Carol Brzozowski 2016-01-08 13:18:10
Historically, hot sunny days have prompted many to turn on the air conditioning. These days, the sun’s rays are being used as a renewable energy source to run HVAC systems. It’s one of many innovative technologies on the market to provide energy-efficient operations. For instance, in a recent commercial application, six SunTrac solar panels were installed on a 30-ton chiller system, which is expected to provide the building owner a return on investment in a little more than two years, and provide energy savings for more than 10 years. SunTrac Solar Manufacturing has partnered with Emerson Climate Technologies/Copeland and KMC Controls to create renewable energy air and heat systems for commercial customers through upgrade, new, and replacement system options. The hybrid systems are designed to provide optimal efficiencies and low operating costs through the SmartPanel. An air conditioner generates heat to remove heat. Recently introduced high-efficiency units feature two-stage, variable speed equipment. SunTrac technology is used to keep the two-stage compressor at low or at a first stage, low amperage drop and add supplemental heat to the system using the sun’s energy that would normally be added by the compressor’s second stage. And to do so with full BTU cooling output, says Mike Weinberger, SunTrac Solar’s executive vice president of sales and marketing. While many solar panels can be used to add heat to refrigerant, controlling the temperature becomes a challenge, says Weinberger. Certain refrigerants operate at particular temperatures and pressures, he says, adding that a compressor can fail when the temperature is exceeded. The SmartPanel is used to dial in temperature requirements for a particular refrigerant. The SmartPanel uses Rite Temp sensor technology to control heat generated by the system, thus safeguarding the effectiveness and longevity of refrigerants and compressors. The system monitors and controls the pressure and heat added to the refrigerant, enabling it to maintain a steady temperature and ensuring system pressures are kept within optimal ranges, says Weinberger. That’s key in places with critical peak demand periods such as California. Southern California Edison is vetting the technology for a potential installation rebate program, he adds. Although results vary depending on the compressor type, manufacturer, age, and condition, an integrated SmartPanel can reduce compressor electricity consumption by up to 40%, says Weinberger. Each SunTrac SmartPanel can support up to 7.5 tons of compressor cooling capacity. For systems with more than one compressor, with each on a separate circuit, SunTrac adds additional SmartPanels to the next circuit for an additional 25–40% electricity savings on that compressor, says Weinberger. “For HVAC/R systems with compressors larger than 7.5 tons, SunTrac’s SmartPanels can be linked in series, accommodating HVAC/R units into the hundreds of tons,” he adds. SunTrac’s Solar Hybrid HVAC/R System integrates with a variety of HVAC package units, chillers and refrigeration systems. It serves as a “mid-life” HVAC/R upgrade for commercial/industrial units in which the HVAC/R contractor replaces worn compressors and/or upgrades the controller and adds the appropriate number of SmartPanels to the HVAC/R unit, says Weinberger. SunTrac systems are scalable, and panels can be linked, configured, and integrated to accommodate larger commercial HVAC systems. The renewable energy technology also qualifies for a 30% federal Solar Investment Tax Credit, due to end December 31, 2016, at which point it is expected to be reduced to 10%. The entire installed cost of the SunTrac Solar Hybrid HVAC/R system upgrade also qualifies for a five-year accelerated tax depreciation and offers a typical payback of less than five years, Weinberger notes. Ducts In another example of HVAC innovations, a 23-story high rise apartment building in New Jersey derived $34,000 in annual energy savings after property managers utilized the duct-sealing Aeroseal technology in exhaust shafts and replaced dampers. The facility also is saving several thousands of dollars more each year through increased heating efficiencies. According to EPA, the US Department of Energy (DOE), ASHRAE, and various industry reports, having leaky air ducts is one of the leading causes of energy waste in US buildings, says Neal Walsh, Aeroseal’s senior vice president of strategy and commercial sales. On average, US building duct systems lose 30% of heated or cooled air through these leaks. Leaks not only prevent treated air from reaching its intended destination but, when related to ventilation systems, they substantially increase energy usage when fans are turned up to compensate for inefficient building exhaust. Dr. Mark Modera, a former US DOE researcher and developer of Aeroseal technology, says 80% of US buildings have ducts that leak 20–40% or more, resulting in building code violations, indoor air quality health risks, and wasted energy. Aeroseal, developed at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in concert with the US DOE, EPA, and local utility companies’ sponsorship, is “a computerized process of applying an aerosol mist of sealant to the inside of the ducts where it locates and seals all the leaks,” says Walsh. The product is designed to meet tight standards for duct leakage in new building construction and repair leaks in ducts and ventilation shafts of existing buildings, he adds. Aeroseal is designed to be 95% effective, with studies finding it to be as much as 60% more effective than manual sealing, and labor and repair costs reduced by 30%, says Walsh. Aeroseal equipment is typically attached to ductwork via a long flexible tube that extends from the equipment to the ducts. “In buildings, the duct connection is usually made at points found on the rooftop—as with ventilation shafts—or via a temporary hole made in the side of the duct itself,” says Walsh. During the setup process, all of the vents serviced by the ductwork are temporarily closed so that any air being pushed into the ducts can only escape through leaks. The Aeroseal service technician uses computerized equipment to measure the exact amount of leakage before the sealing process begins. When ready, the equipment is then used to send an aerosol mist of microscopic sealing particles into the interior of the ductwork. The computer monitor provides details of the leakage rate as holes are being filled. At the end of each sealing event, users can generate a computerized report providing accurate account of the pre- and post-seal leakage rate, says Walsh. Measuring Software In the context of energy, all providers build self-contained infrastructures for which any number of tools can be used in measuring building performance, points out Ted Atwood, trakref CEO. “But they are not built around the ecosystem,” he adds. “And most people do not do the work on their own buildings. They may be a tenant, landlord, service contractor, or a property management company. “There’s a weird dynamic regarding energy in the market. Often, the owner is responsible for the installation and the tenant is responsible for the variable cost of the energy. There’s very little sharing between tenant and owner of the actual expense related to the energy. Additionally, if equipment costs get higher or lower than the usual service rates, there’s no benchmarking, and it doesn’t tie back into the functionality of creating a system health index.” As such, tenants rarely have tools to measure their energy usage in a rental property, Atwood says. The contractor may be performing service on a system that no longer warrants investment. “Because there is no collaboration, the units continue to stay in service and perpetually operate although they may be obsolete by more than a decade,” he adds. Additionally, Atwood says the average amortization schedule from the IRS is approximately 27 years for an HVAC system, and the average unit’s refrigerant life is approximately 20 years. Even with the best system, there can be a lack of granular data to understand its performance conditions, Atwood adds. “Add things like California’s Title 24 to the responsibility checklist and you end up with compliance that is struggling to deploy successful plans,” he says. “People are fined for some AB32 offense (regarding greenhouse gas emissions), which is a refrigerant emissions event that may never have happened and it largely falls into the cracks between the different audiences, each of which has an independent view of what should be happening.” trakref builds on first-generation HVAC measuring software by tying a number of elements together, serving as “workflow logic”, says Nate Hook, UX and digital marketing director. “We know technicians, compliance people, and property owners need the data,” says Hook. “Property management companies need data. The OEM suppliers need feedback on the warranty information and the system performance. If you’re in California, you need the energy information codified the right way so you can remain in compliance. Most of the time, absentee property owners have no idea about the success or failure of the infrastructure supporting the property. They collect rent.” Hook points out that the US DOE “has a tremendous amount of data that’s already been collected, and if we can harvest that information, that would reduce keystrokes for every air conditioner, heat pump, furnace, or window that’s produced.” trakref enables field technicians to use smart tools to harvest the data. By carrying a phone, the field technician geo-locates and identifies asset locations. trakref also addresses the challenge of field technician turnover as high as 30% in some parts of the country. When a technician leaves a company, “he leaves with all of the legacy information on the asset and now the next guy in line has to re-establish his knowledge about the unit’s performance and characteristics,” says Hook. Most dispatch software dispatches service technicians to proximity, not condition, Hook adds. “If you knew the unit’s condition, you may be able to send a Level 4 tech instead of a Level 1 tech,” says Hook. “The tech doesn’t have to get all the way to the job to start harvesting the needed information on broken parts. The tech can look at vital stats and a service history and make an assessment.” Variable Capacity The company, “Aaon” manufactures “semi-custom” products that differ from conventional HVAC equipment, notes Eric Taylor, marketing manager. “On all of our systems, we offer some sort of variable capacity compressor,” he says, adding that there have been more requirements for Integrated Energy Efficiency Ratio efficiencies. “A big part of that has been offering variable capacity compressors, which allow you to reduce the system’s cooling capacity and save energy when you are at partial load, so when it’s not the hottest day of the year, you don’t have to run the system at full on,” says Taylor. “You can run it at partially on and save compressor energy.” Aaon offers variable capacity compressor options allowing users to modulate the compressor from 10 to 100%. The company also offers variable frequency drive compressor control options allowing users to modulate compressor speeds to reduce the capacity. The company also offers a centrifugal compressor that’s akin to the variable speed compressor in that it can modulate the speed of the centrifugal compressor to reduce its capacity as well. All of Aaon’s equipment has foam panel construction. “Everything we build is double wall, so it’s sheet metal on both sides with foam insulation on the inside,” notes Taylor. In a rooftop unit, that construction keeps it from leaking energy out of an HVAC cabinet, says Taylor. “When you are cooling the air in a rooftop unit, you’re going to use all of that cold air to cool the space,” he says. “It’s not going to leak out of the cabinet. The same concept applies with the small air handling units.” This method applies to chillers as well and additionally holds in the sound and insulates it during the cold weather, Taylor says. Aaon also offers geothermal technology. “We have a small package system for each space that’s flexible and customizable,” says Taylor. “You can put energy recovery on it. You can have variable capacity compressors on it.” Aaon also offers rooftop units with geothermal configuration. “We can build a geothermal unit just like we build a rooftop unit, so it will have that same foam panel construction, the same variable capacity compressors, it could have energy recovery,” explains Taylor. “It will have the high-efficiency fans. It’s not just a geothermal unit; it’s a configuration of all of our equipment.” Harmonic Distortion Yaskawa recently released its HVAC Matrix drive (Z1000U), a single-component solution designed to provide extremely low harmonic distortion without the need for additional countermeasures such as passive filters or multi-pulse arrangements. Yaskawa’s matrix technology employs a system of nine bi-directional switches arranged in a matrix to convert a three-phase alternating current (AC) input voltage directly into a three-phase AC output voltage. The design eliminates the need for a rectifying circuit and a direct current (DC) bus used in traditional AC drive inverters. Matrix technology reduces total harmonic distortion levels to less than the IEEE compliance standard of 5% without the need for reactors and filters. A smoother current waveform reduces stress on the system power supply and infrastructure. Reduced distortion improves displacement power factor to 0.98 through the entire load and speed range, lowering energy costs. Other HVAC Matrix Drive features: • An integrated input fusing to provide 100 kA SCCR • Eco-Mode to achieve near across-the-line THD • Integrated C2 EMC filter • Embedded BACnet communications (BTL Certified) • Multi-language LCD operator with hand/off/auto and copy function • Internal real-time clock for event stamping • High carrier frequency (low motor noise) capability • 0-400-Hz output frequency Available NEMA 1 models include ratings of 1 to 100 HP (208 V) and 7.5 to 350 HP (480 V). Z1000U is offered both as a standalone drive, as well as in packaged bypass and configured solutions. Pump Balance The Taco SelfSensing Series with ProBalance integrates Taco KV or KS pumps with a variable frequency drive. SelfSensing ProBalance pumps allow installers to accomplish system balancing for constant flow central plant applications and variable flow building distribution applications. The system is designed to significantly reduce balancing contractor costs at commissioning or startup. Pump performance curves are embedded in the speed controller’s memory. During operation, pump power and speed are monitored, enabling the controller to establish the hydraulic performance and position in the pump’s head-flow characteristic. This enables the pump to continuously identify required head and flow at any point, providing accurate pressure control without the need for external sensor feedback. SelfSensing ProBalance pumps can be run in constant flow mode for chiller/boiler pumps (primary), system curve mode for variable flow pumps (secondary), and constant pressure mode for booster pumps. All three modes are designed to reduce energy consumption. By slowing pump RPMs, pump life is increased. ProBalance is designed to pinpoint true system resistance without inducing false head, balancing internally and automatically. According to Richard Medairos, P.E., senior systems engineer and director of commercial training, this means lower installed cost, no errors in setpoint, a simplified construction schedule and no sensor failure risk. The pumps include automatic alerts with optional shutdown for no-flow, dry-run, and end-of-curve operation, and are electronically protected for overload and locked rotor conditions. Self-Sensing SKV pumps are available in sizes from 1.5 hp to 60 hp. The SKS line is available from 1.5 hp to 250 hp. Taco’s OneTouch ProBalance is an integrated, self-sensing control enabling automatic balancing of SelfSensing pumps—and by extension, the entire hydronic system—with a mouse click. Combined with Taco’s iWorX ProView module, the SelfSensing technology—with a touch of the screen—presents automatically-rendered real-time graphics showing pump performance, system influences, energy consumption, and energy saved. The system also provides automatic alarming, trending capability, and predictive maintenance scheduling. The SelfSensing ProBalance pumps—coupled with iWorX ProView—are designed to accomplish ideal system flow and head pressure automatically. Once installed, the pumps act as their own flow-control and measuring device. Installers or facility managers can use the graphical interface to set the flow and meet system GPM demand. The technology is designed to bring building owners custom integration with reduced installed cost, greater system intelligence, and continuous monitoring and control of system performance, and energy management for the life of the building. Carol Brzozowski specializes in topics related to energy and technology.
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