What is VRF Air Conditioning? Variable Refrigerant Flow Explained

Variable refrigerant flow (VRF) is a highly efficient, highly versatile type of air conditioning technology. Also known as variable refrigerant volume (VRV), it was first introduced by the Japanese AC manufacturer Daikin back in 1982.

Though you may hear the terms VRF and VRV used interchangeably, the latter is actually a trademark of Daikin Industries Ltd., with the former referring to variable systems produced by any other manufacturer. 

In this post, we take a closer look at VRF technology, its common applications and its benefits. 

What is VRF Air Conditioning?

Variable is the key word in the acronym VRF. These systems - consisting of an outdoor unit attached to multiple indoor units - are capable of varying refrigerant flow based on the needs of each individual space. Essentially, they allow you to operate the internal units independently of each other. This is known as zonal control.

Like all modern AC systems, they can both heat and cool a space, though their full capability depends on the type of system installed:

Heat pump VRF systems will only heat or cool at any given time.

Heat recovery VRF systems will both heat and cool simultaneously, and use otherwise wasted heat energy from cooled zones to meet part of any heating requirements. 

How Does VRF Air Conditioning Work?

VRF systems are able to vary refrigerant flow because of their use of inverter compressors. Inverter technology allows the compressor to ramp up or slow down its speed - i.e. adjust refrigerant flow - based on precise temperature requirements. 

Each indoor unit dictates the required capacity based on the current temperature of the space, and the desired temperature set via its controls. 

This means that, as well as facilitating zonal control, VRF air conditioning systems ensure only the minimum amount of energy is used to achieve comfortable conditions - lowering costs and carbon emissions. 

What Are the Benefits of VRF Air Conditioning?

We’ve already mentioned one of the biggest benefits of VRF technology - its variable capability and precision make it highly energy efficient. But that’s not the only plus side to these AC systems:

VRF systems are incredibly versatile: not only do they cater to the different heating and cooling needs of a building, you can also use various types of indoor units to suit different spaces. This versatility makes VRF systems suitable for a wide range of applications.

VRF systems provide custom and consistent comfort: their precise flow eliminates hot and cold spots and humidity issues, and ensures consistent conditions - whatever the occupancy and primary use of a space. 

VRF systems are relatively easy to install: compared to ducted HVAC systems, VRF AC is lightweight, compact and far less intrusive to the fabric of a building. This makes it ideal for retrofitting.

VRF systems are less susceptible to breakdown: because they are designed to run only as needed and under partial load conditions, VRF systems are subject to less wear and tear. That said, you should still invest in planned preventive maintenance to ensure maximum performance and longevity. 

Common Applications of VRF Air Conditioning

So what sort of environments are VRF systems best suited to? The answer is many. Thanks to its incredible adaptability, VRF technology can meet the needs of:

Hotels and hospitality buildings: where zonal control gives guests custom comfort, on-site facilities like gyms can be kept cool, and communal areas like the lobby warm.

Educational sites: VRF can cater to the many different room types found in educational settings and their requirements, from science labs to sports halls. 

Healthcare facilities: not only can VRF systems serve the varying needs of spaces like hospital wards, operating theatres and waiting rooms, they also safeguard against cross air contamination between zones. 

Office buildings: whether multiple spaces occupied by different businesses or a building with single occupancy but multiple uses, VRF can be configured to suit. 

The list goes on - exhibition centres, entertainment complexes, health clubs, shopping centres - VRF can be designed to deliver zonal climate control in a vast array of settings. 

Is VRF Right For My Premises? 

If you’re looking to learn more about VRF air conditioning and its capabilities, or already have an installation project in mind, Loughborough Air Conditioning can help.

We have over 20 years of experience designing custom solutions for clients across the East Midlands, and our professional accreditations show our commitment to industry leading standards.

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