What's hot in climate control?

Sheila Kennedy says chillers, compressors, chilled beams and motor pumps offer energy-efficient alternatives.

By Sheila Kennedy, contributing editor

Heating and cooling are hot topics when it comes to energy efficiency and facility costs. Innovations in chillers, compressors, motors and processes are improving performance, reducing costs and safeguarding the environment.

Magnetic bearing chillers

These chillers eliminate friction because the rotating compressor shaft levitates on a magnetic cushion without contacting other parts. Daikin McQuay (www.mcquay.com) Magnitude magnetic bearing centrifugal chillers, recently expanded to include 700-ton units, use sensors and a digital bearing control system to keep the shaft aligned properly in each direction. Power regeneration capabilities mitigate power quality problems.

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Magnetic bearing chillers are as much as 40% more efficient than standard centrifugal compressor chillers, according to Ray Good, director of chiller product management for McQuay. “This efficiency gain can save facility owners $2 million over the life of the chiller,” he says. “Moreover, the high efficiency can be sustained during the operating life of the chiller because the positive-pressure, oil-free design eliminates performance degradation caused by non-condensables and oil contamination of the refrigerant.”

Smart compressors

Water is far more effective than air in moving BTUs throughout a space.

– Dan Int-Hout, Krueger’s chief engineer

A compressor that doubles as its own sensor can prompt technicians to diagnose problems, plan maintenance and shut down the system proactively before damage occurs. Copeland Scroll compressors with CoreSense Communications, designed for commercial air conditioning by Emerson Climate Technologies (www.emersonclimate.com), combine the sensor capability with an onboard communications module that streams diagnostic information about the compressor’s operation to the system controller. It also provides access to information about the unit’s pre-existing faults.

“Facility managers and technicians using Copeland Scroll compressors will get real-time information, allowing them to efficiently adjust system variables on the fly,” says Chris Mays, commercial market manager for the air conditioning division at Emerson Climate Technologies. CoreSense Communications will first appear on Copeland’s new 40-hp compressor and later be released on the existing 20-, 25- and 32-hp models.

Ceiling and floor solutions

Chilled beams pipe water through a beam to distribute conditioned air. The technology reduces energy costs while providing uniform space temperature control. Krueger (www.krueger-hvac.com) Chilled Beams are used at the ceiling. “Chilled beams offer many advantages, especially in spaces with high sensible loads, which includes many industrial applications,” says Dan Int-Hout, Krueger’s chief engineer. “Water is far more effective than air in moving BTUs throughout a space, so cooling can often be provided at a lower energy cost than with all-air systems in a number of applications.”

Tate Access Floors (www.tateaccessfloors.com) recently introduced In-Floor Active Chilled Beams for use with raised-access flooring. For computer and equipment rooms, it offers DirectAire floor panels that stream airflow where needed, SmartAire dampers to control delivery electronically, and PowerAire modules to cool hot spots automatically.

Integrated system

Integrated motor pumps provide energy-efficient heating. The Danfoss (www.danfoss.com) BFPM-pump system, coming to market in 2011, consumes 50% to 80% less power than a standard single-phase motor and it’s half the size and weight. Designed for high-end oil burners, the integrated system has an efficient permanent magnet motor, an MBS 1900 pressure transmitter that optimizes pressure and speed, and a combustion process that minimizes wear on the boiler.

“It’s a challenge for the industry to develop products that, in their daily use as well as in production, respect the environment without sacrificing the end user’s comfort experience,” says Arne Blom, product specialist for Danfoss Industrial Automation. “Regarding just one element of our pump, the smaller motor, it can reduce annual power consumption by as much as 20 million kWh.”

One-step process

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A new, patented air conditioning process has the potential to use 50% to 90% less energy than high-end refrigeration-based units, and it releases no carbon to the air. The Desiccant-Enhanced eVaporative (DEVap) air conditioner, developed at the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL www.nrel.gov), combines thin hydrophobic membranes, evaporative coolers and liquid desiccants to cool and dry air in one step. Instead of a refrigeration cycle, it uses a thermally activated absorption cycle that can be powered by natural gas or solar energy. Instead of refrigerants that release carbon dioxide, it uses aqueous solutions of lithium chloride or calcium chloride.

“We have successfully tested small-scale prototypes and will be using these test results to scale up the prototype size so that we can demonstrate the technology to air-conditioning manufacturers later this year,” says Eric Kozubal, DEVap co-inventor and senior mechanical engineer for NREL.

Email Contributing Editor Sheila Kennedy, managing director of Additive Communications, at sheila@addcomm.com.

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