Variable Refrigerant Flow, or VRF, is one of the most significant air conditioning developments of recent years, but what does choosing it for your building mean for you?
Traditional air conditioning systems often pump out air at the same temperature to an entire space. This might be suitable for small areas, but what about an office, hotel or restaurant where different zones require different temperatures, even in close proximity to each other?
VRF uses several units, each with their own temperature controls, to provide simultaneous heating and cooling throughout a building. And it does this in a particularly efficient way, creating a truly comfortable environment while saving you money on running costs.
How it Works
A typical VRF system begins with an outdoor unit, placed on the roof of the building. It is connected to a number of indoor units, each of which has its own control panel. Refrigerant is distributed according to how much is needed to achieve the desired temperature for each unit – giving the system its ‘variable refrigerant flow’ name.
The amount of cooling or heating each space needs is affected by a huge number of factors, including the time of day, the number of people in the area and changes in outdoor temperature. Users have complete control, as changing one unit’s settings does not affect the rest.
The VRF system manages both heating and cooling and it maximises efficiency through heat recovery – redistributing excess heat from areas that are too warm to use in areas that are too cool.
Benefits of VRF
Mike Farmer, Head of Technical for 361 Degrees, explains that although there can be a higher initial cost for a good VRF system, they are worth the investment. “When VRF is correctly designed and installed, it’s great from an energy efficiency perspective. It only runs when it’s needed, and the heat recovery aspect really keeps costs down,” he says. Other benefits include:
- Greater consistency – a VRF system responds to changes instantly, keeping each area suitably comfortable;
- Less maintenance – wear and tear is less likely because the system operates only as much and as often as it needs to, while a problem with one unit won’t necessarily affect the rest;
- More control – built-in modern controls allow you to operate the units individually, while the whole system can be managed and monitored centrally.
You may have come across the phrase Variable Refrigerant Volume, or VRV. This is simply another term for VRF, registered to Daikin – the manufacturer that invented the system in the 1980s.
There are now several variations on the technology, including Mitsubishi’s Hybrid VRF, which does not use refrigerant in occupied areas. The below illustration shows how the system saves up to 30% on maintenance costs.
As a partner of all major VRF manufacturers, 361 Degrees can design and install the perfect air conditioning for every situation, so contact us for a free consultation and fully guaranteed quote.