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A VRF air conditioning system is a particular type of heat-pump air conditioning system in which one outdoor unit can be connected to multiple indoor units. Each indoor unit is individually controllable by its user and a variety of unit styles can be mixed & matched to suit individual tenancy requirements e.g. high-walls, cassettes and ducted units.

The outdoor unit can be made up of a number of modules to create the required capacity. The compressors can be operated at varying speeds, so the VRF units work at only the rate needed to meet the prevailing heating or cooling requirements, considerably enhancing their efficiency.

Each ‘outdoor unit’ can be made up of up to 3 modules, each having up to 3 compressors. Often there will be a separate ‘outdoor unit’ for each floor or pair of floors sized to match the load. Large buildings can have up to 30 or 40 compressors in total.

A large building can have in the order of 50-60 indoor units, and up to 1,000 metres of refrigerant piping to connect them to their outdoor units. The refrigerant pipework will also be fitted with several control boxes to create the correct flow of refrigerant to the indoor units.

The efficiency of many VRF systems can be further enhanced by their ability to provide simultaneous heating and cooling. An example of this would be cooling an east facing office subject to direct sunlight on a cool sunny morning, and using the heat extracted to warm up a cooler west facing office which does not have the benefit of direct sunlight.

System features (Pros)

VRF systems offer a number of benefits to designers, installers and end users. While it is best to peruse the manufacturer’s literature for a full list of benefits, a few of the common features include:

* One outdoor unit for multiple indoor units, saving space and installation costs and improving the building’s external appearance.
* The ability to use long pipe runs, so the outdoor units can be located in ‘out of the way’ places..
* Sophisticated control, offering modulated heating and cooling for better comfort.
* High efficiency heating.
* Simultaneous heating and cooling (some models), offering even higher efficiencies.

Of the above, it is the energy efficiency argument that is most often promoted as the compelling reason to use VRF.



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