Mitsubishi Electric released the first version of its Hybrid VRF (HVRF) air conditioning system in September 2013 in the offices of Working Environments Ltd, a company based in Southampton.
Two years on, Mitsubishi Electric has overcome the challenges with its first generation Hybrid VRF system with the release of its second version. The hybrid system uses the best of its existing VRF and chiller systems to deliver what the UK air conditioning market is demanding, namely efficient, simultaneous heating and cooling for office spaces, hotels and other non-industrial workspaces. Over 75% of the VRF market uses heat recovery within the system, as opposed to heat pumps.
Air Conditioning Market Conditions
In addition, F-Gas regulations have had an impact on cooling equipment manufacturers. They have had to adapt their systems to use low-GWP (global warming potential) refrigerants to meet the ever-tightening rules on carbon and greenhouse gas emissions.
Large AC Applications
Therefore, it looks like the timing is right to bring out the next version of its product.
The Innovative Step
The innovative step in the hybrid system is the new 'Hybrid Branch Controller (HBC)'. This is the part of the product which makes the HVRF unique.
The HBC is a self-contained unit in either 8 or 16-port versions with pumps, an all-in-one flow control valve block and plate heat exchangers. The valve block maintains the flow rate and chooses between providing hot water or cold water into the two-pipe system.
Because the flow control valve is self-contained too, it makes designing and maintaining the system very simple.
The HVRF uses the same control systems as existing Mitsubishi Electric VRF, such as the remote and centralised controls. The range of HBCs is bigger now too, as is the range of indoor units, which makes HVRF a viable option for customers to consider.
How does Hybrid VRF Work?
This means there is no need to fit leak detection systems internally. That saves on costs, false alarms and hassle. BS EN378 stipulates the use of leak detection systems where refrigerant is present. When there is no refrigerant used inside the building, leak detection is less of a challenge.
What about efficiency and comfort?
The company has tested its own systems in their Hatfield office for over a year now. Their engineers switched the system between using the regular VRF one month and the HVRF the next month, and monitored the feedback from staff (who didn't know which system was in operation).
The feedback was that they felt the HVRF atmosphere was more comfortable.
What are you going to need to learn to be able to install HVRF?
Tony Williams from Cool Solutions has already installed an HVRF into the offices of consultants, Hoare Lea in Wales. His refrigeration engineers learnt from their heating engineers about working with 'wet side' pipework. It was not a tough learning curve, he said. The wet side pipework size is different to refrigerant, but they quickly adapted.
Engineers are going to need to learn about the HBC, of course. However, Mitsubishi Electric designed the HVRF to be simple to design, install and commission. Any existing approved installer familiar with their kit won't find HVRF too challenging to learn, sell and install.