Talking to participants at the Future:Air educational roadshow, the CEO of the Air-Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), Stephen Yurek, said the only constant for the HVACR industry right now is change.
This includes a global push for energy efficiency and a refrigerant transition. He said consumer preferences are driving innovation and industry consolidation is accelerating.
“Economic growth promotes plenty of mergers and acquisitions and the latest round of activity is shifting the technology balance from west to east; this is because the majority of companies seeking to merge are from Asia,” Yurek said.
He listed a number of examples including Daikin's acquisition of Goodman (residential) and McQuay (commercial), Mitsubishi's Climaveneta buy and Tica's purchase of Smardt.
At the same time, Yurek said refrigeration has come full circle.
“The industry began with hydrocarbons and ammonia and those refrigerants are returning. But, we need to transition safely,” he said.
“This transition is different to any we have done in the past because we are dealing with A2L and A3 refrigerants.
“We need to ensure equipment is safe and increase the training and expertise of technicians. This means greater safety during installation, use, maintenance and the decommissioning of equipment.
“We also need to design equipment to limit risk.”
Yurek said AHRI has undertaken testing and research to gain a better understanding of ignition risks.
In a reach-in cooler test using 200g of R290, Yurek showed a high speed flame extending 3.5 metres from the cooler in 27 milliseconds.
“The research has assisted in the development of training materials and guidelines,” he said.
On the subject of cooling trends, Yurek said chiller technologies are increasingly utilizing variable frequency drives, oil-free compressors, variable volume ratio technology, and high efficiency condenser fans.
“We are seeing more solar-powered commercial AC units using mirrored lenses as well as ice powered commercial AC units using thermal storage technology,” he said.
“This is in addition to desiccant-enhanced evaporative AC units combining evaporation with dehumidifying liquified desiccants.”
Yurek said hydrogen-enriched natural gas, heat pump boiler systems and geothermal heat pumps are at the forefront of heating trends.
He talked about rapid cooling technologies which reduce or eliminate bacteria growth enhancing food safety and app-based monitoring to rapidly identify refrigerant leaks.
“Increased climate events has led to a greater focus on infrastructure and resiliency by strengthening building codes,” Yurek said.
“Mechanical systems need to be protected from chemical/bio/radiological harzards.
“There is also a shift away from the mechanical to IT including control panels, big data and analytics.
“There will be over 20 billion interconnected devices by 2020. To accommodate this skills in the field are changing.”