Green is on everyone's mind. For many, a new era of environmental awareness has dawned. In the HVAC industry, however, green thinking isn't new. The leading manufacturers, distributors, and contractors in this industry have been acting in environmentally conscientious ways long before it was fashionable to do so. The ContractingBusiness.com “Green Giants” series is a testament to the individuals and companies who are keeping the world comfortable and clean.
Moving Forward to a Greener Tomorrow
Green permeates every stage of the business at The Daikin Group. Of course, that could be expected from a company that is listed as a member of the Global 100, the top most sustainable companies in the world, for the second consecutive year in 2008.
“At Daikin, we're committed to providing energy-efficient and sustainable building solutions by ensuring environmentally-conscious practices in all business, product development, and manufacturing activities,” says Russ Tavolacci, Daikin AC (Americas) vice president and general manager.
This means producing energy efficient heat pump systems that minimize CO2 emissions, and advancing inverter and other energy efficient technologies. In manufacturing, Daikin's practice of low-impact production includes reducing energy consumption. At the company's manufacturing plants, air conditioning systems automatically switch to power-save mode, and thermal insulation coatings reflect the sun's rays. By 2005, all Daikin Group production bases in Japan had achieved zero waste status.
“From procurement to production and from product design to transportation, Daikin keeps moving forward to a greener tomorrow. Daikin involves every aspect of the supply chain in its green procurement efforts, including our suppliers. Since 2000, we've been requiring suppliers in Japan to comply with our guidelines, such as the requirement to be ISO 14001 (environmental management systems) certified (by 2005), and we ask suppliers to have their own systems in place for green procurement and chemical substance management,” Tavolacci says.
He adds that Daikin believes it's imperative to spread the use of heat pump and inverter technologies to make people's lives more comfortable with minimal environmental impact. “Since 1990, Daikin reduced greenhouse gas — CO2, HFC, and perfluorocarbon (PFC) emissions by 83%, and we're picking up the pace with a new target of reducing emissions to less than 1.4 million tons by fiscal 2010 (a reduction of 50% from fiscal 2005),” Tavolacci says.
Contractors can expect to see more products that have a minimal environmental impact from Daikin. For example, the company says its inverter technology is a perfect match for solar energy systems. “The characteristics of inverter drive HVAC systems are such that they prevent the need for an excessive grid-tied solar power system, and therefore realize the highest running cost savings,” Tavolacci says.
For the global markets, Daikin employs a network service system that allows complete remote monitoring of systems.
Tavolacci concludes that ideally, its contractor customers will want to follow the company's environmental example. “We encourage them to promote our energy saving technology to their homeowner and building owner customers,” he says. “Contractors have the opportunity to educate the end user about how Daikin's products can save energy and money because they operate more efficiently. We offer and encourage Daikin product and installation training that can prepare the contractor for questions about efficiency and environmental impact.
“We would also encourage our dealers to follow the company's lead when it comes to being good environmental citizens,” Tavolacci adds. “We encourage them to recycle and use recyclable materials, support environmental causes, and run their businesses with a sense of environmental responsibility.”
The link to Daikin's international website's sustainability section is http://www.daikin.com/csr/index.html
A Long and Proud Green History
At Danfoss, environmental responsibility is deeply rooted in the company's culture. The company's worldwide facilities are required to have environmental management systems certified under ISO 14001. This not only means they must meet all relevant standards, they also must show continuous improvement.
“Danfoss has a long and proud history of implementing manufacturing initiatives that have a positive impact on the environment. We were one of the first companies to achieve ISO 14001 status, and we continue to steadily reduce our energy and water consumption per unit of production, and in many cases in absolute figures,” says Robert Wilkins, president, Danfoss North America. “We're also reducing emissions of waste materials, especially environmentally sensitive substances such as heavy metals and noxious chemicals.”
As a key industry original equipment manufacturer (OEM) supplier, Danfoss also prides itself on products that are developed to be energy efficient and enable its customers to enhance the energy efficiency and environmental friendliness of their products. For example, Mogens Rasmussen, business development manager for the Apexx VSH compressor project, says the company's variable speed compressors offer energy savings exceeding 20% compared to traditional fixed speed compressors.
“The variable speed solution combines a high-efficiency scroll compressor with a specially designed variable frequency drive,” Rasmussen says. “The drive's frequency output controls the capacity delivered by the compressor, and enables the system to always deliver the capacity to meet load demand.”
Even small changes are taken into consideration to show continuous improvement. Danfoss has eliminated ozone-depleting gases from its thermostatic expansion valve (TXV) bulbs. This is especially important considering the growing attention on the TXV as an energy-saving component. Recently published research by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy showed that TXVs can boost the energy efficiency of residential air-conditioning systems by more than 20% over a wide range of operating conditions. In response, Danfoss now offers a universal kit for upgrading existing capillary tube evaporators to TXVs.
Today's new equipment is substantially more energy efficient and reliable than equipment produced 15 to 20 years ago. In the commercial sector, building owners are becoming increasingly environmentally conscious, says Ricardo Schneider, president and CEO, Danfoss Turbocor Compressors.
“There's an undeniable momentum to embrace green practices,” Schneider says. “While end-users, particularly in the current economy, are sensitive to the costs associated with these practices, the new generation of end-users has an environmental consciousness that is becoming apparent in their daily decisions. Environmental quality is surfacing as a buying requirement.”
Big Results from Thinking Small
Sometimes, the biggest advances come from thinking small. That's the case at Johnson Controls, Inc., where green thinking stems from a core company strategy of safe, comfortable, and sustainable. This begins with the design process and is clearly demonstrated in the company's work with microchannel technology.
“For more than five years, we've been perfecting the operation of this innovative technology,” says Rod Rushing, vice president and general manager of the Unitary Products Division. “There's no better heat transfer surface for green applications.”
Johnson Controls' microchannel units are designed to be more efficient, and therefore can be smaller; and smaller means less raw materials are used in their manufacture. “In some cases, we're 40% smaller and lighter than our competition. In addition to less steel, copper and aluminum, we use a lot less refrigerant,” Rushing says.
More small units than large units can fit into a truck, which means less fuel is used to get them from Johnson Controls' plants to consumers' homes. Finally, the units are designed to be easily recyclable. “Although our microchannel air conditioners are very durable, we realize they won't last forever. With that in mind, recycling an all-aluminum coil is far more practical than removing all that aluminum from the copper tubing of a traditional coil,” Rushing says.
An initiative that Johnson Controls has been promoting to contractors is “attainable sustainability.” Rushing says it has been a goal at the company to provide its contractors with products and sales tools that help them make sustainability “attainable,” from a financial and comfort perspective.
“The right products and the right programs help our contractor partners offer attainable sustainability,” Rushing says. “Most contractors can install an 18-plus SEER condenser and a matching, high-efficiency indoor furnace or air handler with a variable speed blower, but such a system may not be economically feasible for many homeowners. But, our new LX air conditioners, matched with our 95.5% efficient furnaces with new X-13 blower technology, reach up to 16 SEER, and they're very cost-effective. They're even more cost-effective when federal tax credits and local rebates are included.”
Rushing adds that within Johnson Controls' residential, commercial and even national accounts businesses, there are customers who are willing to invest in greener solutions.
“There are three very good reasons to align your business with green,” Rushing says. “The first is the most important: it's good for the planet. Regardless of your beliefs regarding global warming, greenhouse gases, and other threats to the planet, it's clear that society must make changes in energy usage to create a sustainable world for future generations.”
The second reason, according to Rushing, is economic. More efficient, greener products often offer greater revenue opportunities. Even if the options are equal in price and margin, the green component may serve to make your option more attractive to a potential customer.
The third reason for a contractor to be green is marketability. “If you're on the bandwagon, and market yourself effectively, you will see advantages,” Rushing says.
Smart Technology, Smart Business
“We firmly believe that HVAC contractors who don't embrace innovative green technologies run the risk of not growing, or losing business in the future. The U.S. government will continue to insist on higher levels of energy-efficient products, and with the increased awareness of green and energy efficiency among homeowners and the building community, there is no going back.”
That's the word from William Rau, senior vice president and general manager, Mitsubishi Electric HVAC Advanced Products Division. Mitsubishi has been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the United Nations for sustainable development practices and contributions to protecting the global environment.
“In fact, we're recognized as one of the top five companies in the world for our sustainable environmental policy,” Rau says. “Our Environmental Vision 2021 establishes a goal to reduce our global CO2 emissions by 30% and continue to develop and train personnel who feel, think, and act for the environment.”
Rau says Mitsubishi Electric HVAC's environmental mandates include:
- Lifecycle environmental impact
- Recycling end-of-life product
- Preventing global warming
- Product design for the environment
- Green procurement
- Managing chemical substances
- Managing wastes
- Eco-logistics and reduced packaging.
“Also, we measure our environmental commitment through our established environmental management system, which includes training, accounting, audits and risk management,” Rau says.
Mitsubishi Electric has ISO 9001 certification and environmental management system standard ISO 14001 certification.
According to Rau, it's vital that contractors understand the new technologies which have made, and will continue to make, HVAC systems the most energy-efficient in history. “Mitsubishi Electric HVAC has long been committed to the importance of education and training for contractors so they truly understand the innovation and intelligence that is now commonplace in state-of-the art HVAC systems,” he says.
Each of the company's CITY MULTI® systems incorporates VRFZ technology, which is an intelligent, fully customizable solution for providing comfort conditioning inside a building. And, Mitsubishi Electric's Mr. Slim® systems employ Inverter technology to provide the precise amount of refrigerant needed to cool and heat an indoor environment.
“Since we first launched this technology, the industry's acceptance of intelligent HVAC — from building owners, architects, HVAC engineers and contractors — has been unprecedented,” Rau says. “This tells us the HVAC industry is ready for energy-efficient technology. An ‘intelligent’ HVAC system standard is what contractors can expect to see in the future.”
Rau concludes that just as the tools we use in our everyday business are smarter, so too are the mechanical systems being installed in buildings and homes. “Smart comfort control and smart building interface systems are no longer simply ‘nice to have,’ they are required to sustain our environment,” Rau says. “Mitsubishi Electric HVAC is pleased to be a part of this exciting time in the HVAC industry. We look forward to continuing to contribute the most energy-effective HVAC systems possible in the most environmentally sensitive method possible.”
Editor's note: Visit contractingbusiness.com to read the first three parts of our Green Giants series from our December, January, and February issues. Just click on the issue icons found at the bottom of our home page.