Future Trends for HVAC Industry
By Betty Stephens
HVAC technology is constantly changing due to new discoveries and influences outside the industry. As recently as this century, central, indoor climate control was available to only a privileged few. Today, even central air-conditioning in homes is common in the U.S. Improvements occurred through a number of factors such as technical, market changes, energy and environmental concerns, and political decisions. Changes continue to occur and they benefit of our customers and are our part of our future.
The environment has possibly had more influence on HVAC technology than has energy. The environment will continue to impact the industry into the foreseeable future.
Policies regarding climate change have also directly impacted our industry. As we design and operate more energy-efficient equipment and systems, we use less energy, energy that, in many cases, comes from burning CO2-producing fossil fuels.
The environment will continue to impact the industry. The industry has proven that it can respond in a timely way. As new environmentally friendly products are developed, those products are also more energy efficient. Adopting new technologies and supporting research will help our industry meet the challenges of the future.
While smart, Wi-Fi-connected thermostats promise significantly increased energy efficiency, the real draw for homeowners seems to be how easy the interfaces are to operate. Take the Nest Learning thermostat, for example. It is programmed by the user to remember his preferred temperature settings. If the user prefers the thermostat to kick in a faster, warmer temperature, on cold, wintery mornings, the Nest thermostat will store that information and adjust the temperature accordingly. The thermostat also monitors temperature with humidity and activity sensors, and it can determine regional climate by the user punching in their zip code
Wireless-controlled thermostats present HVAC data in a language that contemporary consumers understand. Homeowners are accustomed to easily digestible, visual representations of information and data. The reporting tools that smart systems include take the mystery and obscurity out of an industry that has been thriving on overall complacency from its customers.
DEVap Air Conditioning
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) developed the DEVap (desiccant-enhanced evaporative air conditioner) in 2011 and estimates that it reduces air conditioning energy usage by 40-90 percent. So far, DEVap is found primarily in commercial buildings, and the technology is so new that it’s difficult to find for residential use. But, given how promising the innovation seems, and how cost-effective it has already proven to be, and is anticipated great gains in the future.
Zero Energy Buildings
Zero-energy buildings that produce energy instead of just using large quantities will gain traction with companies that target eco-friendly employees and consumers. Many businesses are already headed in this direction with geothermal heating and cooling, solar-powered systems, and white roofing. If HVAC manufacturers can work to design structures that are both energy efficient and comfortable for their residents, we’re sure to see some fresh companies take on the challenge.
Variable Refrigerant Flow Systems
A popular trend in Eastern markets, variable refrigerant flow (VRF) is the future of the HVAC industry. Though US market have yet to reach the demand experienced abroad, VRF systems are establishing their place as in-demand items for housing and commercial cooling needs. Simple and elegant in design, VRF systems connect an outside condensing unit to several fan coil units throughout the building. Each coil and evaporator in the system can be controlled individually to reduce waste from over-allocated resources. The shift will stimulate job growth and overall economic development throughout the HVAC sector that will continue well into the coming years.
Current industry trends indicate a future growth rate of nearly 28% nationwide. This trend is predicted to continue until 2018, a total period of researching and studying 10-year industry trends beginning in 2008. Studies have revealed that once the results of that research and those studies are complete, there will be nearly 395,000 individuals who make their living in the HVAC industry, and choose to make this their lifelong career Choice. The rate of change in our industry will be exponential. Some changes will be caused by improvements in technology whereas others will be the result of influences outside our immediate control. As engineers, we have an obligation to be proactive in encouraging changes that are of benefit to the society we serve. This in turn will have direct benefit to our industry and to each of us individually.
Building Management Systems and air-conditioning controls systems will develop to become:
• Intelligent self-learning systems that measure the performance characteristics for the building and its systems for different ambient and occupancy conditions and using thermal modelling technology are able to operate the buildings systems to provide the require conditions whilst minimizing energy consumption and plant wear and tear.
• Self-checking systems that are able to eliminate the fly by wire problems that many systems suffer from, which the head end computer is thinking one thing is happening however in the field the actuality is very different.
• Self-diagnosing systems that are able to determine fault conditions analyses the cause and report or even rectify the condition, systems that are able to recognize fault situations that are resulting in excess energy consumption or unacceptable equipment wear and report.
• Systems with seamless remote access, diagnosis and control functionality.
• Systems with the flexibility to take advantage of wireless technology and the onboard intelligence that is already starting to be installed in items of central plant