A look at the state of the variable refrigerant flow market for commercial heating and cooling, with commentary by system manufacturing executives. Note: selection of manufacturers does not imply endorsement or preference by Contracting Business.
Q: In light of the increased interest in VRF and mini-split products by split system manufacturers (and growing contractor interest), how would you advise a residential and/or commercial HVAC contractor who sells split systems when VRF for commercial or mini-split for homes might be the way to go?
Kevin Miskewicz, director of commercial marketing for Mitsubishi Electric/Trane HVAC US:
“Customers are choosing VRF for commercial applications because of its appealing energy efficiency, installation flexibility and control capabilities. To the customer, energy efficiency means lower energy bills and the ability to meet the requirements for sustainability certifications such as LEED®. Any HVAC contractor involved with zero-net energy, Passive House and any retrofits or new construction with high-performance goals will want to consider VRF. With only two pipes connecting the indoor and outdoor units, VRF systems can be installed in areas where ductwork of traditional HVAC systems simply won’t fit, such as in retrofits or historic renovations. In terms of control, VRF offers occupants and facility managers the ability to customize occupant comfort throughout the building.
“In the case of the Bank of San Antonio (CLICK HERE to see case study), the bank needed to address the different comfort and operational requirements of spaces such as conference rooms, offices and the information technology office. VRF enables the creation of zones, each with their own comfort controls, and then uses only the precise amount of energy needed to meet the requirements of each zone.
“VRF’s integrated controls and sensors enable the system to quickly adjust conditioning in response to changing environmental conditions and requests from both occupants and facility managers.
“A school, hotel or any building where occupants would benefit from less noise from mechanical systems would be interested in VRF’s whisper quiet indoor units and outdoor units that aren’t much louder than a typical conversation.
“Lastly, because VRF is relatively quiet and has a lightweight outdoor unit design, the systems offer more options for installation that maximizes usable space. HVAC contractors will also want to keep that aspect of the technology in mind.”