With its familiar logo emblazoned on everything from telephones, video display screens, televisions and appliances, LG Electronics is known around the world for its cutting-edge products. LG is one of the fastest-growing players in the U.S. HVAC industry with its variable refrigerant flow commercial air conditioning systems. Among HVAC professionals, LG is also becoming well-known and well-respected for products that consumers will never see: the compressors that are at the heart of heat pumps and air conditioning units.
A cutaway of LG's low side Scroll compressor – the compressor shell is exposed predominately to suction pressure.
With global headquarters in South Korea, LG first began manufacturing motors in 1962 to support its appliance products such as washing machines. In 1973, the company began producing compressors for refrigerators and other products and soon discovered there was a market beyond just LG products. OEMs were interested in using LG compressors for their branded products as well. From there, LG's compressor business has grown and it continues to bring new technologies to its line of compressors. Today, LG features a range of highly reliable compressors, including its LG scroll, rotary, reciprocating and linear compressors.
While LG's compressors have been well known in other countries, particularly in Asia and Europe, the brand is still relatively new in the U.S. market. Michael Robertson (pictured), senior account manager, compressors and motors for LG Electronics USA Air Solutions, says he'll be at trade shows or industry events and distributors often don't know that an LG compressor is inside of the air conditioning systems that they're selling. “They know LG, but they don't know LG for their compressors,” he says.
In fact, it wasn't until 2006 that LG launched its first unitary scroll compressor in North America. LG produced its first rotary compressor in 1990 and followed up with its Scroll compressor in 1995. In 1997, LG launched its first variable speed rotary compressor. “This variable speed technology, especially when coupled with the high side scroll in the 2000s is what really strengthened our position in air conditioners,” Robertson says.
LG continues to gain acceptance by its OEM customers for its compressors. Robertson acknowledges that there is a loyalty factor to compressors – if a dealer is having little or no trouble with its current compressors, why take the risk and make a change? But he says LG continues to gain the confidence up and down the HVAC supply chain, including OEMs, distributors and dealers. As a former service technician himself, Robertson understands the reluctance to make a change. But the proof comes in the results.
During Comfortech 2016, Dave Yates (right), CONTRACTOR magazine columnist, and Michael Robertson, senior account manager of compressors and motors for LG Electronics USA Air Solutions, discuss LG compressors at the company's booth.
“As they work with us and our compressors, they've found they like them and they're durable,” Robertson says. “We continue to receive more and more success stories and more and more favorable comments from our customers. Word is getting out.”
The R&D team that creates and refines these new technologies for LG is based in South Korea and works closely with its subsidiaries around the world, including LG's extensive U.S. operations. The R&D facility includes interactive setups where the compressors are tested in extreme environments for efficiency and reliability.
The R&D team works closely with LG's compressor engineering team in Carrollton, Texas, and the logistics and sales team in Alpharetta, Georgia. LG recently has looked at ways to encourage after-market sales through distribution channels. 2015 marked the first full year of promoting after-market compressor sales through marketing, advertising and industry trade show programs. “We're happy about the traction our outreach efforts in the marketplace are providing,” Robertson says.LG Electronics USA Inc. at a Glance
Senior Vice President, Air Solutions:
With each new innovation that LG introduces to the market, its research and development team builds on that success to find even better ways of making their compressors more efficient and reliable. “The advancements that LG has made in compression technology have allowed us to make some of the leading air conditioning compressors and systems in the world,” Robertson adds.
Its innovations have continued to meet changing regulations and to meet the needs of its customers. In 2013, LG launched its 25SEER variable speed Scroll compressor, which was followed, a year later, by its second generation Scroll compressor. Last year, LG launched its ultra compact BLDC variable speed reciprocating compressor.
Among recent innovations from LG are a unique oil return system High Pressure Oil Return (HiPOR™) used on high side scrolls. With the HiPOR system, oil is trapped and returned without loss to create greater efficiencies in the system itself, says Robertson. “The high pressure side allows us to return that oil without any efficiency loss,” he says. “That's the heart of the air conditioning system.”
Balloons frame the entrance at the grand opening of LG Electronics USA Air Conditioning Systems headquarters in Alpharetta, GA.
Another recent LG technology marketed in the U.S. for its low side Scroll compressors is a vacuum protection device that protects the compressor against operating in a vacuum. “It allows the high side gas to escape to the low side to help prevent that vacuum, which could allow the electrical terminals to arch against each other.”
Robertson also points to LG's all copper stubs on its compressors, an especially appealing feature for service technicians because these stubs make joints easier to braze, and its proprietary oil formulation that lubricates the compressor and its components without coagulation.
LG recently introduced a rotary compressor for unitary and split system air conditioning. “We're very excited about this,” Robertson says. He says this new product is the result of customer interest in such technology.
He notes that this technology is different from the rotary compressors that were used in unitary split systems more than 30 years ago. There were many failures with this technology and it gave rotaries a bad name in the market.
But it's a new day and the technology has improved immensely. Robertson says these rotary units are less costly than other compressor technology and provide much greater efficiency, particularly with the changing regulations regarding refrigerants. “The technology is better today, the reliability is better and the manufacturing is better,” he says. “Today's rotary is not the one of yesteryear.”Best Practices
LG Electronics Products Bring Energy Efficiency and Comfort to Greenbuild 'Greenzone' Community Center
LG Electronics USA was the leading technology provider for a new community learning center developed for Compton YouthBuild, which provides educational and vocational opportunities for young people who are invested in creating a sustainable future for themselves, their families and their communities
The learning center – a 15-ft. x 40-ft. prefabricated modular facility – was developed for the GreenZone, a featured exhibit at October's Greenbuild International Conference & Expo 2016. The learning center features LG air conditioning, including LG compressors, as well as commercial displays, home appliances and LED lighting.
LG's duct-free air conditioning system installed in the GreenZone module was designed to provide comfort, convenience and efficiency for the Compton YouthBuild center. The ENERGY STAR certified multi-zone system (composed of outdoor model LMU36CHV matched with two indoor units, model LSN180HSV4) operates efficiently and quietly thanks to the LG Inverter variable-speed compressor. The system uses refrigerant piping instead of air ducts, which reduces installation costs and offers flexibility for zoned cooling capabilities. With two indoor units, occupants can use just the air conditioning needed in each zone, further enhancing the energy savings.
The LG products used in the Greenbuild GreenZone underscore LG's commitment to leadership in developing sustainable technologies for greener buildings. The structure, created in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and Building Design+Construction magazine, will be used by Compton YouthBuild to expand its construction-training program and outreach efforts to the Compton community.
Michael Maynard is a freelance writer who writes frequently on issues related to HVACR, construction and
architecture. He can be reached at [email protected].