VRF & Energy Savings: How to Maximize your HVAC ROI
Optimally heating and cooling a building is an integral part of its function. Beyond being an important aspect of a structure, it’s also a key component of the occupants within its walls. Moderating temperature makes for a comfortable environment, and in turn, makes for a comfortable user-experience. For our projects, we often turn to Daikin, a company that’s embracing the latest technology in heating and cooling.
Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF), or as Daikin trademarked, Variable Refrigerant Volume (VRV), is a heat pump system that utilizes refrigerant through small refrigerant lines connected to either ducted or non-ducted fan coil units to exchange hot or cold air conversely to cool or heat a structure. Some of our clients might be familiar with the alternative method of a chilled water/boiler system that utilizes cold water and heated water through larger water piping connected to large air handling units or fan coils. However, unlike its counterpart, VRF/VRV technology offers an almost immediate return on investment due to its energy savings. How can you maximize this technology while maximizing your energy savings? Let’s dive in.
VRV/VRF utilizes an inverter compressor technology to help efficiently moderate temperatures.
This feature will either speed up or slow down depending on the internal demand for heating or cooling. Compared to the typical ON/OFF compressor technology, this is a huge benefit. The standard compressor has no way to control the spaces within a tighter, more optimal comfort level. When the system is calling to come on, then all of the power needed to satisfy the space is used. Once satisfied, the compressor shuts down until the space is several degrees out of set point. The result is a somewhat uncomfortable air feeling at times. Inverter offers partial load, and therefore uses only a certain percentage of power while a standard compressor uses all or nothing.
VRV/VRF technology is a true heat pump system that has the capability to heat and cool an interior building from the same compressor module at the same time.
That means every user can enjoy their optimal temperature. The tedious ability to transfer heat throughout the building where it is requested, without having to displace the heat into the atmosphere and then switch modes from cooling to heating while bringing back heat from the atmosphere, can often save energy as well. Instead of this process, a VRF/VRV system uses “Heat Recovery.” In short, the system can recover heat that would usually be sent outside the building into the atmosphere and send it elsewhere inside the building that may utilize the energy/heat instead.
Effects of long term savings are seen almost immediately, outweighing the immediate costs.
Transparently, in the Atlanta market, VRV/VRF can be up to 30% more up front versus any traditional refrigerant based system. However, there are many variables that could decrease that percentage cost. Things like ease of install, demolition savings, roof or wall penetrations, elimination of large chases or overhead spaces needed for duct work, or decrease in electrical requirement can all improve the upfront commitment. Plus, the long-term savings outweigh those upfront costs. Think of it like this: energy savings can allow an owner to utilize dollars saved to actually pay back the cost spent on the HVAC system in a shorter period of time. Further, energy savings can allow an owner to put money into other aspects of a business instead of outrageous electric bills.
Interested in swapping your system to get in on these benefits? It’s easier than you might think. In fact, in some cases, the contractor can eliminate taking out existing ductwork and piping because the VRV/VRF system utilizes much smaller refrigerant lines and can be installed in much greater lengths compared to traditional systems. In other cases, the contractor can also keep the existing system up and running while the VRV/VRF systems is being installed. This allows for operations as usual without disruptions to comfort.
As you explore VRF/VRV systems for new projects or existing ones, consider the long-term (and short-term) benefits we outlined today. If you’re looking for ways to capture even more energy efficient systems, or are looking to explore other ways to maximize your ROI, we’d welcome a conversation with you. Reach out with any questions you might have.