variable refrigerant flow

What is Variable Refrigerant Flow?

Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) has become a buzzword in the HVAC industry, especially when it comes to commercial applications. Though VRF technology has been used across the globe for the last three decades, it has only become available and widely used in the United States since the early 2000s. VRF HVAC has quickly become known for its efficiency and ability to offer an attractive return on investment for those that use it for their commercial properties.

Whether you’re a business owner or commercial property manager, you can benefit from leveraging this technology for an efficient and practical commercial HVAC solution. Below, we’ll talk more about what VRF is and what benefits it can provide for commercial HVAC applications.

What is Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF)?

Variable refrigerant flow is an HVAC technology used to create a large-scale ductless system that can perform efficiently at high capacity. VRF technology is used to provide both cooling and heating to different areas within one general space. The specific design of your variable refrigerant flow system will depend on the application. For example, commercial applications require a different approach than VRF HVAC systems designed for residential properties.

Instead of one unit providing conditioned air for the entire space, VRF systems use several smaller air handlers that can be individually controlled, providing occupants with the ability to customize temperature settings in different areas of the building. The term VRF actually refers to the HVAC system’s ability to control the amount of refrigerant that flows to each of the smaller handlers.

How does a VRF HVAC system work?

Much like a traditional central air conditioning system, a VRF system is air-cooled and refrigerant based. It uses outdoor condenser units and indoor fan coil units to operate. However, this is where the similarities end.

With a VRF system, multiple indoor fan coils can be connected to just one outdoor unit that has one or multiple compressors which are inverter driven. By changing the frequency of the power supply to the compressor, the compressor speed can be adjusted. As the speed changes, so does the amount of refrigerant that the compressor delivers. By operating at varying speeds, VRF HVAC systems only operate at the necessary capacity for current load conditions.

Due to the versatility of this technology, VRF systems can be tailored to meet the unique needs of nearly any HVAC project. Though they are most commonly used for commercial applications given their ability to efficiently heat and cool large areas as well as their flexibility in zoning for temperature customization, VRF equipment can also be used for residences such as single-family homes.

VRF System Advantages and Disadvantages  

There are many VRF system advantages and disadvantages. The best way to determine if a VRF system is right for you is to review the benefits and drawbacks and weigh your options. Below, we’ll cover just a few of these advantages and disadvantages:

VRF Advantages

There are a variety of reasons why business owners and homeowners alike choose a VRF HVAC system for their business or home. Variable refrigerant flow technology provides a wealth of benefits for cooling and heating any sized space:

1. VRF systems offer optimal energy efficiency.

Variable refrigerant flow systems use less energy than traditional central air conditioning systems. These systems are designed to use only the amount of cooling that is needed for current conditions, which means that the equipment operates at a lower capacity and runs less frequently. This helps you save more energy over time, which leads to major costs savings.

2. Variable refrigerant flow HVAC provides better comfort control.

Since VRF systems use multiple air handlers, they allow occupants to adjust temperature in different areas to maximize comfort. While a conventional system may offer individual controls, the temperature still tends to fluctuate as the compressor starts and stops. With VRF HVAC systems, you don’t have this temperature fluctuation, allowing homeowners and business owners greater control over their comfort throughout the day.

3. Less down time means less wear and tear on HVAC parts.

The VRF HVAC system is designed to only run when it’s needed and only operate at the exact capacity needed to meet comfort conditions. That means that there is less wear and tear on the systems parts, which results in fewer breakdowns. Similarly, if something happens to one of the air handlers, the others are not impacted, so only one area will be affected rather than your whole space.

4. You can heat and cool your space simultaneously.

With VRF HVAC systems, you can heat and cool your building or home simultaneously, allowing for even better control over your comfort. With VRF, the system captures residual heat that’s absorbed from the air during the cooling process and then redirects that heat to the areas that need it. This is especially beneficial in commercial applications where some rooms may have fewer people (like private offices) and others may have more people (like conference rooms), each requiring a different level or heating or cooling based on the number of bodies generating heat.

VRF Disadvantages

Though there are many benefits to using a VRF system for your residential or commercial property, there are also some drawbacks. Here are just a few factors that you will need to consider if you decide that VRF is right for you:

1. VRF systems have higher up-front costs.

Though you will save more over time on energy costs, VRF HVAC systems often cost more up front than traditional central air systems. However, this cost is often offset by the energy savings. The best way to determine if the up-front costs are worth it is to speak with an HVAC expert who can help you compare costs and benefits.

2. VRF HVAC systems require an experienced HVAC installer.

Since VRF HVAC systems are extremely sophisticated, they require an installer who is experienced with VRF systems. Not only do you need to find a reliable, professional HVAC company that has experienced with VRF installations but also one that can service this equipment as well. Fortunately, Advent has HVAC technicians that are experienced in both VRF installation and maintenance/repair. In fact, we are one of the few HVAC companies in the area that specializes in this HVAC technology.

3. Consider the size of the air handlers when choosing VRF equipment.

Though this isn’t a disadvantage of VRF, it’s still important to mention – when you are choosing a brand of VRF equipment, you’ll need to consider the size of the air handlers. Some VRF HVAC brands provide much larger units, but not every space requires a unit of that size. The HVAC experts at Advent Air will be able to help you with this as part of the installation process.

Dallas VRF HVAC Systems

Looking to implement a variable refrigerant flow system in your commercial building? The experts at Advent Air Conditioning can provide installation, maintenance, and repair for both residential and commercial VRF HVAC systems in the Dallas and Fort Worth area.

Call us today to learn more: (469) 240-5456.

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