Energy-efficient Air-conditioning gathers Momentum
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Energy-efficient Air-conditioning gathers Momentum

Energy-efficient Air-conditioning gathers Momentum

01 Feb 2020 Long Read
Energy-efficiency norms as well as customer preferences products are driving innovation in air-conditioning.

After two relatively slow years owing to inconsistent weather, the air-conditioner (AC) industry witnessed a good tailwind for cooling products in 2019, according to Pradeep Bakshi, Managing Director & CEO, Voltas. Essentially, the pent-up demand of the past few years has translated into higher consumer demand.

Bakshi anticipates a CAGR of 10-12 per cent over the next five years because of strong growth drivers like low existing penetration rates (only about 4 per cent), increasing disposable incomes 
and aspirations, and the tropical climate.

“Industry bodies such as AEEE estimate that the industry will continue to grow at 14-15 per cent annually,” opines Gaurav Burman, APAC President, 75F. “India holds a lot of potential given the current relatively smaller footprint of air-conditioning, the growing retail and hospitality sectors, rising construction activities and the increasing focus on superior occupant comfort and productivity.”

Going forward, high-rise buildings, hypermarkets in Tier-II cities and shopping complexes including malls will drive the HVAC market, says Kishor Patil, Country Leader, HVAC & Transport, India and SAARC Markets, Trane, Ingersoll Rand. “Ongoing smart city projects, metro stations and airport development will also escalate demand.”

Shrikant Bapat, General Manager, India, Johnson Controls, expects the AC market to see 6-8 per cent growth in FY2020.

Room ACs

Market research firm Frost & Sullivan estimated India’s room AC market to be worth Rs.163 billion in FY2019. In that segment, “consumers have shifted to higher value inverter ACs from mass-premium brands providing quality products,” according to Edelweiss. 

Bakshi believes this transition from fixed speed (normal) ACs to variable speed (inverter) ACs is happening because consumers are paying more attention to the benefits of energy-efficient products. Voltas’ inverter 1.5-tonne 3 Star AC is doing well while demand is shifting to the 1.5-tonne 5 Star. In the fixed speed category, the 1.5-tonne 3 Star model is leading. 

“The tightening of energy-efficiency norms has led to the introduction of inverter technology, resulting in a reduction of operating costs and, in turn, more consumers opting for ACs,” observes 
Arushi Thakur Upadhyay, Associate Director, Industrial Practice, Frost & Sullivan. “Constant change in consumer preferences also leads manufacturers to bring in new innovative and value-added products. New product features and technological advancements have added to the increase in replacement demand.”

As a result of this shift, leaders in the mass-premium space – Voltas, Blue Star, Daikin – are said to be faring better.
“Voltas continues to be the market leader in the room AC business, commanding a market share of 24.4 per cent YTD FY2020,” shares Bakshi, who expects room ACs to continue to lead the growth story for Voltas.

Insofar as the window versus split AC debate is concerned, while Bakshi opines that the window AC category will eventually fade out, he still sees an 8-10 per cent market in the long term for windows. This is why Voltas decided to remain in the window category about a decade ago when the market was beginning to lean towards split ACs and everyone perceived this category as the future. On the other hand, swift technological developments are taking place in the split AC category. 

In 2019, Voltas launched new inverter ACs, cassette ACs and tower ACs. To help customers control costs, it introduced the industry’s first adjustable inverter AC range allowing the user to switch from 1.5 tonne to 1 tonne capacity, depending on the ambient heat or number of people in the room. Voltas also introduced ACs with built-in air filters to cool as well as purify air, such as the Voltas Inverter Split AC 125V DZW(R-32) 1-tonne 5 Star with a PM 2.5 filter and a five-stage filtration process.

Commercial spaces

Technology enhancements in the commercial AC space span some new innovative products and solutions for the commercial sector from Voltas, such as inverter ductable air-conditioners, 
energy recovery type VRF systems, oil-free centrifugal chillers and cogeneration vapour absorption machines.

Johnson Controls has introduced water-cooled screw chillers both in constant speed and variable speed technology, which offer 6.7 COP with low sound and vibration. These have been installed in many commercial spaces in the past year.

According to Patil, “Customers and developers prefer highly efficient, most reliable systems with next-generation refrigerants, which come with a promise of strong service backup.”
“Raheja Developers prefers central water-cooled chiller units with VFD controllers for large commercial projects and water-cooled condensing unit systems for smaller commercial projects,” says Arun Dayal, Head of Services, Raheja Developers. “Customers are advised to procure their own AHU/WCCU units commensurate with their heat load, operations and interior planning, as this ensures they function independently of other stores and technically ensures better diversity of the cooling load, lower energy consumption as well as better COP than other technologies. We provide customers only chilled water, which is billed separately.”

“We prefer VRV systems and chiller-based systems for commercial properties,” says Srikanth Srinivasan, Group Head-Commercial, Puravankara. “While VRV technology is 3-4 per cent more expensive to install and operate, it is easier to install and more flexible to operate, implying you can achieve better distribution of the cooled air.”

An important point to remember is that “efficiency in HVAC is not driven by chiller performance alone. Efficient plant room design is equally important,” explains Patil. 
In this context, “Trane’s EarthWise™ intelligent system has been engineered to deliver energy savings with high performance and high efficiency in mind. Trane Integrated Comfort™ control technology assures that the EarthWise System delivers an optimal, reliable performance at a lower installation and operational cost than conventional designs.”

Trane has recently launched high-COP magnetic centrifugal chillers, an efficient, reliable, compact and environmentally sustainable solution. The full load efficiency of the chiller exceeds ASHRAE 90.1 2016 standards by 40 per cent. It is equipped with an advanced oil-free magnetic bearing compressor and CHIL next-generation heat exchanger to optimise the refrigerant flow and reduce the charge. Trane has also introduced a full range of centrifugal and screw chillers with Next Generation HFO Refrigerants (R514A, R1234ze, R1233zd) to support the upcoming government phasedown programme in line with the Kigali Agreement.

Trane’s water-cooled screw chillers in hot water control mode can deliver condenser water temperature through hot water set point upto 140°F. These heat recovery systems are usually deployed in hotels, hospitals and certain commercial applications in high-altitude places, as Patil tells us.

Emerging opportunities

‘We see a lot of opportunities coming in from government-funded projects, in particular, investments in infrastructure,” says Bakshi, adding that he hopes investments by the private sector pick up as well.
Voltas was the first in the industry to associate with the net-zero energy building concept. The outcome was Indira Paryavaran Bhawan in Delhi, India’s first building that generates energy through high-efficiency solar panels placed to achieve net-zero criteria. 
Bakshi sees scope for energy-efficient systems such as radiant cooling systems, under floor cooling and variable speed drives. 
“To ensure that the system design operates at peak efficiency, Voltas leverages the technologies of IoT. 
In this space, customers have been asking for more features not just limited to the chiller but monitoring the entire plant room, pumps and cooling tower, rather the entire building,” he adds.


How can energy-efficient controls enhance the performance of air-conditioning?

“We see tremendous opportunities for energy-efficient control solutions for HVAC systems in the Indian subcontinent, as facility managers are increasingly becoming energy-conscious while simultaneously prioritising occupant comfort and productivity,” says Gaurav Burman, APAC President, 75F. 
“The energy management services team of PSIPL (a facility provider) helped a commercial property in Mumbai achieve more than 40 per cent saving in the energy consumed by AHUs by suggesting the use of energy-efficient HVAC systems,” shares Sughosh Prabhu, CTO, PSIPL.
Burman reckons that buildings are responsible for a third of India’s total energy consumption and, within this, HVAC accounts for over 50 per cent of the consumption, but nearly half is wasted owing to inefficiencies. 
75F offers a truly predictive, proactive and self-learning HVAC automation and control solution that drives away inefficiencies while increasing the bottomline. In the Mumbai Paradigm facility of Firstsource Solution, a BPO provider, 75F’s HVAC helped achieve 45.63 per cent savings in the energy consumed by the AHU and eliminated the significant temperature differences in different parts of the office that were compromising employee comfort and output. 
75F has recently launched three disruptive products: 75F® Smart Stat™, a smart thermostat to help commercial buildings achieve 30-50 per cent energy savings; 75F® Smart Node™, an equipment controller for flexible building automation; and 75F® Occupant App™, an app that enables occupants to adjust temperatures and lighting at their workspace, set schedules and provide feedback to management.
Johnson Controls is also embracing digital transformation. Its latest Metasys release provides facility personnel with smarter building automation, faster responses to critical alarms and new integrations with fire detection, security and lighting systems – all from a single common interface. Another innovation is the Ethernet ring topology support offered as part of a strategic alliance with Cisco, which allows the controllers to be configured in a ring network, avoiding the risk of single point of failure, thus improving system reliability and resiliency. This feature is critical for hospitals and data centres.
“Smart building solutions by Johnson Controls improve energy-efficiency and air quality and reduce the environmental impact over a building’s life-cycle,” shares Shrikant Bapat, General Manager, India, Johnson Controls. “Additionally, they deliver integrated lighting as well as greater physical security.”

To what extent are developers direct customers of the AC industry?

At Voltas, bulk orders from builders that offer to fit ACs before handover of the property to the buyer constitute a major part of the business, shares Pradeep Bakshi, Managing Director & CEO, Voltas. “We cater to some elite builders like DLF, L&T, Emaar, ATS, Runwal, Lodha, Rustomjee, Tata Reality, Vatika and Godrej Properties.”
“Fitting ACs in residential units prior to handing over the property is becoming a trend in Bengaluru where climatic changes are now necessitating the use of air-conditioning. It is already a trend in other warmer cities,” says Srikanth Srinivasan, Group Head-Commercial, Puravankara. He believes that it works out better for the aesthetics of the building for the developer to fit out the AC as the units are installed in a standardised manner. Also, when developers buy ACs in bulk, they can negotiate better prices and extended warranties.


What sort of ACs do developers recommend?

“At Raheja, we advise mid-segment residential project customers to buy split units or VRV units, and this is what we usually install for the 10-20 per cent of customers who ask us to fitout the HVAC system prior to handover,” continues Arun Dayal, Head of Services, Raheja Developers. “In either case, we provision space for copper piping and the outdoor unit and drainage piping. We provide the complete HVAC system with split units to customers of premium residential projects.”
“We provide customers of our premium and luxury segment projects split ACs as a standard feature,” says Vivek Mohanani, Managing Director & CEO, Ekta World. “People buying premium property expect this facility. Typically, we offer 1-1.5 tonne models in bedrooms and 2-3 tonne models in day rooms. We do not provide ACs in affordable housing projects to ensure that the cost does not exceed the budget of buyers.”
“In negotiating with brands for bulk AC procurements, we consider the brand reputation, warranty offered, installation costs and the overall quality of the product and after-sales services,” adds Mohanani.

 - Charu Bahri


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