(European Partnership for Energy and the Environment)
Q: The expectation among industry is that chillers and large air conditioners are set for dramatic technological changes. Do you think this sentiment is accurate and if so, what are the changes you expect to see?
A: Changes are challenging – especially because many things happen at the same time – but I am not sure if “dramatic” is the right word since most of the trends were predictable
. We will see a move towards lower GWP refrigerants, triggered by the HFC phase-down in Europe, Australia and on a global level (due to the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol), combined with the ever-increasing importance of energy efficiency . In Europe, for instance, we have the F-Gas Regulation which includes an HFC phase-down of nearly 80% and at the same time very ambitious minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) for chillers. These two developments together represent a tough challenge for manufacturers who have to ensure that energy efficiency will be increased while moving towards lower GWP refrigerants (both fluorinated and non-fluorinated) and, as a result, dealing increasingly with flammable gases . These developments are also expected to lead to lower refrigerant charges, water/brine distribution systems ( lessrefrigerant in piping), and more products will use inverter-driven compressors and fan motors, electronic expansion valves and refrigerant cycle controls . Another important trend that we face in Europe is related to the circular economy, such as material efficiency standards, reparability, etc. Even though today chillers are not the major focus for policy measures related to these topics, manufacturers have to be prepared for these trends.
Q: What is driving these technological changes? How will these forces influence the design of products to come?
A: Change is driven by many factors, including policy measures (as described in the previous answer) but also societal and global megatrends.
For example, we will see population growth with an increasing standard of living, particularly in developing countries, leading to a growing demand for HVACR products and growing energy consumption by the latter – hence the importance of energy efficiency.
In developed countries, increased environmental awareness (climate change being one of the big drivers, even more so now with youth – e.g. Greta Thunberg – taking centre stage), health, well-being and of course digitalisation are key drivers for market change.
We will see a move towards concept and service rather than “just” products; connectivity and smartness will play a key role – but will also lead to necessary developments in terms of cybersecurity, etc.
Q: With change comes risk. What do building owners, facility managers and service companies need to consider when making investment decisions for the future?
A: The most imminent and most tangible development is probably the increasing use of flammable refrigerants. This requires additional safety measures and, above all, competent installers.
Europewe see an increasing need for installers who are trained for the use of flammable refrigerants. For example, our association has launched a communication campaign together with three more partners to raise awareness about the need for installers to get ready for flammable refrigerants.
For building owners and facility
managersit is more important than ever to stay informed about and apply all regulatory requirements, standards, building codes and manufacturers’ instructions, again especially in view of the increased use of flammable refrigerants . They also need to take a holistic approach. Only looking at the HVACR equipment will not be enough; insulation, ventilation and a healthy indoor climate are just some of the factors which will be increasingly important today and in the future, both for the occupants and also for the value of the building.
Q: Although the market for this equipment is global, are there any issues in Australia that will have an influence on what is sold here, or how it is used and maintained?
A: I believe all of the points described above will impact Australia as well, probably even more so given the hot climate.
Australia imports most of its air conditioning equipment, so will be more of a technology adopter than a changer, meaning that installers need to be ready for new technologies imported into the country.
Again, this is particularly important in view of the increasing use of flammable refrigerants and service and maintenance of equipment operated with these refrigerants.