Why VRV Systems are Becoming so Hot

By John Bergman, LEED AP, CEM

VRV (Variable Refrigerant Volume) systems are designed to deliver both optimum heating and cooling conditions simultaneously, an HVAC solution enjoying nothing but red-hot popularity within the industry.

It’s safe to say that 10 years ago most of us hadn’t heard of VRV, but today the option pops up in virtually every discussion that builders have when considering HVAC systems for their next project.

Does VRV really merit all this attention? Is it really a superior solution to almost all of our challenges of efficiency, space, maintenance, cost, comfort, reliability and flexibility? Absolutely!

Historically speaking, VRV heat pump systems were developed by Daikin in Japan in 1982. A decade ago, it’s likely you hadn’t even heard of Daikin either – though the company is the largest HVAC equipment manufacturer in the world!

Energy efficiency brings attention to VRV 

Several features have propelled the development of VRV, the foremost being energy efficiency. VRV can be among the most efficient HVAC systems and Japan has some of the most expensive electricity in the world. VRV also promised a high degree of individual control, which is sought after in Class A office and in high-rise residential projects.

Architects have embraced VRV because of the wide range of indoor units that solve almost every architectural challenge. Both indoor and outdoor, VRV units are very quiet, so sound walls are not needed in urban settings. Roof space is becoming a more serious consideration, particularly in multi-family developments, where “green” roofs, social gathering spaces and swimming pools are becoming high-priority amenities.

Architects also like the fact that VRV outdoor units require only about one-third of the roof space required for conventional condensing unit farms. The only maintenance requirement with these systems is periodic filter cleaning.

Heat pump HVAC systems are essentially systems that take heat (BTUs) from where you don’t want it and transport it to where you do. In the summertime, you want to move the heat outside and, logically, in the winter, you want the heat inside to stay warm. In either example, the BTUs are “transported” by refrigerant requiring only a couple of two or three inch holes inserted in walls and floors, instead of the large holes needed for traditional ductwork air systems.

This movement of BTUs via refrigerant is the key to VRV’s excellent efficiency. There are many hours per year when a building may require heating in some zones and cooling in others at the same time. One example is that the interior core of an office building requires cooling even in mid-winter, because it’s subject to a cooling load caused by people, lights, plug loads, etc.

Since the core is surrounded by conditioned spaces, this heat has nowhere to go and must be “conditioned” by the HVAC system. In a conventional system, the heat pump compressor “pumps” the heat to the outdoors. However, in a VRV system, the heat is transported by the refrigerant from where there is a surplus (in the core) to the perimeter of the building where heat is escaping through the envelope and there is actually a heat “deficit.” This method of transporting heat costs a fraction of the energy of the conventional system.

Things to consider when choosing a VRV system

When considering a VRV system, it’s important to consider a number of factors:

  1. VRV systems are sophisticated and complex, and require flawless installation – but the benefits are worth it!
  1. The installation and design teams require proper training and experience – and it’s beneficial that local training is available.
  1. Access to local service and parts is important in the event of necessary repairs down the road.
  1. The coverage outlined in the system warranties is also important to understand upfront and prior to installation.

The number of VRV systems being installed globally is growing at a rapid rate. Hopefully, this overview helps you better understand the many benefits of this efficient HVAC system solution.

This sponsored article is courtesy of Havtech. John Bergman, LEED AP, CEM is the Marketing Director at Havtech, a large Columbia-based HVAC manufacturers’ representative. For more information, contact John Bergman at johnbergman@havtech.com or visit www.havtech.com.

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