Inverter Technology: The Smart HVAC System
Smartphones, smart cars, smart homes; everything these days is "smart". There are even smart thermostats designed to manage your HVAC system more efficiently, while providing you with a slew of nifty features. I find, however, that many customers aren't aware how NOT-smart their typical HVAC system actually is. A common complaint with customers is that they "turned the thermostat all the way down, but it didn't help!" or "I set the temperature lower but the air isn't coming out any colder."
It's natural to look at your HVAC system and see an intricate, highly sophisticated marvel of engineering comprised of complex components, and it was...maybe 50 years ago. The principles of refrigeration have remained relatively the same since it's conception by Willis Carrier in 1902. Traditional systems turn on and off: they only know one speed. With the advancement in electronics, manufacturers a have augmented their air conditioners and heat pumps with advanced features such as Electronically Commuted Fan Motors, 2-stage operation compressors, circuit boards with error codes and temperature and pressure sensors. But the system always revolved around the same fundamental machine powered by alternating current. That all changed in the early 1980's.
Japanese manufacturers were heavily invested in researching and developing electronically controlled HVAC systems that ran on Direct Current (DC) which offered one important revolutionary feature: they could vary their capacity according to demand. This innovate concept changed the HVAC industry with the introduction of Variable Refrigerant Flow technology. Japanese manufacturers rolled out "ductless" systems, also known as "mini splits". Your AC could now cool at a fraction of it's full potential on days when it wasn't that hot, while speeding up on high-demand days. In addition, the DC motors in these inverter systems started gradually, drawing less amps than your traditional AC or heat pump, and saving you $$$. In addition, these systems were designed as ductless setups. In traditional systems, refrigerant is pumped between an outdoor unit and an indoor coil in a centralized location where a blower distributes the heat or cooling, hence, central AC. With ductless systems, indoor units are installed in different "zones" that independently control that zone. The outdoor unit communicates with the indoor unit to pump the ideal refrigerant for the load and demand at any given moment. This provides greater flexibility and comfort control, while reducing energy consumption.
This technology has slowly, but surely, made it's way here to the US. Mini split systems are more frequently being incorporated as solutions for houses that were perhaps renovated but the HVAC system was overlooked. Systems can be designed for individual rooms needing their own cooling and heating, or multiple room additions to a house. But it doesn't stop there. The ductless/mini-split market has inspired major HVAC manufacturers to introduce new variable speed ducted
central HVAC variations of the ductless VRF systems. These systems are ducted just as the traditional central HVAC system, but utilize the variable-speed technology found in ductless mini splits. Inverter systems today utilize complex algorithms incorporating multiple pressure, temperature and torque readings coupled with the customers demand to deliver optimal and efficient heating and cooling. Ductless systems today can heat adequately in outdoor temperatures down to -22F, requiring no back up heat, and no fossil fuels. Homeowners can see higher dividends in areas where gas and oil are not available, where electricity is the only source of energy.
Inverter technology is redefining how we heat and cool our homes, providing greater comfort and convenience while reducing energy consumption and cost. Despite the above 4 paragraphs, the most significant takeaway from all this: up to 3X improvement in efficiency, reduced energy costs, noise reduction, smaller footprint, reduced stress on our power grids, no fossil fuels, energy rebates, and the list goes on. It's a smarter way to heat and cool.