VRF HVAC systems and split AC systems are both designed to heat and cool spaces without the use of ductwork. Split AC systems are generally for small to mid-sized commercial applications, whereas VRF HVAC systems are for larger buildings.
Below, we take a look at the similarities and differences.
Split AC System
A split AC system is a more conventional ductless HVAC system, with a combination heat pump or air conditioner outdoors that connects to indoor components, such as a furnace or blower coil. Both the indoor and outdoor units are connected through copper tubing and electrical cabling. Split systems should be matched for optimal efficiency.
A multi-split system can utilize one outdoor condenser unit and multiple indoor evaporator units, and will work well for small to medium commercial applications where installing ductwork is cost-prohibitive, or not acceptable aesthetically. Each indoor unit connects via refrigerant piping to the outdoor unit.
Split AC is either always heating, or always cooling. The system turns ON or OFF completely in response to a single thermostat that operates the whole system. In order to heat one zone and cool another simultaneously, you would need to have two dedicated HVAC systems, one for each zone.
VRF (variable refrigerant flow) technology is a major advancement in the HVAC industry. VRF HVAC systems are the commercial heating and cooling systems of choice in much of Japan, China, and Europe. They are becoming more common in the United States as more people learn of their benefits. The main difference between VRF and split AC is that a VRF system with heat recovery is able to heat and cool different parts of a building simultaneously.
VRF systems are similar to multi-split systems in that multiple indoor fan coils connect to one outdoor compressor. Variable refrigerant flow systems are so named because they continually adjust the flow of refrigerant to each indoor evaporator. Each indoor evaporator has its own set of controls, allowing for air conditioning in a server room, for instance, and heating in an office space to occur simultaneously, with one HVAC system.
The indoor units link to the outdoor unit via control wires. The outdoor unit responds to the heating or cooling demand from the indoor units by varying its compressor speed to match the total requirements.
Because of the technology and work involved in installing a VRF system, your initial cost will be higher than that of a split AC system. But your energy savings should help pay for that quickly.
Interested in learning more? Call Ambient Edge at (888) 628-5890.
Where VRF HVAC Systems Are Used
VRF HVAC systems are most often used in commercial applications. The General Services Administration (GSA) commissioned a study that shows VRF HVAC systems are most cost-effective in buildings 10,000-80>000 sq. ft. There are mini-VRF systems available for smaller business spaces as well as large custom homes.
The ability of the VRF HVAC system to simultaneously heat and cool a space is extremely useful for facilities where different portions of the building need to be at consistently different temperatures, or where individuals want the capability to set their own comfort zone.
The most common commercial applications for a VRF HVAC system include:
- Hotels and other lodging
- Office buildings
- Apartment buildings
- Condominium complexes
- Schools and universities
- Data centers
- Assisted living
- Manufacturing plants
- Laboratory facilities
- Some large retail spaces
- Anywhere that requires simultaneous heating and cooling over multiple zones
Each individual indoor unit will have its own programmable thermostat. In occupied spaces, this allows individual tenants or hotel guests to control the comfort level. Most VRF HVAC manufacturers also offer a centralized control option. This allows an employee to monitor and control the entire system from a single location or via the internet.
This is especially helpful for data centers, hospitals, and lab facilities where keeping one area or more zones within a specified temperature range is critical to the operation of the facility.
Choosing Between VRF and Split AC
Which system you choose in your new construction or HVAC upgrade depends on the size of your facility, whether you need the ability to heat and cool at the same time, and your budget. Both systems are energy efficient. Whether you are replacing an old and inefficient commercial HVAC system, retrofitting an older building, or determining what HVAC system to use in new construction, a VRF HVAC system is well worth looking into.
Call Ambient Edge at (888) 628-5890 for more information and a detailed quote.