Variable refrigerant flow systems (VRF) allow for varying degrees of heating and cooling in certain areas of a building, reducing energy consumption. Recent advances in cold-climate variable refrigerant flow (ccVRF) systems allow this technology to be viable in northern Illinois, providing buildings with energy savings, space savings and cooling in places where there was only heating beforehand.
In 2021, ComEd and Slipstream completed preliminary research in the ComEd service territory on VRF. This preliminary research had several key conclusions:
- VRF systems have widespread potential for both adoption and energy savings in the ComEd service territory across a variety of building types and in both retrofit and new construction scenarios.
- In the ComEd service territory, these systems have been installed both standalone and paired with supplemental or secondary heat for reassurance.
- Energy modeling shows that VRF has the potential to save kWh.
- For offices and schools, simple payback can be as low at 6 years.
The project team is currently recruiting a sample of buildings to test VRF systems and quantify the energy and comfort benefits of these systems in cold climates. Key outcomes will include understanding potential savings (energy and demand), cost effectiveness and overall system satisfaction for owners/operators and occupants. These outcomes will inform potential pathways to integrate this technology into the ComEd Energy Efficiency Program.
Many buildings are seeking energy-efficient HVAC solutions in the market today. VRF systems provide a highly efficient means to deliver heating and cooling, in addition to superior thermal comfort. For existing facilities seeking a HVAC retrofit, VRF systems are a non-intrusive option which is frequently cost competitive with traditional high quality HVAC systems.
Typical benefits of a VRF retrofit include 30-40%energy savings over traditional HVAC systems, superior thermal and acoustic comfort for occupants, reduced maintenance and marketing and publicity opportunities. Buildings which participate may be eligible for incentives from ComEd. In addition, the project team will provide technical assistance to ensure proper operation of the VRF system.
What Buildings are Eligible?
This study is seeking existing facilities interested in installing a VRF system. New construction buildings, and buildings with recent VRF installations will also be considered. Ideal building types include offices, multi-family, education, lodging or other building types with multiple heating/cooling zones.
What are Participants Required to Do?
- Meet study and manufacturer technical specifications for VRF system design and installation.
- Provide access to design and installation teams.
- Allow for installation of ComEd-provided non-intrusive power and temperature monitoring equipment.
- Provide pre- and post-installation utility bills, the cost of installation and alternate bids, as well as access to facility maintenance staff and selected occupants for short interviews.