Despite inroads by DX multi-splits and VRF systems in recent years, fan coil units (FCUs) remain an important product category in the UK’s building services industry. Advances in design have dramatically improved FCU efficiency in recent years compared with traditional early systems, which has given them a boost.
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The wave of refurbishment of offices and commercial buildings that went up in the building boom of the 1970s and 1980s has also resulted in demand for FCUs, as old systems are replaced with modern, higher performance units.
For those managing such projects, as well installations in new builds, a perennial headache is the number and diversity of fan coil equipment options and designs. With a myriad of types, models and variants it can be confusing to specify the right tech for a particular project. Mistakes can be expensive and result in costly delays.
CIAT, a major global manufacturer of FCUs and air handling units, produces six styles of fan coil with up to seven different chassis sizes, and 17 model capacity sizes in each style. In addition, units can be dressed in a number of ways, and come with the option of standard or high efficiency EC fan, and several plenum and valve options, before even getting into the realm of controls.
The possible combinations and permutations of these variants literally run into thousands. While it means there is no project where FCUs cannot be applied, the number of options can be dizzying.
To address the problem, CIAT has developed an online selection tool designed to speed up the process and minimise errors in specifying equipment for a project.
It takes installers step-by-step through the selection process, and produces a detailed list they can plug into the project design and costings for their customer. If they win the contract, the installer has an accurate and costed procurement list ready to place.
It enables a contractor or consultant to select a fan coil or range of fan coils, and add them to a basket as they would if shopping online in the normal way. The basket keeps a tally of the accumulating contents, and totals up the number, type and cost of the fan coils added.
The user selects the type of fan coil required, whether ducted, chassis, cassette and so on, and then selects it as a 2-pipe indoor, 4-pipe indoor or 2-pipe with electric heat.
Power settings and static pressures can be varied, as required, enabling precise specification of units. FCUs can also be selected on the basis of capacity (kW) or, if there are noise sensitivities on a project, selected on the basis of sound power rating.
The tool shows capacities in terms of cooling (including sensible) and heating, airflow and noise rating at high fan speed, medium fan speed and low fan speed. Prices are also shown for all models, variants and sizes.
If the user needs comprehensive data on a particular unit, there is a download button under each model reference, providing a full data sheet on the specific unit, which can be used in the wider project design and as supporting technical information in a tender.
At the end of the process, the user prints off a summary and a quote for the selected units. They can also enter their own discount code to deliver a final price. To assist with project designs, BIM icons are available for each FCU unit for incorporation into a design scheme.
The selection system is built on an optimised web-based tool, so can be used on a PC, laptop, tablet or smart phone. It is fully automated and removes the manual labour from what has traditionally been an all-too-often complicated and time-consuming task.
The FCU has long been a workhorse of the industry, but recent innovations are opening up new high performance, high efficiency options. For example, CIAT has introduced its EPure air quality filtration system to its latest generation of fan coils, guaranteeing excellent indoor air quality with 90% of air-borne particles removed within 30mins.
And the company’s Coadis FCU has a visual Coanda-effect diffuser grill with a 360 deg throw, to prevent draft issues and provide a more comfortable environment for occupants.
Delivery lead times for equipment can be an issue for fast-track projects. The lead time for a base CIAT FCU is reckoned to be around two weeks, which is ahead of the industry norm, but for non-standard variants involving controls and valves it takes a little longer.
Currently CIAT FCUs are stocked in mainland Europe, but the company is looking to start stocking locally in the UK later this year, enabling a faster turn-around for UK customers.
The CIAT quick FCU selection tool can be accessed here.