF system, installation takes much less physical exertion.
Within one system, it is possible to operate indoor units in any configuration. Individual and / or central control with the possibility of communication with BMS and control via the Internet.
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