Timberline Blog

Cutting-Edge VRF System Gives Colorado Financial Institution an Efficiency Advantage

February 8, 2018 by Timberline

When a large financial institution with branches throughout the Midwest and Western U.S. bought a building in Boulder, Colorado and prepared to renovate it, it was clear the HVAC equipment needed to be replaced. Ultimately, retrofitting the space with a cutting-edge, water-cooled VRF (variable refrigerant flow) HVAC system turned out to be an excellent investment.

VRF: The Latest in HVAC Technology

Developed in the 1980s, VRF systems were not initially used in the U.S. They were, however, installed in Europe and other areas of the world, where the technology was modified and improved. Consequently, U.S. building owners today have become the beneficiaries of the optimized systems.

As explained in a prior post titled An Intro to VRF: Intelligent Heating and Cooling through Energy Transfer, VRF systems automatically move refrigerant from one area of a building to another in order to efficiently transfer heat to where it is needed and away from where it is not. There are many possible configurations, but in many installations the refrigerant is conditioned by an outdoor condensing unit and then circulated to multiple fan-coil units (FCUs) within the building.

The refrigerant is moved by a variable-speed compressor that works only as hard as it has to, as opposed to the typical on/off operation of conventional systems. This and other features combine to deliver outstanding system efficiency. By some estimates, the energy savings can be as high as 55 percent.

An HVAC Retrofit Provides Substantial Energy Savings

In Timberline’s VRF retrofit project, the customer knew that the existing HVAC equipment in the building would not meet their needs. Not only was it an inefficient system, it could not provide the level of temperature control that they were looking for. So, they consulted Timberline Mechanical and other industry experts, and ultimately chose a Mitsubishi City Multi R2 VRF system, the most efficient HVAC technology available today.

Ready to move forward, the bank put out a request for proposal (RFP). Timberline responded and won the contract, in part due to being a certified Mitsubishi City Multi City Multi VRF installer. Not only did that certification reassure the customer that the installation would be done properly, the training from Mitsubishi, along with Timberline’s willingness to share 2 hours of the system run data with Mitsubishi, meant that they would receive an enhanced 10-year warranty.

HVAC Controls and Communication: Meeting a Security Challenge

Every HVAC installation has its unique challenges. On this project, the issue was security. The Mitsubishi City Multi system has an AE-200 touchscreen that is used to operate it onsite but can also be accessed remotely from the internet. However, as a financial institution, the customer had strict security requirements that would not allow the unit to be directly web-enabled. At the same time, the customer did not want to lose the remote access feature.

The problem was solved using a control platform from Automated Logic Corporation. The BACnet MSTP-based system communicates with a translator that “talks to” the Mitsubishi equipment’s BACnet IP communications protocol. The result is that the company’s corporate headquarters in the Midwest gets the web-based control it needs in a secure and fully compliant manner.

A Pilot VRF Implementation That Will Open the Door to Others

This VRF system implementation is the first at the company’s many offices and branches, making it a “test case” for possible future installations. From the Mitsubishi OC unit and branch box, to the 10 FCUs mounted in the ceiling, to the two Lochinvar boilers and the Taco HVAC pumps, every aspect of the system will be assessed to determine if it is helping deliver a positive return.

However, all indications are that the bank is getting everything it was looking for in this project:

  • 10 separate zones for very granular temperature control that can’t be achieved with other systems
  • Tremendous energy efficiency
  • A secure, web-enabled control system
  • An enhanced 10-year warranty

Also boding well for using this technology at other locations is the fact that while the Mitsubishi City Multi R2 VRF system is complex, the installation went very smoothly. In fact, the Timberline team was ahead of schedule throughout the process.

Timberline’s Expanding Mitsubishi City Multi R2 VRF Expertise

This project added to Timberline’s VRF heating and cooling system expertise and furthered the company’s position as a Front Range leader in the technology. Timberline often serves as a resource to area businesses and government organizations, including sharing VRF insights at the City of Boulder Heat Pump Adoption Campaign kickoff.

To learn more about VRF systems and Timberline’s HVAC design, implementation, and maintenance services, contact us today.

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