A Breath of Fresh Air: New Air-Con Technologies

MEP Middle East looks at the latest air-conditioning technologies

Aldes' Twisted 850 Diffuser seen in action.
Aldes' Twisted 850 Diffuser seen in action.

MEP Middle East looks at the latest air-conditioning technologies to enter the market and finds out how they are maximising user comfort and energy-efficiency

In the hot and arid climate of the Middle East, air-conditioning is not a luxury but a necessity. This being the mother of invention, the region has become one of the world’s hottest markets for the latest air-conditioning technologies.

Manufacturers are constantly pushing the boundaries of research and development to provide, not just relief and comfort from the region’s harsh desert sun and soaring ambient temperatures, but energy-efficient models which minimise the electricity consumption of what are very power-hungry services.

Add to this the increasing demand for aesthetically-considered designs and it is soon apparent that there is plenty of room for innovation in this burgeoning market.

With this in mind, MEP Middle East takes a look at the latest air-conditioning products and technologies that are bringing a breath of fresh air to the industry.

Reinvigorating one of the oldest methods of air-conditioning is Trane. It has brought adiabatic cooling bang up to date for the 21st century, managing to improve the technology by keeping the water off the coil so that it no longer damages it.

Peter Blanchflower, marketing leader for Trane EMEIA, says that the technology has several benefits.

“You get all the benefit of the cooling but without the wear and tear. It is tailor-made for pretty well all chillers – relatively low cost, relatively easy to install and maintain and usually shows quite an attractive return on investment, which is interesting a lot of buyers.

“One of the key changes in the technology is that the water is pretty carefully metered and that’s one of the advances on the controls side. This saves water which has an economic and environmental benefit.

It is something which we have relatively recently reintroduced and is something which is proving very popular in the existing building market.

It can be fitted to pretty well all air-cooled chillers, not just Trane models.

If it’s any of the other leading manufacturers we can fit it to those as well and we can control it and offer the same sort of return on investment,” he adds.

Aldes’ latest offering to the Middle East air-conditioning market is the Twisted 850 Diffuser which works in a similar way to a swirl diffuser, but is quite unique in its design in terms of its aesthetical aspects, according to Yannick Applasamy, marketing manager.

He explains why the product is more pleasing on the eye than other diffusers on the market: “The inside of the plenum is not visible in the direction from which you are facing whereas, with a normal square diffuser, a box is visible inside along with many gaps which limit its aesthetic appeal.”

The product is popular with architects in France due to its aesthetic charm, but it is also distinguished from the competition by its technical and air performance.

“The product’s plenum is specially designed for its air diffusion capabilities,” says Applasamy.

“What makes this product interesting is the capacity of the product to be used at different airflows while maintaining the swirl diffusion and preventing a blast effect where the air just falls down from the diffuser.”

The Twisted 850 Diffuser has been available in the Middle East for one year now, but has been on the French market for the last three. It has been supplied to Petrofac Tower in Sharjah.

“We are not the only company offering the swirl diffuser, but in terms of this design it is quite unique and is a patented product,” Applasamy adds.

Challenging Aldes in the diffuser market is TROX with its AIRNAMIC swirl diffuser range. The products are the result of extensive development work with progressive materials and advanced production techniques, according to Thomas Orr, managing director at TROX Middle East.

“The use of the ABS plastic technology enables the development and the production of three-dimensionally profiled blades with optimum swirl generation, thus enabling high volume flow rates and low sound power levels.
The AIRNAMIC is aesthetically pleasing while still producing unrivalled aerodynamic and acoustic performance.”

TROX also has the FLEXTRO plenum box as part of its range which, Orr says, is comon request in TROX’s Dubai flow studio.

TROX’s final fresh offering to the air-conditioning market is an addition to its passive, active and multi service chilled beam range – a beam specifically adapted to suit more adverse climates.

The TROX high induction exposed active chilled beam allows for a lower primary air requirement with increased induction for maximised cooling performance and optimum comfort levels, it says.

The product is also said to provide an aesthetic solution, marked energy savings, increased comfort conditions, greatly reduced operating cost, and is practically maintenance free. TROX’s in-house engineers can provide training as well as assistance for chilled beam systems.

Bringing a distinctive innovative streak to the Middle East air-conditioning market, DuctSox’s latest creations can be found in its SkeleCore range.

Skelecore utilises an internal framework system that provides tension to the ducting/diffuser system to ensure that the duct is kept round at all times irrespective of whether there is any air pressure or not.

Tawfiq Atari, sales and technical director of the MENA market, says Skelecore has several benefits. “The internal metal backbone system minimises the fabric sag, droop and the inflation noise of the duct during the start-up.

The Vertical Hanging Suspension System for SkeleCore FTS is the safest of all suspension systems available for textile ducting and is adjusted directly to the ceiling, As a result of this, no horizontal suspension system, attachment points and seams are required.”

However, Duct Sox has not stopped there in its unique diffuser product. Atari says, “DustSox has advanced one step further in its engineering by introducing the new SkeleCore for Return Air, which makes it the first cylindrical fabric duct with return air available in the market.

The air is returned through the orifices located along the length of the complete fabric duct. It is also the first air dispersion fabric ducting system with return air for critical environments.”

Beyond the hardware of air-conditioning technology, Trane also has a range of offerings in the controls sector.

“Trane was the first air-conditioning major to manufacture its own controls and we still do that,” says Peter Blanchflower.

“Someone once said that power is useless without control and that is important to bear in mind when you are talking about a large chiller plant.

There’s a massive amount of power going into these things and they do in fact consume a lot of electrical power, not just with the main chiller plant, but with the ancillary equipment like pumps, cooling towers and then into the building with air-handling units and fan coil units.

“I look at it like a big orchestra. There are dozens and dozens of individual components, all doing their own thing and theoretically they are playing from the same song sheet, but in reality they are not, unless you have a good control system to bring all that data together, analyse it and then start optimising it.”

While Dan Mizesko, managing partner at US Chillers, acknowledges the benefits of chiller control systems, he has a few tips on how to get the best out of them.

“The move now to get into remote monitoring and remote energy control of equipment has its pluses and minuses. If you want to control your equipment remotely, then it should be experts on the equipment.

You should know how the chillers operate, what you can do to save energy, when to shut it off, when to change flows, when to run a particular chiller with different cooling power, the most efficient combinations and things of that nature. Yes, it can save energy but you also have to be careful who you allow to do this service for you.”

Mizesko is also quick to point out that, no matter how advanced the chiller technology, without the proper maintenance from an expert in the field the value of the technology will become quickly redundant.

“Generally in tough economic times people outsource their maintenance as it’s just more cost-effective, plus the people that do it are specialist companies, specially when it comes to large tonnage chillers such as US Chillers.

What I see is people thinking they can do it themselves, thinking that they can save cost, but they really don’t have the expertise, the training, and the updates to really stay current on all this stuff.

“What happens is the equipment deteriorates and it actually costs them more because they don’t have the capabilities to make sure that the chiller is operating Kw per tonne.

That for me is one of the challenges of the industry that people just assume that they can do this service inhouse. Preventative maintenance sounds pretty easy but there are certain skill sets that are required to do the maintenance properly.”

Just as US Chillers are keen to emphasise the expertise of their maintenance services, Danfoss are eager to play-up the energy efficiency of their latest compressor product.

“The most innovative product from our Danfoss compressor division is the inverter scroll compressors,” says Biju Kannan, regional sales manager.

The compressor portfolio in the inverter range is currently from two tonne up to 26 tonne. Of course, all these compressors are with the new refrigerant, R410A, because now all the compressor manufacturers are investing in the new refrigerant as R22 will be taken out of circulation soon.

Recently we heard that the government is going to release regulations on R22 equipments and R22 refrigerants, so we won’t be able to supply these to the Saudi market after 2014. It is no longer considered environmentally friendly.”

The inverter scroll is a technology that will really help the HVAC industry to save energy in air-conditioning and refrigeration, but mainly air-conditioning.

We will fill the gap between the two tonne and 26 tonne models very soon. The inverter scroll has scroll compressor which is driven by a frequency drive, so depending on the cooling demand the speed of the compressor will vary.

When you run the compressor at a lower load condition the power input to the compressor will be less, thereby saving energy.”

Battling Danfoss in the greener, more energy-efficient refrigerant market, LG says there is a lot of emphasis in their factory on shifting towards sustainable products.

Dharmesh Sawant, senior sales manager at LG Electronics, explains: “We are focused on shifting towards not only a greener refrigerant, but a more efficient air-conditioning unit.

We are shifting towards the inverter compressor. We already have our Variable Refrigerant Flow system by the name Multi V which is quite successful, and the acceptability has increased year after year, but we are now implementing this inverter compressor in the packaged unit.

There is a big market for package units in this part of the world because of the number of villas, which use packaged units. So we have adopted the inverter compressor in the package. You get the same technology as the VRF in the package unit.”

Sawant adds that the inverter compressor technology is becoming central to LG’s air-conditioning design.

“The package unit with inverter compressor has been released recently, and slowly and gradually our entire line of package units will be shifted to the inverter compressor.

There is also a constant increment happening in the Multi V VRF system of LG. We will be coming up with a new generation of the VRF system very soon.

“Till now the compressor used in air-conditioning have been a constant speed. The load is 40% or 50% of the full load at which the compressor used to run.

Although there is a tripping system available these systems used to run at full load so a lot of energy was wasted in this. So that’s the reason LG is one of the major manufacturers of the inverter compressor and why we adopted this in our air-conditioning system.

As for the load, these compressors modulate frequency and that’s how the energy-saving is achieved. Whatever the required load, the compressor will only produce what is required.

“LG has acquired LS Chillers so very soon you will see aggressive marketing in the chiller segment also. Currently we are focusing on the VRF system and also looking at the market requirement with Estidama authority in Abu Dhab.

The authorities want to drive the sustainable products so that’s why we are putting a lot of emphasis on the VRF system in the residential as well as commercial sector. That is the need of the industry now.

The industry is moving from the small air-cool chillers to the VRF system. Even some of the conventional standalone DX systems are moving towards VRF.

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