As in many other areas of society, energy efficiency has become one of the most powerful drivers in commercial HVAC. Yet it is hard to imagine that a system built decades ago could ever meet 21st century emissions requirements or provide the level of comfort today’s users expect. By retrofitting an old commercial HVAC system, it is possible to drastically extend its lifetime, while increasing efficiency.
Commercial HVAC systems serve power ranges from 3 to 75 kW and units are often stacked. A 300 kW unit, for example, can be made up of ten 30 kW subunits. Since they are used in commercial settings like office buildings, shopping malls, production facilities and more, they most often need to run continuously. Such use cases require a substantial amount of energy, so increasing their efficiency provides an opportunity for significant gains.
Out with the old – in with the new, more-efficient units
Urbanization, rising populations and a more connected world lead to more energy consumption and more emissions. In many metropolitan areas around the world, buildings are now being required to meet certain energy standards. For new building projects, it’s a simpler task – just design the structure with the latest technology. But what about older buildings? When thinking sustainably, it is often best to reuse what you have – rather than tearing it down and starting from scratch.
That’s where retrofitting comes in.
Even older buildings can benefit from the latest C-HVAC technology. By replacing the HVAC units with more efficient solutions, commercial buildings can significantly reduce their energy consumption and provide occupants more comfort through a smarter, connected, and secure user experience. Not only does retrofitting lower operating costs, it also helps companies reach ambitious emissions targets
Advanced power control for more efficiency
Retrofitting older C-HVAC units allows designers to totally modernize the ventilation in older buildings. It is often the best practice to keep the existing vents and ducts, but completely replace the entire outdoor and indoor units. This means engineers have a nearly blank canvas to create more efficient and more modern systems.
Infineon’s solutions optimize the way both indoor and outdoor C-HVAC units operate, starting right from the (power) source. Demanding outdoor units are best served by to most robust and reliable IGBT modules like the Econo and Easy module families. These solutions can control compressor motors in such higher-voltage systems and utilize cutting-edge IGBT7 technology for overload and switching speed control. For smaller, indoor units, Intelligent Power Modules (IPMs) like those in the CIPOS™ family can efficiently control compressors or fans.
Figure 1: The Easy 3B package with TRENCHSTOP™ IGBT7 technology extends the broad Easy portfolio in industrial drives applications to higher current ratings.
More efficiency, more comfort
The most obvious way to make C-HVAC systems more efficient is to modernize the large, power modules. However, also smart and connected features can perform double duty, as they can increasing efficiency and comfort.
For example, sensors integrated into indoor units can detect occupancy through CO2 levels. Retail giants and companies with large office buildings or even hotels have already invested in such sensors. The sensor is able to determine the amount of people currently located in a room by measuring the amount of CO2 they are exhaling. As an example, the C-HVAC can receive a control input to increase the fresh air flow level, when the amount of CO2 is gradually increasing (an indicator of low air quality or a high amount of people in a room). Our XENSIV™ PAS CO2 sensor is ideal for such applications, as it can provide accurate, real-time CO2 measurement to ensure optimal indoor air quality. Ultimately, the sensor input can be used to adjust the heating and cooling of a room or fan speeds to provide improved health, productivity, and overall well-being. But it also helps manage the building’s energy efficiency level and saves maintenance and energy costs when predicting occupant behavior and optimizing the ventilation accordingly.
Figure 2: The XENSIV™ PAS CO2 sensor provides accurate, real-time CO2 measurement to improve efficiency and occupant comfort.
Retrofitting the way to net zero
It is clear that we need to update our aging infrastructure and buildings if we ever want to achieve net zero targets. Retrofitting is paving the way forward. Rather than giving up on outdated commercial buildings, retrofitting allows us to use their existing assets to modernize them for the future. To learn more about our smart, connected, and efficient semiconductor solutions for C-HVAC, check out our portfolio at http://www.infineon.com/c-hvac/?intc=Blog.2021.
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