Windy City Reps

How Environmental Concerns are Driving Commercial HVAC Trends

April 29, 2022

When utility bills were inexpensive, it was easy to overlook how heating and cooling systems were inefficient. Now, the simple fact is that being environmentally friendly has a knock-on effect for businesses by making them more sustainable while also contributing to lower monthly costs. With a focus on removing harmful chemicals from coolant options and improving oft-overlooked components in systems, commercial HVAC trends for 2022 will continue to bring rapid change to an occasionally stagnant industry.

Improved Efficiency in Cooling Towers

Whether passive or active, cooling towers play a crucial role in commercial buildings that rely on chilled water for cooling needs. However, while they have been around since the dawn of steam power (and earlier when one considers the use of similar technologies in the Middle East), they have often not seen the same level of innovation. For example, engineers still talk about the move to better fill material in the 1980s.

Today, several factors can improve the efficiency of cooling towers. Like other HVAC systems, carefully modulated fans are crucial for precise operations control. In addition, aspects like moving to state-of-the-art engineered fill material can maximize system efficiency.

The Move From R-22 toR-410A, and now to R454B Refrigerants

With the end of sales for R-22-based heating and cooling systems in recent years, manufacturers have had to adapt their heating and cooling systems differently. The EPA banned new sales of R-22, commonly known as Freon, because of its contribution to greenhouse gasses and global warming. One of the most common alternatives is R-410A, but it is now up for replacement.

While it has improved heat absorption and distribution properties, R-410A has a high global warming potential (GWP).  The industry is now transitioning to a refrigerant with a lower GWP and is in the A2L class. Most major HVAC equipment manufacturers are designing products to utilize R454B. This replacement has the properties necessary to balance environmental concerns, operational performance, and optimized energy consumption.

Controls, Controls, Controls

There are natural limits to efficiency in heating and cooling systems. Manufacturers have vastly improved part-load performance depending on how systems are designed because of new government ratings for energy usage. Systems rarely operate at 100 percent for long periods. The simple fact is that systems are modeled after use cases that rarely occur in the real world.

Integrated “smart” controls fill in the gap between engineering requirements and the reality of how occupants use the space. By adjusting cooling, heating, and ventilation needs based on actual loads, these controls cannot just limit usage in under- and unused areas, but also based on surge energy pricing, weather, and other factors.

While there are numerous protocols, ranging from BACnet to Zigbee and others, ensuring that the various systems, sensors, and controls can all communicate with each other is an ongoing concern for HVAC systems designers due to the occasional interoperability concerns and the expectations of cost engineering limiting certain manufacturers as options.

The Bottom Line: Education is Crucial

There has been a steady trend toward sophisticated modeling software and incorporating numerous factors when considering heating, cooling, and ventilation design challenges. When it comes to commercial HVAC trends, taking advantage requires more than just skimming product sheets and using the same calculations as always.

It requires partnering with companies that can provide the performance capabilities for alternative options from multiple manufacturers and developing real relationships with other members of the construction team to ensure efficiencies are found throughout the design, build, and commissioning process.

Take Advantage of Commercial HVAC Trends

At Windy City Representatives, we understand that while commercial HVAC trends can seem exciting, they have to fit into a budget and existing design requirements. To ensure that your project takes advantage of efficient technology within scope, contact us today for support.

At Windy City Representatives, we partner with premier HVAC equipment providers to help you design the best HVAC system for your building or facility’s needs and budget. 

Contact us today for a quote or bid.
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