There have been a number of factors affecting the changes taking place in the air conditioning industry over the past few years.
The reduction in refrigerants with a global warming potential (GWP) is happening. R22 refrigerant can no longer be sold or used to top up systems under the new F-Gas legislation. Looking to the future, other refrigerants such as R404A and R410A will be phased out or phased down.
Leak detection has become another factor that installers must bear in mind, British and European Standard BSEN378 (Refrigeration Systems and heat pumps safety and environmental requirements) is particularly notable. It restricts the use of refrigerants in buildings in order to minimize possible dangers to occupants and property arising from leakage.
Hotels, for example, are affected since leakage of a systems refrigerant into a single room could exceed the levels set out in BSEN378.
Leak detection must be provided if, in the case of R410A, a concentration of 0.44kg/m³ could be exceeded if the entire refrigerant from a system were to leak into a single room.
Air conditioning technologies have adapted to take these factors into account. We are also seeing a drive to make our buildings more energy efficient. For example, new minimum energy efficient standards (MEES) will come into force in April 2018. From that date, it will be illegal to rent out or to sell a building which has an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) rating of F or G
Air conditioning has a significant impact on the energy use of the building, so leading manufacturers have been developing technologies to optimize energy efficiency.
Over the last 20 to 30 years, air conditioning technology has evolved, with VRF Systems (Variable Refrigerant Flow) gaining a lot of popularity.
This in part is due to the fact that ductwork is not required for this type of air conditioning. One outdoor condensing unit can be connected to a number of indoor air handling units, reducing cost and installation time.
Refrigerant is cycled from the outdoor unit to the indoor air handlers where hot or cold air is distributed. One of the main benefits therefore is that the system can heat and cool in different spaces around the building, creating higher energy efficiency through the use of heat recovery and supporting good occupant comfort.