New standards for quoting energy efficiency

More efficient air-conditioning — Graham Wright.

With the first stage of redefining how the energy efficiency of air-conditioning equipment is defined arriving in January 2013, Graham Wright of Daikin UK warns that industry professionals must take note of the new approach and its implications on future design and specifications.

The European Union’s response to the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions was to set targets for 2020 of:

• 20% cut in greenhouse gas emissions compared with 1990 levels;

• 20% increase in the share of renewables in the energy mix;

• 20% reduction in energy consumption.

This resulted in a raft of new legislation to help member countries meet targets.

One of the most significant pieces of legislation to affect the air-conditioning market is the Energy Related Products Directive (ErP), laying out new EcoDesign requirements which will come into effect on 1 January 2013. Unlike the voluntary Eco-label programme, this is a legal framework setting new minimum energy-efficiency requirements for air-conditioning systems.

While the new legislation will only affect light commercial systems under 12 kW of cooling, consultation is already underway about setting new minimum energy-efficiency requirements for larger-capacity systems. With energy-efficiency thresholds tightening further in 2014, even more products are likely to be affected in the future.

The new EcoDesign requirements mean that from January 2013 all products will be labelled according to their seasonal energy efficiency over the entire year. This is not just tinkering with energy-efficiency labels but represents a fundamental shift in the way energy efficiency is assessed and gives a more realistic picture of real-life conditions.

Seasonal energy-efficiency rating reflects the lower energy consumption at part load of inverter-controlled products such as Daikin’s Sky Air range.

The existing nominal ratings, energy-efficiency ratio (EER) for cooling and coefficient of performance (COP) for heating, reflect how products perform at nominal ambient temperatures of 35°C and 7°C and assume full-load conditions all year round. They make no account for geographical location.

These climatic extremes are not ideal for judging continuous performance in the UK and northern Europe, as products may perform very differently when in use. In fact, 70% of the operating time of air-conditioning systems in these regions is outside of these parameters; small wonder, then, that the time has come for a significant overhaul.

The two new measures of energy efficiency are seasonal energy-efficiency ratio (SEER) and seasonal coefficient of performance (SCOP). They consider a number of factors, including energy performance in different climate zones, energy consumption in auxiliary modes and different load requirements through the seasons.

Europe has been split into three climate zones, each with its own realistic temperature range. Products will be rated according to the zone in which they are being used. Although this system throws up a number of anomalies, it is still a significant improvement on the existing system.

Also, because in typical European climates air-conditioning equipment will be running at partial capacity for much of the time, rather than being on full power throughout the year, both the SEER and SCOP calculations consider the energy efficiency of equipment when it is running at part load.

This is good news for inverter-controlled products, such as the Daikin Sky Air range. The SEER reflects the inverter’s lower energy consumption as it needs only the power necessary to match the load — reducing both annual energy consumption and operating costs.

The new measures also factor in the energy consumption of products in auxiliary modes such as standby or off, or when the thermostat is off. While these factors reduce the apparent energy efficiency of the product, as a result the SEER and SCOP ratings are a more accurate reflection of real-life energy performance than the previous nominal system.

The SEER and SCOP ratings will be displayed on a product’s Energy Label, which is the vehicle the EU has chosen to drive the ErP standards. These labels have been redesigned to take into account the new ratings. Previous labels only had to show cooling EER and energy consumption, but the new labels need to show SEER, SCOP and energy consumption in both heating and cooling modes.

Air-conditioning equipment in the UK seldom runs at the full load that is assumed by current measures of energy efficiency.

It is worth noting that the old EER and COP ratings do not relate to the SEER and SCOP ratings and are not comparable. Manufacturers will have no choice but to recalculate their products’ energy-efficiency ratings according to the new parameters.

Suppliers and installers of high-end residential or light commercial air-conditioning products must be ready for the new legislation, and specifiers will need to understand labelling so that they can accurately assess energy performance of different air-conditioning systems.

There is no doubt that achieving the EU’s targets to reduce emissions and energy consumption will be an enormous challenge for Government and industry, but legislation such as the ErP will help. It is certainly a major wake-up call to manufacturers to ensure their air-conditioning equipment meets minimum energy-efficiency standards and that older, less-efficient products are phased out without delay.

Graham Wright is legislation specialist with Daikin UK.

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