From evaporative cooling to wall-mounted solar technologies, the HVAC market is dynamic and ever-shifting. CLARK KELLY tracks the trends
Indoor air quality goes beyond good housekeeping or facilities management, encompassing intelligent system design, the use of the right equipment and the use of efficient products, given that heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are critical to the comfortable operation of most buildings and can be responsible for up to 40 per cent of a building’s energy consumption.
Naturally, when looking at trends in the sector, at the top of the list for engineers and for the industry as utility costs continue to rise is efficiency. In Saudi Arabia alone, the region’s biggest market, the HVAC sector is expected to achieve between 30 and 50 per cent growth to emerge as a SR4.5 billion ($1.19 billion) market by 2014, according to data from Saudi Aircon 2012, a leading industry show.
“HVAC is not just a luxury in Saudi Arabia; it is also a necessity for key sectors such as hospitality and food. Given its unique geography, vibrant business environment and growing population, the Kingdom is constantly in search of advanced air conditioning systems that can provide comfort while supporting economic growth,” said Khaled Daou, project manager of Saudi Energy at organisers Riyadh Exhibitions Company.
Although his comments apply to Saudi Arabia, they are easily extrapolated to the rest of the Gulf region.
The region remains a major market for air conditioning due to its hot climate and high individual purchasing power coupled with its HVAC-dependent industries which fuel the region’s largest economy. The domestic market for air conditioners continues to boom due to four major factors: a growing population, the establishment of new businesses, continuous declines in equipment prices due to technological advancements, and a year-round hot climate. These all combine to make the Gulf the world’s biggest air conditioning market. Individual and corporate purchasers are currently on the lookout for products that are more energy efficient and eco-friendly.
Flagship product: The third
generation of the popular Multi
The size of the Middle East market for air cooling systems is estimated at 100,000 units per annum, according to UAE-based ClimaGulf, the master distributor in the GCC for Breezair, a brand manufactured by Australian company Seeley International.
“With all countries in the GCC region supporting environmentally friendly and energy efficient sources of air-conditioning, we believe we can successfully tap into the huge potential that exists across this region,” Sabu Abraham, managing director of UAE-based ClimaGulf, said in a media statement recently.
The technology he believes has great potential in the region is evaporative cooling, use of which he says will rise considerably in the Middle East – hundreds of years after it was first used in a primitive form by the ancient Persians.
The solution differs from typical air conditioning systems that use vapour-compression or absorption refrigeration cycles by employing water’s large enthalpy of vaporization. It can be used in open spaces such as schools, factories, bus stops, sports grounds and outdoor swimming pools. “We forecast exponential growth over the next five years and all countries in the GCC region are supporting environmentally friendly and energy-efficient sources of air conditioning,” Abraham said.
Factors contributing to the rapid uptake of the technology in the region are the increasing awareness of cooling system effectiveness, increasing electricity costs and low-energy consumption of air-cooling systems; and consciousness of health and safety in workplaces requiring comfortable conditions in hotter industrial and construction environments. Being cost-effective is the main advantage of evaporative air conditioning over conventional, refrigerated air conditioning as it requires 20 per cent the amount of energy used by the latter technology.
“Conditions typical to countries like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait or even Al Ain in the UAE are ideal for these systems. However, due to the lack of awareness or probably due to lower energy tariffs, even these regions have been slow in picking up demand,” Abraham said.
Going green can also result in huge savings. With this in mind certain technological trends are beginning to take shape. Samsung’s latest range of air conditioners, Crystal and Max, are designed to lower energy utilisation by 31 per cent, while Panasonic’s new tropical inverter air conditioner range, fitted with the company’s Econavi technology, designed to specifically meet the region’s climate challenges, can cool 1.5 times faster than their non-inverter counterparts and save up to 30 per cent more energy.
Evaporative cooling: Huge potential
across the region
LG Electronics (LG) recently unveiled its new Multi V III commercial air conditioner, meant for large-scale facilities such as commercial buildings, office complexes, schools, mosques, residential buildings and retailers. The third generation of the popular Multi V series, the new air-conditioner will be LG’s flagship product in the region and is a central part of LG Air Conditioning Company’s plan to secure $10 billion in global sales by 2014.
When it comes to commercial projects, there are three major efficiency trends, as identified by Ashok Bansal, AVP and head (Hospitality and Retail), Realty and Townships Division, Feedback Infrastructure Services, an Indian consultancy that provides advisory and project management services across a variety of sectors including transportation, energy, housing, healthcare, retail, entertainment and urban development: Integrated building automation system with HVAC software (chiller plant manager software) to maximise the efficiency of chillers and cooling towers, the use of variable frequency drives (VFDs) in secondary pumping system, cooling towers and centrifugal chillers, also to maximise the system efficiency and the use of Variable Refrigerant Systems (VRVs), the use of which is yet to take off fully despite of the huge power savings and efficiencies it offers.
Rather than using one solution across different buildings, variable systems are the way forward. World-class projects require year-round air conditioning and water chilling units operate long hours, however, studies show that they are under only partial load more than 95 per cent of the time. Using a VSD which can adjust its speed to accommodate the actual load can greatly enhance the energy efficiency of the chiller, saving as much as 20 to 30 per cent during a year.
Using VFDs in the secondary pumping system, cooling towers and centrifugal chillers to maximise system efficiency has become extremely popular at the moment, adds Bansal.
VFD technology reduces energy consumption by optimising motor speed to meet actual demand. And although the use of VRVs have been in vogue for the last six or eight years, he says the trend is yet to find widespread adoption, in spite of the huge power savings and efficiencies it offers.
Trane is one player offering VFD devices, with its new TR200 Series. Designed specifically for HVAC systems, the high-quality adjustable speed drive offers a quick return on investment with prolonged motor life and anticipated energy savings of up to 50 per cent.
“One of the more effective and useful innovative products in the HVAC sector is demand-controlled ventilation, wherein all jet fans are controlled by CO sensors. Motorised dampers control the amount of fresh air in the air-conditioned areas, thus significantly improving the Indoor air quality parameters as well as improving the safety of the basements,” adds Bansal.
The best place to start, say experts, are building automation systems, also called intelligent building management systems (IBMS). Bansal says building automation systems are increasingly being integrated with HVAC or chiller plant manager software to maximise the efficiency of chillers and the cooling tower. Trane’s new Tracer building automation systems, namely, Tracer ES V2.5, Tracer SC, Tracer UC, and improved wired and wireless Tracer space sensors help chief engineers and managers get the most out of their entire HVAC systems. The new Tracer range covers the full spectrum of building automation solutions, managing individual equipment to enterprise-wide systems.
One of the earliest systems on this front is the IBMS reportedly pioneered by Johnson Controls with its Metasys product. It ensures all of hotel’s systems – comfort controls, lighting, fire safety, security and equipment – operate together in harmony. With its innovative, IT-based infrastructure, software and wireless capabilities, Metasys is the one building management system that coordinates and organises all the information logically, then delivers it where and when needed.
Meanwhile, innovations in solar technologies continue. Markus Oberlin, of the facilities management firm Farnek Avireal pointed to new wall-integrated units as the way forward. “The first pilot studies have started on solar solutions that can be integrated into the wall instead of on the roof. This will dramatically reduce energy consumption and should be available at some point in the Middle East,” he told the UAE daily Gulf News recently. “Maybe, studies need to be conducted on how those technologies react to this market in terms of climatic and building conditions.”
Conventional hybrid and solar units are also slowly gaining traction in the UAE as they are environmentally more sustainable than the other more conventional systems. The CSEM-UAE Innovation Center, a Swiss and UAE Government joint venture to support sustainable industrial growth in the UAE, is now partnering with leading companies from Europe, Japan and the UAE to evaluate the suitability of various solar air conditioning units for the harsh regional climate. Rajesh Reddy, the R&D engineer of solar air conditioning at CSEM-UAE, says demand for solar units is rising in the UAE despite higher initial investment than normal air conditioners.
Hybrid air conditioners that utilise solar energy as part of their power supply have already generated considerable interest among residential and commercial building owners in the UAE. Some hybrid solar air conditioners can guarantee savings of up to 30 and 40 per cent of electrical energy based on weather conditions.