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Next Evolution of High-Performance Buildings
In 2005, U.S. Congress defined a high-performance building for the first time, explaining it as “a building that integrates and optimizes all major High Performance Building attributes, including energy efficiency, durability, life-cycle performance, and occupant productivity.” Congress further clarified the definition in 2007 to read as follows:
“HIGH-PERFORMANCE BUILDING- The term ‘high-performance building’ means a building that integrates and optimizes on a life cycle basis all major high-performance attributes, including energy conservation, environment, safety, security, durability, accessibility, cost-benefit, productivity, sustainability, functionality, and operational considerations.”
For more than a generation, sustainable technology initiatives have promoted energy efficiency and water conservation for all building systems. This momentum pushed the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to max-tech. In other words, every pump, fan, and compressor that moves water, air, and refrigerant through building systems has been optimized. Heat is transferred and directed through variable flow strategies for the most efficient operation of the building. Fossil fuel burners are modulated for the most effective burn of the fuel. When moving components are speed controlled zero to 100 percent max-tech is achieved and thermal delivery for the comfort of all building occupants is normalized.
What will the next challenge be?
The transition to low-GWP refrigerants for residential and commercial comfort cooling and commercial refrigeration will include alternatives that are mildly flammable, highly flammable, and have a higher toxicity than those used today. Refrigerant flammability creates novel challenges for the delivery chain never before evaluated and addressed as a whole. The insertion of low-GWP refrigerants reduces the mass pumped by the compressors, i.e. grams of propane (R290) will transfer more heat than pounds of R-410. External market forces will hasten the implementation by many large manufacturers of HVAC equipment and plumbing appliances.
Clean Energy = Decarbonization = Electrification
Decarbonization refers to the reduction or elimination of carbon dioxide from energy sources. According to the World Economic Forum, full decarbonization of our energy systems is the only solution to climate stabilization. In practice, getting to zero net emissions requires switching to clean energy sources and shifting from fossil fuels to electricity. Incentive programs reward the utilization of heat pumps for domestic water heating and comfort cooling and heating.
Why are heat pumps attractive to building owners?
A heat pump water heater works like a refrigerator in reverse. In a domestic water heater, it uses technology to capture heat from the surrounding air and transfers it to stored water inside the tank. Because heat pump water heaters are moving heat versus generating heat, they are able to operate more efficiently. Depending on hot water usage and utility rates, heat pump water heaters can save consumers an average of $300 in energy each year, when compared to a standard electric water heater.
New Train-the-Trainer Program Will Expand Workforce and Promote Carbon Reduction
With looming manpower shortages in every sector of the construction industry, including heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration (HVACR), it is critical that the highest skills be maintained, not just by workers, but by those who train them. To that end, on August 4, 2021, an all-day train-the-trainer session on heat pump performance was held at United Association Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 22, West Seneca, NY.
The session was jointly held by the International Training Fund (ITF) of the United Association of Plumbers, Pipefitters, Sprinkler Fitters, Welders, and HVACR Service Technicians (UA) and North Park Innovations (NPI). This event is the result of New York State’s commitment to the most aggressive clean energy and climate agenda in the country. New York’s carbon reduction target requires transformation of the built environment in order to achieve an 85 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. All heat pump product families are commercially available solutions in the market today. New York has identified two keys to success: Over 200,000 homes per year upgraded to be all electric and energy efficient, and by 2050, over 600,000 commercial, institutional, and multi-family buildings need to cut energy use in half and end fossil fuel use.
The ITF, in partnership with NPI, has created two types of training modules to support this program. One is a heat pump water heater and the other is a split system heat pump. Both units have iManifold Pulse® equipment mounted for demonstration purposes. “One of the unique features of our iConnect Training® product line is that it provides data acquisition for real-time display and diagnostics of system performance,” says Bill Northrup, CEO of North Park Innovations. “This represents the future of HVACR commissioning and service to ensure the most optimal energy efficiency of the systems.”
Robert Vilches, ITF Training Specialist, promotes a further understanding by harvesting pressure and temperature levels. “Data collection by the iManifold Pulse system is incorporated into the hands-on training. Devices such as the iManifold aid in collecting and understanding the data to prove performance of an installed system. The iManifold will simplify the reporting process for the incentive programs that require proof of proper operation. The data collected is populated onto an easy-to-read report that was collected by a device. An added benefit of using this device in a training environment is it allows students to see the system changes live. The instructor can fault a system and the change is seen live on-screen. This training aid increases student retention and understanding of system operation.” NYSERDA (New York State Energy and Research Development Authority) awarded a funding match to enable the development of high-tech products to train current and future technicians in New York State’s HVACR industry.
Heat pump theory in the classroom was delivered by education partner, ESCO Institute. Eugene Silberstein, ESCO’s Director of Technical Education and Standards, lectured on techniques and procedures necessary to ensure a properly sized, installed, commissioned, and maintained heat pump system. According to Eugene, “The importance of heat pump system performance training to our industry cannot be stressed enough and was evidenced by the dedication of the instructors who participated in this training event. The energy level was amazing! I am quite certain that, with the ongoing support they are receiving, these instructors will be able to successfully deliver high-quality heat pump training at their home locals.” Additionally, the ITF created a Blackboard shell for digital deployment of Eugene’s curriculum.
The Ensuing Frontier
As HVACR systems have evolved to use the most efficient designs and componentry, the next technological evolution to achieve system efficiency is through detailed data acquisition and processing. With the advent of 5G and similar technologies, plus the expected dramatic reduction in cost to make devices intelligent, there will be a tremendous growth of data mining and AI processing of this data. This will significantly change how the contractor and technician interface with their equipment and customers.
This data acquisition must have a complete series of system measurements with real-time data transmission to the cloud platform. The data stream from each piece of equipment will be transmitted directly from the system to a server, which will use algorithms to analyze the data. The ultimate goal will be providing deep learning abilities, which will result in complete predictive maintenance and service recommendations.
nClarity, LLC offers an IOT (Internet-of-Things) platform that pushes real-time mechanical equipment performance metrics to the cloud. Data from RTUs is currently being processed through AI and Machine Learning systems to create HVAC-centric algorithms that improve with time. Today, a library of Building Insights is used by mechanical contractors to help proactively monitor, troubleshoot, and prevent HVAC failures. nClarity is working closely with the UA and North Park Innovations to expand the library of Building Insights, which will be accessible by UA members. This will allow building owners to accomplish more effective installation, service, and maintenance in the same or less hours. Over time, the consumer, the contractor, and the technician will come to rely on these platforms as major tools in their arsenal.
About ESCO Institute
Founded in 1994, the ESCO Institute and its affiliates serve the HVACR and building science fields. It is their mission to improve the technical competency of these fields through validation of the technical education process. To accomplish this, they offer program validation, educator credentialing, portable and stackable credentials, professional development, and an array of curriculum. Learn more about the ESCO Group at escogroup.org.
About North Park Innovations Group
Founded in 1980, North Park Innovations develops and manufactures HVACR and electrical training units and curriculum. This iConnect Training product line is featured in the growing skills-training and vocational markets around the world. The company also created the iManifold product platform, digital monitoring and service tools with software for the HVACR industry, which are now offered by nClarity, LLC.
About the United Association
Founded in 1889, the United Association of Union Plumbers, Pipefitters, Sprinkler Fitters, Welders, and HVACR Technicians (UA) is a multi-craft union whose members are engaged in the fabrication, installation, and servicing of piping systems. There are over 400,000 members affiliated with the UA throughout North America, Australia, and Ireland, including over 350,000 UA members belonging to more than 300 local unions in the United States and Canada.
Pictures from the Pilot Class