Air conditioning

Air conditioning - an important technology for a better life

Currently we are about 7.5 Billion people living on this planet. This means we have 7.5 Billion living Air Conditioners because our body is also an Air Conditioner.

No matter whether we inhale the air to breathe in the desert at + 45C or at the North Pole at -45C our body tries to bring the air at a temperature of about +37C into the lungs. Therefore our body is the oldest but at the same time one of the most sophisticated Air Conditioners because we don’t need compressors, refrigerants or other components to condition the air.

When Willis Carrier joined the Buffalo Forge Company in 1901 after his studies at Cornell University and designed the first Air Conditioning system for a printing company in Brooklyn little did he know what impact his invention would have on society all around the globe. Because of WWI Buffalo Forge sold the Air Conditioning Division and Willis and six colleagues started the Carrier Engineering Corporation and moved to Syracuse, NY.

The biggest changes in the Air Conditioning industry since this start of Willis Carrier we see nowadays all around the world.

Mainly driven by legislative regulations but also through the global drive towards a greener world we see huge changes in technologies and refrigerants, within the group of players of the industry manufacturing Air Conditioning equipment and we see a change from trying to market a simple chiller or heat pump to offer a integrated, controlled, optimized and complete system for a better Indoor Air Quality.

We also see a trend in modern buildings to integrate lighting systems and windows into the control circuit of energy efficient Air Conditioning systems. In the future we will see systems which control any equipment or machine which has an influence on the heat – or cold load of a building.

This is a major challenge for any manufacturer within the HVAC industry because the typical pure ventilation, pure chiller or pure boiler manufacturer will not be around for too long anymore. We see already conglomerates, mainly from the US and Asia, who diversify their activities into all fields of Indoor Air Quality equipment – they become specialists in Heating and in Ventilation and their background is mainly already chillers and heat pumps. The latest movements in the markets show that the bigger companies become bigger and the smaller, mainly family owned and family managed are being taken over by the conglomerates.

To minimize global warming impact, global regulations are requiring manufacturers of chillers and heat pumps units to reduce direct and indirect emission of CO2.

In Europe, ERP Regulation has defined minimum level of seasonal efficiency, with different lots dedicated to cooling, heating, comfort and process application. This is a minimum requirement to market energy consuming products inside the EU. The direct consequence will be an improvement of the energetic level of the new installed products.

Starting from CFC, then moving to HCFC refrigerants - both of them with a dangerous effect to the atmosphere in terms of ozone depletion and global warming impact - thanks to the Montreal Protocol, the AC world changed to HFC, to completely set to zero ozone depletion effect.

With the issue of F-Gas Regulation inside the EU and other parallel Regulations in the rest of the world, the AC industry has entered in the fourth refrigerant revolution. The challenge is to minimize the global warming effect with a phase down program, reducing by 2030 F-Gas Emission down to 21%. This will be possible moving to new generations of synthetic refrigerants (i.e. HFOs) or to natural refrigerants.

Different alternatives are available for low / medium / high operating pressure refrigerants, but in all cases in parallel to the decrease of GWP level new challenges will rise: flammability, efficiency, operating pressure, toxicity. The entire technology gets much more complex!

For larger capacity applications the main current refrigerant is R134a (HFC / GWP = 1430)

Main alternative solutions to R134a are:

  • - R513A (HFO / GWP = 631)
  • - R1234ze (HFO / GWP = 6)
  • - R1234yf (HFO / GWP = 4)

For small / medium capacity units the main current refrigerant is R410A (HFC / GWP = 2088)

Main alternative solutions to R410A are:

  • - R452B (HFO / GWP = 676)
  • - R454B (HFO / GWP = 467)
  • - R32 (HFO / GWP = 675)

Main natural refrigerants suitable for AC are:

  • - R290 / Propane (HC / GWP = 3)
  • - R717 / Ammonia (GWP = 0)

In general the AC industry will have to move towards the lower GWP refrigerants if not to as many natural refrigerants as possible as we see in Nordic countries already.

The entire AC industry is becoming greener in two aspects:

1. Green in terms of higher efficiency levels for the units itself
2. Green in terms of lower GWP levels of the refrigerants being used

This move is a challenge but also a great opportunity!

AC is EACY!

Michael Bauer
AC Segment Director
Systemair

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