Benefiting from the voice of experience in air conditioning
Jody Lees of LG draws on many years of experience in the air-conditioning industry experience to explain what VRF manufacturers can do and should be doing for specifiers, consultants and end-users.
Specifiers and consultants operating in the air-conditioning industry are tasked with delivering to clients the most efficient and cost-effective solutions and must take into account capital cost and running costs. Specifiers and consultants need to be current with new-product development, especially new and technically superior VRF products.
VRF is a tried-and-tested concept with a highly successful track record. In recent years the capabilities of VRF have been extended, for example offering higher efficiencies that are 20 to 30 % better than preceding models, coupled with longer external piping lengths.
A reputable manufacturer will forge a working relationship with consultants, keeping them up to date on what is new and applicable to their projects and offer a full, expert consultancy service from concept through design, supply, commissioning to after-sales support.
However, a manufacturer which looks on a new project simply as an opportunity for a sale is almost certainly not the right company to deal with. Anyone can shift boxes; it is the willingness to go the extra mile that matters to specifiers and especially consultants.
A committed and reputable manufacturer should be able to offer the consultant expert resources from the design stage, such as a 2D or 3D modelling software (although 3D has nowhere near the take-up of 2D). Some manufacturers’ software will automatically take into account constraints such as temperature, necessary loads, piping lengths, combination ratios, efficiency, defrosting and recovery conditions — everything needed to ensure an accurate design, whatever the system and whatever the constraints.
Consultants can, and should, partner with a manufacturer which can provide all of the above around a technically advanced VRF product that includes the choice of a wide variety of interior units. At the same time the product must be efficient in operation and meet the growing trend towards smaller footprints on external units, which are also lighter and quieter in operation.
The manufacturer must ensure the equipment selection matches the customer’s comfort cooling/heating needs and be prepared to make site visits. A complete service such as this offers peace of mind.
A long-term warranty on installations performed by the manufacturer’s own trained installers is also a very real incentive for consultants. All these factors are key drivers at early concept stage — as are well designed and interfaced sophisticated BMS controls, essential for whole-building control. Another pointer to a serious manufacturer is one that has established a distributor base with access to a large expert installer network.
Consultant training should also be high on the agenda, and reputable manufacturers will have suitable training schemes embedded in their strategy. Many will have set up free training for consultants on the latest technologies that will typically range from a visit from a local sales engineer to the consultant’s place of work, training at a CPD UK road show or the CIBSE-accredited CPD programme, which visits regions to pass on the message on new technologies.
These courses are very important in order to keep abreast of developments — not least because it can be tempting to stick with known brands and procedures, and so becoming cut off from new technologies and products.
In conclusion a partner manufacturer will give over its resources to the consultant who can use the expertise of the sales consultants, technical department, training and the distributor and installer network as an extension of their own organisation.
Jody Lees is head of air conditioning and energy solutions with LG.