A variable refrigerant flow system consists of multiple evaporators of varying capacity, each connected to one central variable capacity heat pump. These systems feature a heat recovery mode what allows energy to be transferred from zone to zone, depending on needs, with minimal compressor use.
Because each zone has its own unique air unit, it can control the temperature while operating at peak efficiency.
What makes variable refrigerant flow systems unique is the ability to control heating and cooling efficiently through its load diversification features. A building is set up into zones. You can heat one zone, while cooling another. You can use the waste energy from the cooling process to further enhance the efficiency of the heating process.
The benefits of a variable refrigerant flow system are many:
- Offer variable speeds
- Offer customizable heating and cooling solutions
- Improve temperature controls
- Improve occupant comfort
- Offer stronger energy efficiencies
- Reduce operating costs
Using refrigerant to move air around the building is far more efficient than other conventional systems. By having variable speeds, you can match the energy level to the needs of the zone, and only provide heating or cooling as needed within that area.
Moving away from a “one setting for all” approach to HVAC reduces conflicts among tenants that have different needs, and can reduce complaints about changes to indoor climate.
Overall, the systems are often smaller than what a building will currently have installed. Outdoor units units are often small enough that they won’t require a dedicated equipment room, and indoor units can often be concealed in ceilings or retrofitted into existing space.
There are two basic types of systems; one that is air cooled, and one that is water cooled.
If an air cooled system is used, exterior space is required for installation of the condenser unit. The space used for installation has to be away from window, be strong enough to support the weight of the unit, and be accessible for maintenance.
If a water cooled system is used, the system can be placed inside in a small closet. With both systems, a clear path to route the refrigerant pipes must be identified.
While a variable refrigerant flow system isn’t an off-the-shelf solution, and will take careful planning to ensure the load profile of the building offers the proper requirements for setting up the system, it is a viable solution for buildings looking to improve their efficiencies, and have a large number of tenants with different energy demands.
Have questions about installing a variable refrigerant flow system in your building? We’d be happy to provide you with the answers; just give us a call.