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HVAC Season of change

New seasonal efficiency legislation could enable facilities managers to make substantial energy savings – and that means saving money too. Graham Wright, Legislation Specialist at Daikin UK, discusses.

From 1st January 2013, air conditioning systems below 12kW – those typically used for light commercial applications – will have to meet new energy efficiency standards and be labelled accordingly, under the Energy Related Products Directive (ErP). At the heart of the new legislation are changes to the way in which energy efficiency is measured. The existing nominal ratings, Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) for cooling and Coefficient of Performance (COP) for heating, are being replaced with two new measures: the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) and the Seasonal Coefficient of Performance (SCOP).

Designed to better reflect real operating conditions and true energy consumption, they consider a number of factors including energy performance in different climate zones, energy consumption in auxiliary modes and different load requirements through the seasons. The nominal ratings reflect how products perform at temperatures of 35°C and 7°C, which is not applicable to the typical climates experienced in the UK and northern Europe. From January, products will be rated according to where they are being used. Each of the three European climatic zones has its own realistic temperature range and,

although this throws up a number of anomalies, it is a significant improvement on the existing system. It is worth noting the EER and CoP ratings do not relate to the SEER and SCoP ratings and are not comparable. Manufacturers will have to recalculate their products’ energy efficiency ratings according to the new parameters.

In typical northern European climates, air conditioning equipment runs at partial capacity for 70% of the time, rather than being on full power throughout the year. Therefore the nominal EER and CoP ratings are not ideal for judging performance. Until now, air conditioning systems have generally been designed to reflect the best performance at nominal temperatures and are at their most efficient when operating at full load, not in more realistic conditions. To achieve optimum performance based on the new seasonal efficiency ratings, significant redesign of some air conditioning products will be required.

The new measures also factor in the energy consumption of products in auxiliary modes such as standby or off mode, or when the thermostat is off. These factors may reduce the apparent energy efficiency of the product, but as a result the SEER and SCoP ratings are a more accurate presentation of real life energy performance than the previous nominal system which is reflected in the redesigned energy labels. Previously, labels only had to show cooling EER and energy consumption; now they must show SEER, SCoP


and energy consumption in both heating and cooling modes.

For manufacturers of inverter- controlled air conditioning equipment the new regime is a positive move. Daikin’s seasonally efficient Sky Air range, for example, has already been redesigned to ensure it runs most efficiently at partial loads, so it is optimised to perform at its best in real life conditions. The SEER reflects the inverter’s lower energy consumption as it only needs the power necessary to match the load, resulting in reduced energy consumption and operation costs.

Achieving targets to reduce emissions and energy consumption will be an enormous challenge for government and industry but legislation such as the ErP will help. Next year’s legislation only affects smaller and light commercial systems, however consultation is already underway on minimum energy efficiency requirements for systems over 12kW. Acceptable energy efficiency thresholds will tighten further in 2014, so it is clear that forward thinking facilities managers should stay ahead of the trend and select seasonally efficient air conditioning systems.

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