VRF (Variable Refrigerant Flow) or VRV (Variable Refrigerant Volume) Air Conditioning Systems have been around for over 30 years, only only in the last 5 years, have they really caught on in the US for the residential market. This technology was first developed in Japan by Daiken in 1982, initially for commercial use in large buildings. VRF or VRV Air Conditioning systems have become increasingly popular where the homeowner wants each room to have it’s own climate controls, while having a system that is highly efficient and more cost effective. These systems can save 30% in energy costs alone compared to traditional high efficiency air conditioning systems that have one outdoor unit feeding one indoor air handler, not to mention that VRF
systems on average are much quieter.
The term Variable Refrigerant Flow or Variable Refrigerant Volume (the later a trademark of Daikin) are both very cryptic names, but they do suggest how these systems work. Most homeowners are just now hearing about these systems but don’t know much beyond that. Variable Refrigerant Flow systems do just that – they are systems that have a variable speed compressor and fans that vary the amount and flow of refrigerant to multiple air flow units in each room, based on the demand of each room independent of other rooms. Got that?
With more traditional home air condition systems, you tend to have one outdoor, single or dual speed compressor, that feeds refrigerant to a much larger indoor air handler mounted in a closet or attic space. From there, flexible air ducts move cool air to each room. These systems can have multiple zones, but they tend to use air baffles to regulate the flow of cool air. Because most air ducts tend to reside in hotter attic spaces, there is a slight loss in energy in each air duct run and the noise level is increased as you move large volumes of air longer distances. With a VRF based air conditioning system, you have one outdoor unit feeding a number of individual indoor room units, each connected to the compressor with its own insulated copper refrigerant line. The compressor will only run at a speed needed to provide the right amount of refrigerant to each room for maximum efficiency and quietness.
To highlight how a VRF Air Conditioning system works, a rooms that face the rising sun are likely to warm up early in the day. As these rooms warm, the rooms thermostat will send a request to the outdoor compressor to provide just enough refrigerant for just that room – no more an no less. As the sun continue to rise and expose more of the home, each room requests refrigerant and the compressor responds to demand and not try to cool an entire home and/or zone. Basically, its a demand driven system instead of a system that is on or off for that entire A/C systems.
The graphic above shows the wide variety of air flow units for individual rooms. This type of system moves refrigerant to individual room air flow units. Think of them as quiet, ultra efficient mini air conditioning units for each room instead of a much larger traditional unit that moves cooled air from an air handler to a room over long air duct runs. Moving refrigerant is simply much more efficient.
When are VRF Air Conditioner Cost Effective ?
VRF Air Conditioning systems are most cost effective in new home construction or major remodeling efforts where air duct work doesn’t already exist, or where you want individual control in every room. For homes that already have ductwork, and the owner doesn’t want each room to have its own thermostat, there may be air conditioning systems that are more cost
effective. Berkun Air can always give you advise on what best works for you.
Factors to consider with a VRF Air Conditioning System
Not every air conditioning contractor can design a VRF or VFV Air Conditioning system and most all air conditioning manufacturers will not sell a VRF system to a contractor that is not trained and certified to design, built and start up a new system. In fact, because of the complexity of these systems to as its own network, each
vendor has to be certified to have the warranty be valid. Those contracts that are not certified, and find a way to buy a VRF systems, they likely won’t be able to start the system up and most often have to call in the factory at an additional cost for the warranty to be valid.
For new home construction or major remodeling jobs, an architect will bring in a mechanical engineer to spec out and design a VRF Air Conditioning system. It’s important for architects to know that Berkun Air has over 10 years of certified design and build experience in high end new home construction and major home remodeling experience in Palm Beach with VRF systems. Call us if you have any questions.
Berkun Air of West Palm Beach is certified to work with Daikin, LG, Samsung, Fujitsu and Mitsubishi VRF Air Conditioning Systems. Though less common, both Trane and Carrier are now beginning to offer similar VRF units that are often rebranded systems from one of the providers above.
If you are entertaining the use of a VRF Air Conditioning systems and have questions, don’t hesitate in calling Berkun Air at (561) 842-4362.