Energy-efficient heating, air conditioning and ventilation (HVAC) still faces an uphill battle for adoption, but many lower-cost options are making this technology more attractive to companies, according to intelligence and strategy firm Lux Research.
In a report, “Uncovering Attractive Innovations in HVAC Amidst Evolutionary Growth,” Lux Research says that building HVAC systems consume 13 percent of all primary energy generated around the globe. These systems, Lux says, are “crying out for new, more energy-efficient HVAC equipment, including advanced heat pumps, absorption chillers, evaporative chillers, and condensing boilers.”
Take-up of such technologies is slow, despite the rising cost of energy and looming carbon regulations in some parts of the world. But Lux says that it has seen demand for components that improve the operational cost and performance of existing HVAC equipment, and that these offer the fastest return on investment.
These technologies include variable speed compressors, electronic expansion valves, advanced humidity removal, heat recycling, variable frequency drives, and thermal energy storage.
“While some builders and owners will choose to install whole new, cutting-edge HVAC systems, occupants and building managers will favor lower-cost incremental component solutions that improve efficiency of their existing systems,” said Jaideep Raje, a Lux Research senior analyst and a contributing author of the report. “Component technologies demonstrate the quickest return on investment, smoothing their path to adoption.”
The report evaluates HVAC systems and components separately and scores technologies on their technical value and maturity. It then plots each technology’s relative potential on a matrix comprising four quadrants: Current Winners, Future Winners, Long-Shot, and Faded Incumbents. Among its key findings:
- Advanced HVAC systems are seeing incremental adoption. Companies are slowly adopting more efficient gas-fired furnaces and new technologies like radiant heating and advanced heat pumps, to replace old steam-heated boilers and standard furnaces.
- Heat pumps show particular efficiency potential when coupled with water heaters. This approach is offered by companies like Cool Sound Industries, WhisperGen, and Disenco.
- There is plenty of opportunity for advanced HVAC components to show their value. Low-cost variable frequency drives are rated a “current winner” in the report, and expansion valves rank among “future winners”.
- The value of HVAC technologies can exceed the sum of their parts. Many of the report’s highest-ranked HVAC technologies can deliver even better returns when combined.