In the world of HVAC, technology evolves very quickly. However, many of the new innovations are the kind that end-users rarely notice. They either add additional efficiency or a feature or two to existing types of HVAC systems. Completely new types of HVAC technology don’t come around very often. A big exception to that is the variable refrigerant flow (VRF) HVAC system. Invented in the early 1980s, it’s a type of HVAC system that can do something that few other solutions can. Here is a deep dive into VRF HVAC systems, including what they are, how they work, and when they could be a good fit for your heating and cooling needs.

What Is a Variable Refrigerant Flow HVAC?

VRF HVAC systems are an invention of Daikin Industries, a well-known HVAC manufacturer. Also known as a variable refrigerant volume (VRV) HVAC, they’re similar to ductless mini-split systems in all but one respect. The difference is that a VRF system can simultaneously provide heating and cooling to different rooms in a building at the same time.

The way VRF systems pull off this impressive feat is by recycling heat captured in spaces you’re cooling and using it to warm spaces that require heat. Also, VRF systems can operate in cooling-only or heating-only modes when required. In those modes, the system moves heat from the inside of a building to the outside or vice-versa, depending on your needs.

VRF HVAC systems also maximize savings by using variable-speed compressors, inverter technology, and electronically commutated blower motors. This allows them to speed up or slow down to deliver exactly as much heating or cooling as required with no waste. For example, if you only needed to warm up a single room by a degree or two, a VRF system would turn on at a very low compressor and fan speed to conserve energy. Then, if you needed to increase the temperature in multiple rooms by multiple degrees, those speeds would ramp up as needed.

VRF systems can also scale up or down to meet the HVAC needs of different-sized buildings. For large buildings, they may bundle multiple outdoor units and indoor air handlers to ensure sufficient capacity for all conceivable comfort demands.

What Are the Benefits of VRF HVAC Systems?

Aside from their ability to offer simultaneous heating and cooling to different parts of a building, VRF HVAC systems come with a variety of other benefits. The most important among these is energy efficiency. Like other types of heat pump systems, VRF HVAC systems don’t consume energy to produce heat. They simply rely on the refrigeration cycle to move heat from one place to another. To cool a room, a VRF system absorbs heat from the indoor air and carries it away, either to a room that needs it or to the outdoors. To heat a room, a VRF system harvests heat from the outdoor air and rooms with excess heat and carries it where needed.

In cooling-only mode, VRF systems work at efficiencies that rank among the best conventional air conditioners on the market. In heating-only mode, they’re even more efficient. Under ideal conditions, they can provide heat at up to 400% efficiency, which is many times more efficient than any other heating system option. When operating in mixed mode, they offer even more efficiency since they get to work with readily available heat and don’t have to work as hard to capture and move it.

When Is a VRF HVAC System an Appropriate Option?

Generally speaking, VRF HVAC systems work best in medium to large commercial buildings where multiple tenants may have different heating and cooling needs simultaneously. In that scenario, VRF technology maximizes energy savings, which is key to keeping any commercial building profitable. It also keeps tenants happy, which drives down turnover and further benefits the bottom line.

VRF systems can work in large homes, too, but the added expense that comes with such systems often makes them impractical. However, their ability to offer zoned heating and cooling can provide a significant comfort upgrade for any homeowner willing to pay a premium for it.

Your Local VRF HVAC Specialists

If you believe that a VRF HVAC system might be the perfect heating and cooling solution for you in Commerce City, CO, Smith & Willis Heating & Air Conditioning can help. We offer a complete range of HVAC services, including installation, repair, and maintenance. We also work with heat pumps and mini-split systems and offer indoor air quality solutions, too. And if you need help affording a new HVAC system, we offer financing options on approved credit. So, if you’d like to learn more about how a VRF HVAC system can meet your comfort needs in Commerce City, call Smith & Willis Heating & Air Conditioning today!

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