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Sat 27 Feb 2010 04:00 AM

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Green cooling

Construction Week speaks to major air-con companies about how they are meeting the increased demand for energy-efficient products.

Green cooling
A sustainable hotel building services design by Scott Wilson, where energy-efficienct HVAC played a major role.
Green cooling
Cathy Crocker, Scott Wilson. (ITP Images)
Green cooling
Dharmesh Sawant, LG Electronics.
Green cooling
Nigel Hawley, Trane. (ITP Images)
Green cooling
Peter Blanchflower of Trane.
Green cooling
Abby Thomas of Panasonic.

Construction Week speaks to major air-con companies about how they are meeting the increased demand for energy-efficient products.

Air-con accounts for up to 70% of the total electrical output in the GCC. This has resulted in a large-scale focus on energy-efficiency measures to try and reduce this consumption. "Over the last eight to ten years, developers have focused on how we can reduce the electrical consumption for cooling," says Scott Wilson associate director of building services Cathy Crocker.

This has resulted in a major focus on district cooling in the region. "A district cooling solution, in the correct application, with the correct design, can consume up to 55% less energy than the equivalent standalone cooling system," says Crocker. However, it is equally important to try and reduce energy consumption at the source, which means the buildings themselves - and this is where the latest developments in air-con technology are playing a major role.

LG Electronics senior sales manager Dharmesh Sawant says that "of late there has been a high interest in environment-friendly air-conditioners." Trane Middle East, Africa and India region marketing manager Peter Blanchflower adds: "The energy-efficiency drive is moving away from individual components like chillers to a more holistic system overview (‘system' kW per ton).

"A high-efficiency chiller does not automatically translate into a high-efficiency system. The pumps, cooling towers and controls must all be integrated to minimise the energy consumption of the entire system."

Eco-friendly refrigerant

Sawant points to the Multi V, LG's premium-brand inverter system. This VRF air-conditioner uses a new eco-friendly refrigerant and high-efficiency inverter. The new inverter allows for optimal control of a single large compressor, based on multi-compressor technology comprising a DC inverter compressor and high-efficiency, constant-speed compressor. The adoption of this technology has enabled precise control dependant on the cooling/heating load, leading to ultra energy-efficient heating and cooling.

"LG Electronics is currently focusing on eco-friendly air-conditioners, whereby the carbon dioxide emissions are controlled throughout the lifecycle from design and manufacturing to usage and disposal, thus allowing the products to be more energy-efficient. In the past few years, LG's residential air-conditioner segment has witnessed enormous growth, together with an expanding market share in commercial air-conditioners, all due to its high energy-efficiency technology."

The latest development is LG's innovative hybrid energy solution systems such as Hybrid COGEN and Hybrid XEO, which has further demonstrated the company's capabilities in energy-savings and cost reduction. Hybrid COGEN simultaneously generates electricity and heat, utilising liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Hybrid COGEN uses 32% less energy, while also reducing the emission of environmental pollutants such as carbon dioxide gas. Hybrid XEO, a hybrid air-conditioning system, combines a highly-efficient, energy-saving inverter system air-conditioner with geothermal heat pumps, one of the most innovative renewable energy solutions. Hybrid XEO is said to reduce energy consumption by about by 30% a year.

Latest trends

As to the latest trends in the industry, Sawant says: "The HVAC industry has developed rapidly in recent years, and the market for HVAC products has been expanding consistently. It has also been catering more for eco-friendly products. The continuous increase in the number of supermarkets and shopping malls has provided an impetus to the growth of the market for commercial refrigeration and cold chain equipment. This certainly highlights the fact that the HVAC industry in the UAE will undergo many changes and expansion within the next five to ten years.

"Through sustainable product management, LG Electronics is helping to promote environmental awareness in society at large. Our motto is: ‘Life's good when it's green ...' Our eco-products will go a long way in helping to create a safer, cleaner world. LG Electronics is committed to establishing clear operational accountability, and creating products that not only enhance consumers' lives, but which also encourage an environmentally responsible lifestyle," concludes Sawant.Panasonic Middle East FZE senior manager: consumer electronics department Abby Thomas says his company's key focus area for 2010 will be split air-conditioners, followed by large-room air-conditioners using ducted units.

"In the case of split air-conditioners, our aim is to provide for multi-functional products. In the case of large-room air-conditioners, we would like to focus on thin indoor ducted and quiet operational units." Thomas says that consumer trends or patterns have been changing rapidly, with such new additional requirements as a quick air-cleaning facility and humidity control for both the residential and commercial sectors.

Energy efficiency

In terms of energy efficiency, Thomas boldly claims that Panasonic is the undisputed industry leader: "Recent tests carried out by ITS, and also by our internal laboratories, show clearly that our energy-efficiency ratio as per industry standards is the highest. If customers require any documentation in this regard, Panasonic can provide this for purposes of comparison." As for the main market drivers, Thomas says growth will invariably come from the major markets such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Trane's new GM for the Middle East, Africa and India region Nigel Hawley says: "Our growth initiatives are focused on market expansion (Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and India) and new product introductions. With regard to the latter, we are especially excited by our new AquaStream range of air-cooled chillers, which are equipped with high-efficiency scroll compressors.

"We are also focusing on expansion of services (maintenance, repairs, parts, etc.), new offerings from our controls and contracting businesses, while we also aim to attract, develop and retain the best talent in the industry.

"Despite the current market we stay fixed on a strategy of profitable growth based on aggressive new product introductions, market expansion and, of course, providing even better levels of customer service." Hawley adds that the district cooling and unitary business segments have been "badly affected by the market downturn, especially in Dubai, and I do not expect to see this changing dramatically in 2010."

The move to green

Commenting on the move to green, Hawley says: "We detect a greater emphasis on indoor air quality from owners and developers, which is also driving demand for more sophisticated and efficient selections. We are the global leader in direct drive, low-pressure, high-efficiency centrifugal chillers, which is the industry's preferred choice for large district cooling projects.

"Trane's philosophy is to produce and sell the most energy-efficient and environmentally-responsible HVAC systems and solutions possible. Refrigerant change is a constant in our industry. Last year was particularly exciting and challenging as a result of the US decision to stop producing equipment with R22 from 31 December 2009.

"This was the catalyst for a massive redesign project that resulted in Trane introducing more new models in 2009 than we had in the previous 20 years. But I want to be clear that this redesign process went much further than simply regulatory compliance. We used this opportunity to further raise the performance of our range in areas where we already lead the field.

"Even in markets like the Middle East, which are not being driven by legislation, we are seeing increasing interest and demand for newer environmentally responsible and efficient product ranges, and we are happy and determined to remain at the forefront of these developments," says Hawley. Trane's offering for 2010 focuses on the following products: AquaStream (CGAM scroll chillers, being the top of the range in the market from a quality, efficiency and durability perspective), new R410a unitary products, a new TVR product (VRF application), chilled beams and eddy current testing.

Hawley says that the demand for environmentally responsible buildings is growing as people realise it is not a cost, but a wise investment. Green buildings are designed with energy efficiency, indoor air quality (IAQ) and sustainable materials in mind. "The right HVAC system is critical to green building. As a leading global supplier of HVAC systems and services, with more than 450 LEED Accredited Professionals (APs), Trane can help clients achieve their green building goals."

Commenting on the current business environment, Hawley says: "I believe 2010 will be just as difficult as 2009 - and, in some respects, more difficult this time around, as we all know what to expect now. I believe we will continue to see growth in Qatar and Abu Dhabi, but at lower levels than experienced previously. Dubai itself will stay depressed for several years to come, but one has to put things into perspective, there are still more new projects here even today than anywhere else in the world."

Enhanced efficiencies achieved with air-con products also translate into more efficient district cooling. "District cooling has been a popular way of providing cooling to large developments. If we can achieve a 30% reduction in energy use through purely building measures, we can in turn reduce district cooling plant sizes, whereby you can service an increased area through the same plant," concludes Crocker.

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