VISIONARY: all central air conditioners manufactured in the US after January 23, 2006 must meet the new federal minimum 13 SEER rating.
FM Magazine discusses the introduction of higher energy efficiency SEER legislation for the HVAC industry in the United States with Group Vice-President of Emerson Climate Technologies, Dick Schul.
With the imminent introduction of higher energy efficiency legislation for air conditioning systems in the United States, HVAC suppliers are scrambling to make necessary adjustments. FM Magazine talks to Dick Schul, Group Vice-President of Emerson Climate Technologies, about what his company is doing.
If someone asked you how many miles to the gallon your car does, you might well have an answer – especially after recent fuel price hikes in the UAE. If they asked you how efficient your air conditioning system is, chances are you wouldn’t have a clue. It is this knowledge void that Emerson Climate Technologies is attempting to fill in the United States in response to imminent US Department of Energy legislation requiring all AC systems to be manufactured to a higher energy efficiency level – or SEER rating.
Short for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, a SEER rating is determined by the total cooling output of an AC system divided by its total energy consumption. The more efficient the air conditioning equipment, the higher the SEER rating and the less it costs to operate. All central air conditioners manufactured in the US after January 23, 2006 must meet the new federal minimum 13 SEER rating, a 30 percent increase from the current minimum standard.
Emerson Climate Technologies, one of eight Emerson businesses, provides heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration solutions for residential, industrial and commercial applications. More specifically, Emerson is a leading manufacturer of components such as compressors, controls, thermostats, valves and motors. The $2.8 billion company, which makes the energy efficient scroll compressor technology used in many air conditioning systems, has been working closely with manufacturers that are redesigning product lines to meet the higher efficiency standard by January.
Emerson Climate Technologies took it upon itself to commission a national survey in the US to determine the level of awareness among the public of SEER and the impending government rating increase. The ‘2005 Home Air Conditioning Test’ predictably found that 90 per cent of homeowners did not know the efficiency rating of their central AC system and were unaware of the higher minimum federal efficiency standard.
In response to the survey’s findings, Emerson launched ‘Get SEERious’, a communications program to increase understanding of SEER and raise awareness of the opportunity for consumers to improve home energy efficiency through technology. While US policy obviously does not extend as far as the Middle East – at least not for AC legislation – it is expected that where the US leads, others will eventually follow. And while energy efficiency is still a nascent concept in the Gulf, it is certainly gathering momentum.
“There may be a difference in culture and thought process here with regard to energy conservation,” says Dick Schul, Group Vice-President of Emerson Climate Technologies. “In time that will all change. Either regulation will put it in place, or private industry will demand it. People will become more conscious of what they are doing to the environment. It’s a challenge to overcome some of the thought processes that are here, but I do believe it will come around.”
Schul says that in this market, where heating is virtually non-existent, Emerson Climate Technologies is largely concerned with providing compressors for AC systems. The compressor is often described as the ‘engine’ that pumps refrigerant through the air conditioning system.
The compressor typically consumes 80 per cent of the energy used by an AC system. Consequently, the type of compressor used in an air conditioner plays an important role in determining the overall efficiency of the system. There are two basic kinds of compressors used in residential air conditioners: reciprocating (or piston type) compressors, an older form of technology; and scroll compressors, a newer technology.
Scroll compressor technology is more energy efficient, quieter and more reliable than reciprocating compressors. ‘Scroll’ refers to the scroll like design of the two finely machined pieces of iron that fit together to smoothly compress the refrigerant during its heat transfer cycle.
Earlier this year, Emerson unveiled the latest upgrades for its industry-leading Copeland Scroll compressors. The new Copeland Scroll compressor is designed to help manufacturers meet and exceed the 13 SEER standard and is up to 30 per cent lighter and smaller than the previous version.
“For this region, with the hot climate that you have and consequent heavy reliance on air conditioning, introducing more energy efficient systems will result in huge savings, and quickly,” explains Schul.
Schul says that half Emerson Climate Technologies’ business here is OEM [original equipment manufacturer] based, a proportion he expects will reduce as the market matures and the replacement market grows. He sees a lot of opportunities for the company to grow alongside the ongoing construction boom in the GCC, with particular emphasis on the Saudi market.
Beyond compressors, Schul says Emerson Climate Technologies has much more that facilities managers can avail themselves of. “We provide sensors that can be linked to a BMS [building management system]. We have put a lot of capital dollars in the development of new businesses for just doing diagnostics, and for just doing what we call commissioning – ensuring that equipment is set up the way it should have been and is capable of being operated and maintained according to the owner’s operational needs. The sensors can shut equipment down to prevent more damage, which can lead to the increased longevity of buildings and increased operating efficiency.”