While Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) technology was introduced to the U.S. over 30 years ago, many in the industry still consider it a recent innovation. With that mindset, there’s a lot of “myths” about VRF systems that we’re setting out to debunk!
VRF is only ideal for new construction projects.
Many of today’s developers and general contractors specify VRF systems to save operational costs in their latest and greatest commercial projects. Building owners and tenants can reap major utility savings given how a VRF system, equipped with a fine-tuned INVERTER-driven compressor, uses only the precise amount of energy required to meet a desired set point. Not to mention, the modularity, flexibility, and relative lightness of compact VRF equipment is ideal for architects looking to create a specific design for a new construction building.
That said, the popularity of VRF zoning in the commercial new construction space shouldn’t lead people to conclude VRF technology is only for new construction.
VRF zoning is equally as beneficial for adaptive reuse and retrofit projects as it is for new buildings. To provide some context, here are two examples where VRF technology played an integral role in retrofit projects.
Walnut Hill Community Church, Bethel, Connecticut
When an older 40,400-square-foot church needed to replace their dated chiller system, a local mechanical contractor from Eastern Mechanical Services, Inc. suggested Mitsubishi Electric CITY MULTI® VRF.
“While the church initially brought me in to replace the chiller, I immediately told them about Mitsubishi Electric’s CITY MULTI system. The church had four, existing 32-ton ducted air handling units. It’s a four-pipe system with a boiler, chiller and coils. Taking those out would have been astronomically expensive and difficult.” – Jim Messenger, service manager, Eastern Mechanical Services
In an innovative strategy for the church, the project team installed Mitsubishi Electric Linear Expansion Valve (LEV) Kits to fit the air handlers. This allowed the unitary products to have VRF capabilities and connect to VRF-manufacturer controls, saving energy and money.
To read the full Case Study, click here.
NoMad LA Hotel, Los Angeles, California
When Sydell Group acquired the historic Bank of Italy building at Giannini Place, they knew it was a perfect location for the NoMad LA Hotel. They just needed a minimally-invasive HVAC system that was flexible in design.
“Space constraints were a major factor for us. Many of the existing city properties we develop are built lot line to lot line. There’s no space to build a centralized plant that has cooling towers, boilers and chillers. VRF was ideal for us because we could put units on the roof that have a small footprint. We were able to add a pool, rooftop bar, restrooms and restaurant; having revenue-producing outlets up there is a great benefit.” – Ryan Bean, director of development, Sydell Group