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We see traction in every country across the Middle East

With flexibility, energy efficiency, ease of installation, a relatively small footprint and low maintenance as their perceived hallmarks, VRFs have made inroads into the region. Louis Rompre, Portfolio Manager (Unitary – EMEA), Trane, delves deeper into the subject in a conversation with Climate Control Middle East.

| | Aug 14, 2014 | 7:21 pm
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With flexibility, energy efficiency, ease of installation, a relatively small footprint and low maintenance as their perceived hallmarks, VRFs have made inroads into the region. Louis Rompre, Portfolio Manager (Unitary – EMEA), Trane, delves deeper into the subject in a conversation with Climate Control Middle East.

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In your estimate, what is the size of the VRF market in the Middle East? Which countries in the region do you consider the biggest markets for VRFs?

It is estimated that the size of the VRF market in the Middle East would be in the range of USD 300-350 million with a CAGR of 20% in the last five years.

We believe the biggest market for this product lies in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. However, we see traction in every country across the Middle East region, which is growing considerably.

See table below – source independent:

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What, in your opinion, are the drivers for the growth of the VRF technology?

VRF system is perceived as a modern, energy-efficient alternative to more traditional package-rooftops, split systems, etc. However, their benefits can be experienced right through the design-build-operate cycle. The capability to use multiple indoor units (which are available in many types) with a single outdoor unit provides tremendous flexibility to the designer. Other benefits include energy efficiency, ease of installation, relatively small footprint and low-maintenance requirements

The systems also have options for sophisticated, yet affordable, energy management, including the ability to monitor individual installations; this is popular with owners of multi-dwelling facilities.

How do the prevailing sustainability regulations help/suppress the cause of VRF systems? That is, are the regulations beneficial or detrimental to the VRF technology?

In Europe, significant attention is given to the level and type of refrigerant used. Subsequently, any decision and outcomes will eventually be reflected in our region. The regional HVAC industry forecasts regulations for VRF systems. Regulatory authorities, such as Estidama, ESMA and SASO would favour high-efficiency splits for residential units. We keep all these considerations in mind to future-proof our products with the best efficiency for the category.

What new technologies were introduced to the new line of VRF systems available in the market? What are these new innovations aiming for?

In general, end-users demand comfort at affordable levels. Designers look for reliable energy-efficient systems that are easy and quick to develop, and contractors require systems that are competitively priced, readily available and easy to install. In addition, there is increasing social and regulatory pressure to bring to market products that are more environmentally responsible. At Trane, for instance, we continue to investigate appropriate technologies to meet evolving market conditions.

With the introduction of the TVR 5G, Trane provides a full inverter technology, heat recovery system. Multiple range and types were introduced including all DC Inverter (Mini TVR, Standards range for Cooling/Heat Pump and Heat Recovery models). We are aiming to expand our regional scope through these higher efficiency systems and cater to consultants who require inverter technology. The water-cooled VRF is a recently introduced concept, which may eventually expand across the range, as with the chiller business.

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What do you say are areas in the entire VRF scheme of things that still need improvement?

With VRF systems, it is recommended that they are designed and installed by qualified and experienced personnel. The same can and should be said for almost any other type of air conditioning system, except perhaps window units. The key is for the designer to carefully consider each facility on its merits, liaise with the client and manufacturer and, then, select the most appropriate system to meet the requirements and that specific site. Sometimes, the appropriate choice will be a package unit or a water-cooled chiller. On other occasions, TVR system will better suit the client’s facility. Given the rapid acceptance of TVR systems, it is clear that they have already established themselves as an affordable and viable air conditioning system.

Training is a continuous and integral element. Educating all the stakeholders involved in the sales cycle (from our own sales engineers and technicians, to the maintenance company, end-users and contractors) has seen the VRF products develop tremendously in the last three years.

How would you assess the opportunity for retrofitting in the region? Is there a market for retrofits?

We see a clear focus on new buildings. The VRF business is relatively new in the region. Hence, the lifecycle of most installations has not crossed the estimated lifetime yet.

At the last two VRF conferences organised by CPI Industry, participants mentioned that one of the foremost challenges to the proliferation of the VRF technology was the lack of expertise and training among installation and maintenance personnel. How is your company addressing this issue?

Trane is developing a VRF technical training centre in Dubai with a complete setup and classroom to provide hands-on experience for our distributors and clients in the MEA. The centre will be ready and operational soon.

Another point that is usually mentioned in connection with the previous question is the perceived lack of operational data available. Your thoughts on this?

We are working closely with our technical and product development teams to improve this point and how we should work in the future to streamline our communication with all the stakeholders in the sales cycle to ensure everybody is able to have the right information at the right time. During the last three years, we have installed and operated a number of jobs in the Middle East, including those with controls and metering devices. Tracking operation and efficiency is usually done by the O&M company or consultants, who then, give us their feedback.

 


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