Kings of cool
Specialists dealing in HVAC systems and design share their opinions about this segment
Is there enough awareness in India about variable refrigerant flow (VRF) technology?
Senthil Thangam: This system is gaining rapid acceptance in the Indian market and is growing at the rate of 15 to 20% every year. The VRF technology is the latest development in the air-conditioning field which integrates the air conditioning system through highly sophisticated electronics, offering precise control of temperature and high power savings to the customer. Blue Star offers a comprehensive range of VRF systems, starting from as low as 4 HP to as high as 112 HP. The VRF system offers a wide choice of indoor units for the customers/architects to suit their interior design requirements. They are also very compact and easy to install. To cater to the growing tier 3 and tier 4 markets, Blue Star has introduced a pre-piped VRF system that is easy to install. This will enable the system integrators to offer the VRF technology even in smaller towns. We believe this product can further penetrate VRF technology across the country.
Sunil Khatwani: The VRF industry has been steadily growing in India due to increased awareness. Segments like residential, hospitality, healthcare and offices are contributing to this growth. VRF systems are quite energy efficient and, hence, preferred by architects, HVAC consultants and end users. A wide variety of indoor units – wall-mounted, cassette, fan-coil, ducted, AHUs, etc – can be connected to the outdoor unit. Large piping distances between indoor and outdoor units also make them suitable for modern buildings with glass façades. The total piping length can be as high as 1000m. VRF systems have replaced split ACs in smaller applications, and even chillers for applications with a capacity requirement of about 1000 TR. We have a wide range of VRF systems: top discharge and side discharge VRF systems have high-energy efficiency along with high corrosion resistance with two coatings on the fins viz. corrosion resistant ‘Ocean Black Fin’ and Hydrophilic coating; water-cooled VRF systems with shell and coil heat exchangers especially designed for India; and Hydro Kit, which has hot water generation along with VRF systems for up to 80oC.
Bedanta Saikia: It’s an energy efficient system. I believe, at least in the sectors I am involved in, there is good awareness… but there can be more.
What advice would you offer about installation or modernisation of an HVAC system to retrofit old buildings?
Thangam: Most of the air conditioning systems offered 15 years back were not energy efficient, neither eco-friendly and were least sophisticated in terms of controls. While offering retrofit solutions, the architect must consider these factors: the need for an eco-friendly system; energy efficiency requirements based on the usage pattern; flexibility of the systems required; minimal alterations to the existing set-up; the expected life of the new systems; and new regulations and statutory norms such as the ECBC and Green Building norms.
Khatwani: Selecting a new HVAC system or retrofitting one in an old building are largely governed by the same factors. In fact, whether the installation is being carried out in an occupied building, is itself one factor. One needs to consider the capacity required; water availability for 15 years; the usage pattern; the purpose of use; façade of the building; the energy-efficiency of the new equipment; criticality of usage; whether a Green building certification is required; noise levels; regulations; availability of space and power; and availability of space to manoeuvre the equipment inside and on top of the building.
Saikia: We need to first question the need of the HVAC. Design strategies such as adding shading devices; adding wall and ceiling/floor insulation to reduce the need of HVAC; and looking at improving natural ventilation, will ensure use of direct cooling only when essential. We also need to select a system that is energy efficient and easy to maintain.