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New Rooftop Unit? 5 Features to Look For

Key Points
  • Variable speed HVAC controls save energy, reduce maintenance and increase comfort. 
  • Advanced compressors and electronic valves provide improved temperature control.
  • Built-in diagnostics technology helps reduce maintenance time and repair costs.

Looking up at rooftop unitsA comfortable indoor environment is essential to your business, and packaged rooftop units are widely used to provide heating and cooling in small commercial buildings. Many of these systems are older and inefficient by today's standards, and years of exposure to a variety of weather conditions hasn't improved their efficiency. Take a look at your system. If it's a little over-the-hill or in need of repair, consider upgrading to a new energy-efficient unit. If you select carefully, you can significantly reduce your operating costs and improve comfort.    The following are five advanced features you'll find on today's high-performance systems:

  1. __Variable speed condenser and blower fans __regulate airflow based on space conditioning needs. Heating and cooling loads vary, but motors are often set up to run at a constant speed. Fan motors equipped with variable frequency drives can adjust speed to match load requirements, saving energy and putting less stress on system components. 
  2. Electronically commutated motors (ECMs) are very efficient brushless DC motors, using about half the energy of conventional AC motors. ECMs have variable speed control, allowing the rooftop unit to maintain the proper airflow and a constant temperature, which improves occupant comfort. Their ability to run efficiently at low speeds for long periods saves energy and improves humidity control.
  3. Inverter driven compressors modulate to match the load instead of cycling on and off, improving temperature control and reducing noise. The soft-start capabilities of inverter driven units reduce equipment stress, allowing for less maintenance and a longer lifespan.
  4. Electronic expansion valves improve temperature control, while protecting the compressor from the liquids in the refrigerant that can cause premature failure. This type of valve can also increase unit efficiency by safely lowering head pressure.
  5. __Fault detection and diagnostics (FDD) technology __is built-in on a growing number of high-performance models. These units measure airflow, pressure, temperature, compressor operation and other key system functions. When a change indicates a component fault or performance issue, the device generates an alarm and lists probable causes, which helps reduce maintenance costs and minimize downtime. Some models can also integrate with existing building automation or energy management systems for remote monitoring and control.

Make sure your new unit is ENERGY STAR® certified and ASHRAE 90.1 compliant. ENERGY STAR® models are up to 6 percent more efficient than standard units. ASHRAE 90.1 compliance means that the system meets or exceeds the requirements of this widely used building energy standard.  

*Image source: iStock *

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