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The keyword is participation

The 2nd Annual Middle East Variable Refrigerant Flow Conference, produced by CPI Industry, publishers of Climate Control Middle East magazine, held on March 31 and April 1, at Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, served as a platform for industry stakeholders to discuss issues surrounding VRF technology and larger concerns about finding cooling approaches that are energy efficient, resource-conserving and economically viable. We bring you the first part of the report.

| | May 7, 2014 | 4:51 pm
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The 2nd Annual Middle East Variable Refrigerant Flow Conference, produced by CPI Industry, publishers of Climate Control Middle East magazine, held on March 31 and April 1, at Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, served as a platform for industry stakeholders to discuss issues surrounding VRF technology and larger concerns about finding cooling approaches that are energy efficient, resource-conserving and economically viable. We bring you the first part of the report.


Energy security is an issue that encompasses the GCC states. The region relies on fossil fuels for its energy supply. Fossil fuels, however, constitute a finite resource, and with the regional energy demand following an exponentially upward trajectory, the need to conserve electricity and the necessity to find new sources of energy have become more pressing than ever.

To encourage energy efficiency and conservation best practices, the governments of the GCC states have introduced regulations and quality assessment programmes. The first plenary discussion on Day 1 of the Variable Refrigerant Flow Conference, (VRF Conference) revolved around the different set of regulations existing in the region, and on how they might help encourage energy efficiency within the technologies on offer and promote environmental stewardship.

One of the crucial subjects discussed at this juncture was the advantages and challenges of having a set of regional standards and how the different regulatory and assessment authorities were working towards achieving this end.

“When you set up a standard,” said Dr Esam Elsarrag, Director, Gulf Organisation for Research and Development (GORD-GSAS), “you have to think of its applicability. We have to set up standards that can be deployed and that is based on the problem.” Elsarrag shared the view that while coming up with standards, his team looks at the situation from several levels. “Can I solve the problem by putting only a systems solution? If systems solution is not enough, we can look at other solutions, like passive design solutions.”

By looking at passive design solutions, Elsarrag said that the investigation would no longer centre on how one could provide an efficient cooling solution, but on how one could reduce demand for cooling. “If we can reduce the need for cooling, then, at that time, we can use efficient systems. Do we have to increase the cooling requirement then look for a solution, or do we have to limit the requirement for cooling at the beginning?” He said that GORD-GSAS would make an integrated process with the design team to achieve a certain cooling target. “Once we have achieved the cooling target,” he said, “that is the time when we can look at efficient systems. We can apply conventional systems, but we have to exclude the inefficient ones.”

Dr Ali Al Alawi, Senior Corporate Environmental and Sustainable Development Advisor, Petroleum Development of Oman (PDO), was of the same opinion, and added, “We need to start our quest to reduce energy from the design stage; then we can do other improvements.”

The regulatory and assessment bodies, however, know that setting up regulations is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. One of the main problems that they may face, in light of introducing regulations and conformity assessment programmes, is resistance from the industry at the implementation stage. “To avoid any resistance from industry stakeholders,” said Abdullah Abdelqadir Al Maeeni, Director of Conformity Affairs Department of the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA), “we are involving them in setting up the standards. Our standards and regulations are mainly developed by the stakeholders. They are involved from the first stage of development, so they understand what is required and the reason behind the requirements.” He added that industry stakeholders should know in advance what changes would be required so that they can adjust their designs to comply with the standards. “Since they are involved in the process from the beginning, we (ESMA) do not encounter challenges in terms of implementation,” he elucidated.

Abdessalam Benyaich, Conformity Assessment Specialist, GCC Standardisation Organisation (GSO), agreed with Al Maeeni, when he said that he believed there was no single standardisation body that could develop standards on its own. “We have to ensure a framework where everybody can participate. Then, we can ensure a conformity assessment scheme that is most suitable for specific cases. Participation is the keyword here. The industry should be involved, so we can have a suitable set of standards for each objective.”

The discussions, then, zeroed in on another important challenge to regulatory and assessment bodies: Keeping up to speed with innovation. In this regard, Benyaich said: “We have to let the technology develop. We should not underpin the development of the technology.” He was of the view that the new way to deal with regulations involved was setting up essential requirements and, then, letting manufacturers submit individual evidence on how they were able to meet the set standards. “In the old way of doing things, we set up standards and we tell the manufacturers to comply with them. It is not the idea now. Again, the keyword here is participation from the industry,” he emphasised.

Al Maeeni concurred, and added: “We are asking the manufacturers to develop the technology. We are also working with them through trainings, so that we may also be informed of what technology will come.”

After the first plenary discussion, Al Maeeni, Elsarrag and Benyaich took the podium for their individual plenary presentations.

As part of our comprehensive coverage of the event, we bring you excerpts from the presentations conducted on Day 1 of the event …


Abdulla Abdelqadir Al Maeeni

Director of Conformity Affairs Department, Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (ESMA)

may2014-vrfcon1402“Controlling only the ACs is not the right approach to energy efficiency. If we are just controlling one product, then we leave out the other elements in the system. If we only control the ACs, then the lighting systems may be generating heat. We have to strike a balance in terms of energy efficiency. The AC products should meet the minimum of 5.9 EER under the T3 conditions or hot climate conditions.

“In 2013, the percentage of two-star systems decreased, while the percentage of three-star products increased. This means that the market is shifting to more energy-efficient products. This is giving us a benchmark for the next update of our regulation. We are looking to stop the one- and two-star ratings, and the present-day three-star rating will be the new one-star, and so on. We will develop two new EER for the four-star and five-star ratings. This will be reviewed every two to three years, in consultation with the industry.

“We are looking to cover the full range of cooling systems. This may be issued by the end of the first half of this year (2014). We are now in the process of drafting the regulations with the stakeholders.

“We find a challenge: There is no benchmark in terms of energy efficiency and electrical safety for bigger units in the high-ambient temperature countries. There are standards available for the international market, but none of those standards talk about high-ambient temperature countries. We have to make sure that products are complying with energy efficiency and safety requirements under the high ambient temperature conditions.”

Abdessalam Benyaich
Conformity Assessment Specialist, GCC Standardization Organization (GSO)

may2014-vrfcon1403“The main objective of GSO is to help in attaining the objective of integrating the market by ensuring harmonisation of standards and technical regulations. Once we have developed standards, what now? We have to have a suitable conformity assessment scheme or certification scheme, and GSO is dealing with that aspect. We want to ensure that everybody is participating in this process; it is a process where everybody has to agree with [it], then we can enforce it.

“At the end of 2013, we have about 10,000 standards. Most of them are voluntary (87%) standards, while the others are mandatory. The number of mandatory standards has shrunk. Before, it was at 20%, because we are now aiming at a new way of introducing standards. We are allowing the manufacturers to employ many solutions to meet the requirements. We are only setting the essential requirements. Then, the manufacturers have the burden to show evidence that their products meet the objective. Then, the manufacturers are responsible for the conformity assessment programmes, providing for possible intervention of [certified] bodies. The manufacturer can draw a technical file and affix the “G” marking. This will give free circulation for products bearing the “G” marking.

“For the not-fully-harmonised sectors, like EER, we have started a mutual recognition system. For air conditioners, for example, UAE and Saudi Arabia have two different set of standards. We have set up a system, where regional committee will work in harmonising the standards, say between UAE and Saudi Arabia to come up with one single standard and one single certification scheme on EER. If we can foresee a fully harmonised technical regulation among the six countries, it can be better.”

Esam Elsarrag
Director, Gulf Organisation for Research & Development (GORD-GSAS)

may2014-vrfcon1404“We are looking at the overall performance. That is what we want to achieve. If we put elements together, how, as a system, will they perform? Maybe your product as a standalone performs well, but when you put the elements together, the performance may be different. Testing an equipment in the lab is good, but deploying it in a building and how the building will operate is another case.

“We have to look at R&D from scratch. People may think that here, in the Arab world, we have to copy and paste. We say ‘sorry, we are not going to copy and paste’. Yes, we are not going to reinvent the wheel, but we are not going to copy and paste blindly. We have to understand our problem, then we will see: If there is something that will benefit me (from what has been done elsewhere), we will take it, but if there isn’t, we will assess and improve it, or we will create a thing of our own.

“We need not reinvent the wheel, but we do not want to copy and paste. We need to benefit from what happened worldwide, and we have to build our own according to the GCC context. This way, nobody can criticise the GCC context saying that there is any gap, because we did all the gap analysis. People can bring a very nice statement from a standard in California or from a certain American standard, but it may not work here. You can bring different sustainability standards, but they may not work because our laws are different. Even the laws among GCC countries are different.”

Cees Van Duijin
Manager, Environmental Quality Branch, Environmental Security Sub-Directorate (ENS), INTERPOL General Secretariat

may2014-vrfcon1405“Together with UNEP, we increasingly tackled the topic of CFCs and ODSs, in general. What we tried to do, to bridge the knowledge gap, is to develop a manual for law enforcement officers, which will tell a bit more about the background. Also, the manual is a tool to engage with relevant stakeholders and governmental organisations in the country. It was developed in 2011, in consultancy with 190 countries. It zeroes in on the methods of smuggling and on the identification and detection of the modus operandi.

“We see now that there are more and more combined teams, with customs and police, but it is not always that easy. Owing to its being a sub-transnational issue, INTERPOL is an important body on the police side to bring those entities with each other.

“We teach the police officers the basic things on how to recognise counterfeit products. The manual that we have developed is a restricted product, not freely available. If you are from a governmental agency, and you want to have a copy of it, you can always request access to the Environmental Crime site.”

Yonjea Han
Sales Engineer, Samsung

may2014-vrfcon1406“To achieve a sustainable building, these are our suggestions: Using a heat recovery ventilator, one can intake the outdoor cold air to the room (saving approximately 20% of electricity here). At that time, one does not have to operate the air conditioner, so there could be savings in electricity. If we use the geothermal energy for water-cooled VRF, we can use the energy from the ground. In addition, we can use the unit for cooling and heating at the same time. Using efficient lighting can also help in saving energy. Combined with solar panels, we can produce domestic hot water. Normally, the electric heater is used in the Middle East, but the energy efficiency of electric heaters is around 1. But with the solar panels and our water-cooled VRF, the efficiency could go up to more than 5, meaning you can save around 80% of electricity with this.

“We can also monitor the energy consumption and the gas or water [consumption] with the power distribution system. We can monitor how much energy is consumed by the gas, by the water or by the electricity.”

Sana Hamdani
Strategic Marketing Engineer, Daikin

may2014-vrfcon1407“In terms of energy prospects, the government has a crucial role in setting up regulations. As you know, to reduce the actual energy consumption, the government has been responding with very fast-moving energy efficiency regulations. Just recently, SASO has implemented a minimum efficiency requirement increase of 50% within a time frame of one and a half years. Although the climates in the GCC countries are quite similar and although the challenges are the same, we have different regulations for different countries. Sometimes, even in the same country, the regulations vary per city. The fast-moving regulations, based on high efficiency will completely change the dynamics of the HVAC market.

“What will be the impact of the high EER regulations to the HVAC industry? The VRV market will expand towards larger-sized projects, due to its high EER level, and also due to the higher acceptance of the technology. On the other hand, the VRV will also expand to the smaller-sized projects because of the high EER regulation. Here, we will pick up some market from the DX.”

Belinda Fan
Product Management Manager – VRF Systems, Johnson Controls Asia Engineering Centre

may2014-vrfcon1408“Each refrigerant system of JCI VRF products can connect to up to 64 indoor units at the same time, and it can connect to the wired controllers and wireless controllers. One wired controller can connect to up to four indoor units as a group to do the same operation. We can also connect the diagnostic kits to indoor units to do some monitoring or service for any malfunction of the system. It will be very convenient for the service men, because they can remain inside and be able to check the running status of the whole system.

“If we connect a BACnet communication board to the outdoor units, we can combine several individual refrigerant systems into a large-scale system. We are the first supplier to enable the BACnet protocol in the VRF system directly.”

Imad Kaba
Sales Leader, Trane

“VRF makes sense in some capacities, in some loads, and in some applications. I have taken a residential may2014-vrfcon1409building of 100TR, which is suitable for a VRF system. We also assume that the chiller systems require pumps, so we will be adding the power consumption of the pumps, as well. For this study, I have selected two outdoor units of approximately 52TR. When I select these units, they will give me 1,240 MBH of actual capacity at Dubai conditions and at design conditions. I have also selected a chiller which will give me 1,213 MBH.

“What we do is we take the tariff of the UAE which is around 33 fils per kwh. When we apply it to our computations [computation was done in Kaba’s presentation], we get a saving, VRF against screw chiller, of AED 56,000. This is the running cost difference, per year. “In an installation of 100 to 300 TR, in a residential or office building, it makes a lot of sense to install VRF systems. We have lower first cost and lower running cost compared to the chiller system. It is modular and lightweight, easy to install, no pumps and no underground chilled water pipes, and gives us almost the same comfort level.”



The last panel discussion on Day 1 focused on key end-user demands and the purported advantages and disadvantages of VRF systems. Here are the highlights…

Mohammed Mirza
Senior Manager for Infrastructure and Vertical Design, Aldar

may2014-vrfcon1411Most of the testing and commissioning people are not qualified, or at the end of the project, there is not enough time for them to do the testing and commissioning. No matter who delays the project, the testing engineer should be able to deliver the project on a particular day. That is when shortcuts are being taken. So, the building may not be commissioned properly…. We should not push the testing and commissioning team to take shortcuts. Maybe, the facility managers should also be part of the testing and commissioning …

Dr Ali Al Alawi
Senior Corporate Environmental and S&D Advisor, Petroleum Development, Oman

may2014-vrfcon1412I have been working with solar energy for so many years, and I know that it is not easy to convince people to go for new technology. To convince the people, there is a need to make them understand the benefits of the system, in relation to them and also to the environment. In recent times, people have become more environmentfriendly. It seems that this technology has a very good potential, but there is a need for training for installation and maintenance personnel, and for assurance of good equipment installation.

Kandasamy Anbalagan
Managing Partner, Proleed Consultants

may2014-vrfcon1413In any project, we have a testing and commissioning programme that is part of our follow-up action. Most of the time, contractors do not have enough time, owing to a variety of reasons. For chilled water systems, you need about six to eight weeks, and that kind of time is not available. When you walk into some of the buildings here in Dubai, most of the building management systems are not in operation, pumps are running on manual mode, VFDs are not put in place…

The strength of the VRF system, for small to mediumsized buildings, is the observed lesser testing and commissioning time.




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