Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) is a ductless HVAC system that provides zone-controlled heating and cooling. The non-intrusive installation only requires a three-inch opening to connect the piping between indoor and outdoor units. VRF systems can be configured for direct tenant billing for heating and cooling.
The two major parts of a VRF system are the compressor unit and multiple indoor fan coil units. The compressor unit cools and heats refrigerant and can be capable of simultaneously cooling and heating different zones. Heat in spaces being cooled can be recovered and used in spaces being heated. Compressor units are typically located on the roof of buildings. Fan coil units condition and recirculate air in rooms. They can be installed in different configurations, including in the ceiling, walls, or connected to the room with air ducts.
VRF systems can be two or three-pipe systems. Two-pipe systems heat or cool a space through one pipe and return refrigerant to the compressor with the second. Three-pipe systems have separate heating and cooling pipes.
VRF systems can be used in retrofit applications, as it can be added to existing structures with limited ductwork, leading to savings due to increased energy efficiency. These energy savings come from features of VRF technology, including:
- Variable-speed compressor units, which have higher part-load efficiency than constant-speed systems
- Refrigerant used to deliver heating and cooling requires less energy compared to water or air
- Units that heat and cool different zones at the same time allow refrigerant heat to be recovered
- Multiple compressor units can be connected to allow for heat recovery between units
- Compressors can operate at low temperatures, eliminating the need for a backup heating system
Benefits of VRF
- Reduce annual energy consumption
- Manage temperatures in low-use areas
- Provide heating and cooling simultaneously
- Shift the expense of heating and cooling to new tenants
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