Compressors are at the heart of HVACR systems, and as such are in the middle of many of the changes, challenges, opportunities, and solutions that characterize the HVACR industry — from refrigerant changes to energy efficiency to impressive technological advances. Although the function of compressors hasn’t changed tremendously over the years, the way they go about getting the job done has become increasingly refined and polished.
Brian Bogdan, director of engineering, air conditioning systems, LG Electronics USA Air Conditioning Systems, said the major trend in the compressor industry is increased demand for variable-refrigerant flow (VRF), which he said offers energy efficiency, cost effectiveness, and design flexibility.
“This demand is largely driven by building owners’ desires to reduce operating costs and to do so with minimal interruption to operations or modifications to the building structure,” Bogdan said. “For these reasons, we are seeing VRF chosen more and more as a basis of design.”
Bogdan added that in addition to seeing overall market demand for VRF increase, end users of VRFs are continually requesting advancements to augment their capabilities even further. That ties in with the launch at AHR Expo of the next generation of LG’s VRF technology: the Multi V 5. According to Bogdan, the Multi V 5 boasts an expanded frequency range to operate energy efficiently in more diverse environments through its advanced inverter technology.
Joe Sanchez, engineering manager, Bitzer US Inc, said three major trends are occurring in the HVAC arena: a desire for low-GWP (global warming potential) solutions, a call for higher energy efficiency, and a desire for ease of use. Compressors are a part of all three.
“Low-GWP refrigerants are an industry-wide trend now driven by worldwide legislation, and highly efficient performance is driven not only by the DOE but also by building owners looking for a better return on investment,” Sanchez said. “To obtain higher efficiency, variable-frequency drives [VFDs] are now routinely employed, which adds an additional level of complexity for the OEMs and contactors. In addition to this challenge, the industry is entering an age of ‘big data’ and needs to effortlessly connect, collect, and transfer information.”
To meet these demands, Bitzer launched a number of new products under the IQ platform. According to Sanchez, these intelligent compressors include integrated VFDs.
The compressors in the IQ line are designed for ease of use and service. The inverter in the new CSV compact screw compressor is refrigerant-cooled and requires no fans. And, by using Bitzer’s BEST software, a compressor can be setup with just a handful of parameters instead of hundreds, Sanchez said. In addition, the compressors are designed with built-in communication capabilities designed to make them simple for building owners to retrieve data related to the compressor and system.
“Finally, the CSV compact screw compressor, like nearly the entire Bitzer product line, is already approved for low-GWP refrigerants, such as hydrofluoroolefins [HFOs] and HFO blends,” Sanchez added.
CAPACITY MODULATION GROWING
At Emerson, Eric Strausbaugh, residential marketing manager, said the company continues to see the growth of capacity modulation technologies for both residential and commercial applications, such as two-stage, continuous digital, variable-speed, and multiple-manifolded compressors.
“Our industry’s ability to apply the right modulation technologies to certain higher efficiency and comfort application needs will garner much focus,” he said.
In addition to efficiency, Emerson is in the process of evaluating many new refrigerants as part of Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI’s) Low-GWP Alternative Refrigerants Evaluation Program (AREP) program.
“This is being done in close cooperation with the chemical refrigerant providers as well as our OEM customers,” Strausbaugh said.
At the AHR Expo, Emerson launched the latest generation of its Copeland Scroll™ two-stage compressors from 1.5 to 5 ton. According to Strausbaugh, Emerson designed the latest generation of this technology to operate at approximately 65 percent capacity, delivering efficiency gains of up to 5 percent in both full- and part-load conditions.
“These improvements are enabling best-applied cost solutions for OEMs in 15- and 16-SEER applications by allowing OEMs to more easily meet Consortium for Energy Efficiency (CEE) tiers while also providing additional comfort benefits, such as better humidity and temperature control,” Strausbaugh said.
A TIME OF TRANSFORMATION
The HVAC industry is in a dynamic time of transformation, in which several factors are impacting compressor technology, said Ricardo Schneider, president, Danfoss Turbocor Compressors. According to Schneider, these factors are creating tremendous challenges — and opportunities — for compressor manufacturers as well as the contractors who will need to be able to install and service higher efficiency, smarter components.
“First, the ever-increasing focus on achieving higher levels of energy efficiency — specifically part-load performance — has driven the acceleration of inverter compressor technology, which has proven to enhance part-load performance and significantly reduce energy consumption,” Schneider told The NEWS.
“Second, the transition to lower GWP refrigerants is requiring HVAC compressors to be re-engineered and made compatible with new and sometimes mildly flammable refrigerants,” he said. “Third, data-driven operations and the development of smarter systems means compressors need to be designed with greater levels of on-board intelligence and connectivity capabilities in order to improve HVAC performance and reliability.”
At the AHR Expo, Danfoss introduced the Turbocor® TT700 compressor, which expands upon the capacity range of its existing Turbocor TT Series of compressors.
Intended for water-cooled chiller applications, TT700 compressors are oil-free, variable-speed, magnetic-bearing centrifugal compressors are designed to provide a highly efficient performance in both full- and part-load operation. The TT700 expands the TT Series compressor platform to increase the maximum capacity range, specifically targeting 400- and 380-V applications. According to Danfoss, the TT700 will be able to deliver 200 ton (700 kW) at typical full-load rating conditions for 400- and 380-V applications at both 50Hz and 60Hz.
APPROVED FOR NEW REFRIGERANTS
Carlyle® Compressor Division, Carrier Corp., announced that selected models of its 06D, 06E, and 06CC reciprocating semi-hermetic compressors have been approved to operate with refrigerants R-448A and R-449A.
“We are responding to our customers’ changing attitudes toward new, alternate refrigerants,” said Robert Ochs, western regional sales manager, Carlyle. “As our customers become increasingly interested in environmental stewardship, we are supporting them with improved, world-class compressors.”
According to Carlyle, these modified compressors are well-suited for many low-temperature applications, particularly those in the food service business, such as refrigerated cases and frozen food cases in supermarkets and grocery stores.
Initially, Carlyle is modifying three product groups for alternate refrigerants:
- 06D compressors: This product group includes nine models ranging 3-15 hp with displacements between 8 and 41 cfm.
- 06E compressors: This product group includes four models ranging 15-40 hp and displacements from 50 to 99 cfm. According to Carlyle, both the 06D and 06E compressors are available for low-temperature, medium-temperature, and air conditioning applications.
- 06CC Compressors: This product group is available in capacities ranging 5-30 hp. These six-cylinder compressors are available in nine models for low-temperature applications.
NEW AND EXPANDED LINES
Tecumseh introduced the TC and VTC Series compressors and bolstered its AE2 series compressor offering by launching AEX compressor models with an expanded capacity and broader evaporating range. According to Tecumseh, the TC, VTC, and AEX Series compressors are optimized for use with eco-friendly hydrocarbon (HC) refrigerant R-290 (propane). The TC Series is also optimized for use with R-600a (isobutane).
Tecumseh also has expanded its offering of VSC Series commercial refrigeration scroll indoor condensing units to include a broader range of cooling capacities. According to Tecumseh, VSC scroll indoor units are approved for use with “multi-refrigerants,” such as R-404A/R-507, R-134a, R-22, R-407F, and R-407A in commercial temperature applications while low-temperature VSC scroll units are approved for use with R-404A and R-507A.
IoT DRIVES NEED FOR SMARTS
John Gordon, general manager, Kriwan Americas Inc., said the Internet of Things and smart controllers are driving the need for smarter, communicating compressors in the HVAC market. That includes a drive for all compressors — both residential and commercial — to be better protected and offer onboard electronics.
On the residential side, Gordon said, the shortage of experienced technicians increases the need for all compressors to have diagnostic capabilities, which will also help better protect the equipment through increasingly long warranty periods. In commercial applications, it’s necessary for compressors to communicate to system controllers to provide feedback and enhance system performance as well as to provide early notification about potential performance issues.
“For 50 years, Kriwan has produced compressor protection relays that are integrated into numerous style compressors,” Gordon said. “Now, we offer compressor protection that can be added to the outside of the compressor, allowing equipment manufacturers or service groups to increase protection and add diagnostic capabilities to any compressor. This can be done through a combination of different parameters, such as voltage levels, discharge gas temperatures, or current draws — there are solutions for every compressor.”
R-290 ON THE RISE
Pedro Olalla, sales director, Huayi Compressor Barcelona S.L., noted that regulations designed to reduce global warming are making R-290 an increasingly attractive alternative refrigerant.
At the AHR Expo, Huayi introduced its NUT Range R-290 compressors to help manufacturers meet the upcoming regulations for the U.S. market.
According to Huayi, NUT Range compressors consume up to 30 percent less energy than traditional compressors. The range includes low back pressure (LBP) and high/medium back pressure (HMBP) models for applications, such as beverage coolers, vending machines, ice makers, and other applications up to 1,540 Btuh (LBP) and 3,317 Btuh (HMBP).
“In addition, the NUT Range provides considerable energy savings with smaller compressor dimensions and displacement, respectively, than traditional compressors,” Olalla said.
Michel Moreira, sales manager, North America, Embraco, also cited regulations as the driver of current trends in the compressor market. He noted that upcoming U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Energy Star 4.0 specifications that will take effect for light commercial applications in March.
“In order to meet these regulations, the majority of manufacturers are moving towards R-290 compressors, and we are also seeing the adoption of variable-speed technology, which is new for the U.S.,” Moreira said.