Chillers – and the Technology that Controls Them – are Evolving

October 13, 2016 By Carl Weinschenk

chillerHow chillers operate and are controlled is changing.

The conclusions of a recent report by MarketsandMarkets is not surprising: The sector is big and growing. The report says that the worldwide market for industrial chillers will grow from $8.63 billion last year to $10.84 billion in 2021. That is a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.24 percent.

The report, which covers only the industrial element of the market, says that there are five main types of chillers: Screw, scroll, centrifugal, absorption and reciprocating). VThe main players are Daikin, Johnson Controls, Trane, Carrier, Smardt, Thermax and Climaveneta.

There appears to be opportunities for both large established and smaller or new companies as more environmental-friendly refrigerants are introduced and control of HVAC systems becomes more sophisticated due to the Internet of Things (IoT) and other factors. Established vendors have the research and development assets and, even more importantly, customer relationships that can enable them to maintain and grow their customer bases during a time of transition. Smaller players and new entrants can innovate and use the changes to chip off bits and pieces of the market to establish themselves and gain traction.

The news that is emerging against this backdrop is interesting. Most recently, Johnson Controls earlier this week introduced two chillers that feature low global warming options.

The platforms are the York YVWA and York YMC2. The former is a water-cooled screw device and the later employs magnetic bearing water-cooled centrifugal technology. Both can use refrigerant alternative R-513A, which the company says reduces the amount of harmful emissions by 56 percent compared to the commonly used R-134a. The two chillers cover the range from 433 kW to 3516 kW.

In late September, Quantech extended its QTC3 air-cooled chiller line to 200 tons. The QTC3205 offers full- and part-load efficiencies that meet or exceed ASHRAE standards, according to a press release from the company posted at Contracting Business. The new chiller, as well as the others in the line, offer partial redundancy through independent circuitry, brazed plate heat exchangers, microchannel condensers and BACnet Modbus and N2 building automation system communications capabilities.

Not all the news is about new chillers themselves. Two recent announcements focus on the use of modern telecommunications technology to control them.

The first is from far afield, but no doubt something that will impact North America as time moves on. Microsoft says that it has entered a partnership with Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority on a portal-based platform that leverages the IoT, data analytics and Microsoft’s Azure cloud to enhance chiller efficiency. The platform is being used in a two-year pilot project in 30 commercial and industrial buildings in the city.

Designed to be universal to cater to different chiller plant systems, the system uploads chiller plant performance data such as power, water flow rate, temperature, to the Portal which is hosted on Microsoft Azure. Through machine learning and automatic base-lining, the Portal can help detect chiller plant performance deviations that may potentially result in energy wastages. Upon detection of such irregularities, building managers and owners will be alerted via email or SMS, and be shown reports of the chiller performance summary, to help them take proactive and pre-emptive actions to optimise chiller performance and save energy.

The other new technology announcement is from Optimum Energy. Last month, it introduced OptimumEDGE which, the company says, can reduce energy use by an average of 13 percent as well as cut water consumption. The press release says OptimumEDGE uses “relational control algorithms.” These, the release says, controls components in relation to each other and conditions in the building. This replaces established set points that may not be enabling chillers to run as efficiently as possible.

Chillers are vital pieces of equipment. Energy managers and their bosses should pay attention to how the sector is changing.

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