The AHR Expo returned for a live event this year after Covid-19 forced the event to go virtual for two years. The expo was a chance for industry experts to share their ideas on the future of HVAC. The degree of innovation within the industry is staggering. Industry experts and showcases revealed five trends aligned with the ASHRAE and the AHRI 2022 Trend Report.
Low-GWP Refrigerants Are Going Mainstream
In response to hydrofluorocarbon (HFC), refrigerants are being phased out and replaced by low-GWP refrigerants. According to Danfoss, lower GWP goes hand in hand with an increased flammability risk. The old generation of refrigerants did not allow for a seamless introduction of low-GWP. As a result, GWP and refrigerant capacity are tied to flammability.
Resolving this complex problem took time, but the new generation of refrigerants could solve it. One example of the new generation of refrigerants is Daikin’s ATMOSPHERA ductless system. The system employs a single-component R-32 refrigerant. The system is already widely used in Asia and Europe and window units in the United States. It is half of R-140A, a critical refrigerant that is being phased out. With a GWP of 675, it is much lower than the R-410’s GWP of 2,088. This is one of many energy-efficient, non-flammable solutions that have been developed.
The Use of Oil and Gas is Declining
Heating systems that rely on oil and gas are declining in usage in major cities and across the country. This is driven by environmental awareness and regulations that have placed moratoriums on constructing new buildings with oil or gas heating systems.
The HVAC industry has responded with an innovative solution. High-performance heat pumps can be used to heat water in homes. However, innovators have had to realize that customers demand both efficient, green solutions and cost savings. No innovation can succeed without taking this into account.
The Public Wants Cleaner Air
The pandemic made people aware of how deadly diseases can be transmitted in our air. That was the most pressing reason for better solutions for cleaning the air. Yet, the transmission of viruses is not the sole motive for people wanting cleaner air. Air quality has been an issue for some time, and what the pandemic did was sharpen the public’s desire.
More Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) transparency through innovations such as the Johnson Controls’ OpenBlue IAQ as a Service has improved the prospects for air quality. The system starts from understanding a building’s function and solves air quality issues through that prism. As the name suggests, the service is available through subscription, much like Software-as-a-Service solutions. But, according to the Facility Executive, it is the first dedicated “as-a-Service” IAQ solution for buildings.
This means that builders no longer have to assume the huge upfront investments needed to have such solutions instead of paying for them according to some predefined plan. In addition, the solution is more robust because a third-party monitors air quality with IAQ sensors, using the technology and data available to a large firm focused on the industry, rather than leaving the problem to companies who cannot match that kind of scale and learning.
Increased Control Through Connectivity and Data
Today’s HVAC company is driving green solutions that enable building operators to control a range of parameters and monitor critical elements within the building. Smart sensors, meters, and thermostats push power costs down and helping operators control temperature, humidity, and airflow within buildings.
These smart devices are connected through WiFi so that operators can monitor and control a building’s atmosphere through a device such as a computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
These systems get better the more data they have. Throughout their deployment, they collect data that allows them to unearth essential insights, identify trends, warn of threats, or report on historical system performance. This is crucial in ensuring that not only is the system intelligent and adaptive, but it is also responsive to the needs of its operators to have a rich source of data to evaluate past events. This forward-and-backward-looking capability allows for faster responses to emerging situations, such as the need for repairs or new components. In addition, many HVAC systems can diagnose their performance and system health, which is an additional layer of value given to operators.
Green HVAC Systems are Big
Perhaps the most prominent theme is that HVAC systems must be green. As a result, solutions such as environmentally-friendly HVAC units, which use solar power or wind turbines, are very much in demand. They meet that vital desire to balance sustainability and cost savings.
Cooling methods and geothermal heating are becoming more important, driving fossil fuel electricity. Water and ground sources are the primary energy source for these heat pumps, generating heating energy and cooling buildings. Many buildings now have a mix of solar and gas. This allows them to reduce their energy costs by switching between the two sources. Thermal-powered ACs are on the way to being commercialized and will offer an additional eco-friendly heating solution.