Uber Advanced Technology Group

Comfort, design flexibility, energy efficiency and the need for reduced carbon footprints are making Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) systems the preferred mechanical system among architects, HVAC contractors and engineers. However, professionals sometimes face a challenge from building owners and developers who perceive VRF systems as being too expensive at first cost, especially when compared to conventional HVAC systems.

For example, an energy modeling expert might show how a VRF system would deliver up to 30 percent in energy savings for an office building compared to a traditional system. Even with the potential to charge lease rate premiums for green buildings, the building owner may feel they’re shouldering all the upfront costs for the energy-efficient VRF system and reaping none of the benefits (those would be passed along to tenants through lower energy bills).

Identifying True First Cost

Although the equipment does tend to have higher price tags, the mechanical bid itself doesn’t reveal the true first cost of an HVAC system. Architects and their clients should account for the full range of installation and operational costs when considering and comparing different HVAC systems.

For example, VRF systems reduce expenses associated with duct runs and plenums by delivering conditioned refrigerant through small-diameter piping. Instead of a 30-inch space for a conventional system with ductwork, a building using VRF might only require an 18-inch space for the refrigerant piping and ventilation air conditioned by a dedicated outdoor air system.

VRF systems are also more compact. Our CITY MULTI® N-Generation outdoor unit, for example, has a 30 percent smaller footprint than its predecessor and many VRF systems are up to 30 percent lighter than alternatives. This efficiency of design reduces first costs related to structural support requirements, and can also translate to reduced labor costs due to a quicker installation process.

The modularity of VRF systems also opens opportunities to defer costs. Developers and building owners can install the tonnage require to temper a building, and delay installing the remaining units until after they secure leases from tenants.

Our recent White Paper, Reducing Costs and Achieving Value with VRF, takes a deeper dive into first costs and the value of a VRF system across its lifecycle. For additional tools and support calculating the return clients can expect with VRF systems, contact your local Mitsubishi Electric representative and visit mitsubishipro.com.