What is a VFR HVAC system?

Just like traditional HVAC systems, VRF HVAC systems are refrigerant based and air-cooled. These also use an outdoor condenser unit and indoor fan units like older systems.

But instead of one large unit supplying hot or cool air in your house, the VRF system has multiple small air handlers that can be controlled individually and can be piped back to one main system.

Variable Refrigerant Flow refers to this system’s ability to separately control the amount of refrigerant flow reaching each specific air handler.

The biggest advantage of VRF HVAC systems is that they can provide heating and cooling at the same time, in different areas of your house, as required.

Moreover, these systems are energy-efficient and noise-free as there is no single large unit that has to bear all the load. The variable speed compressor runs only at the required speed according to current temperature conditions.

Characteristics and advantages of a VRF HVAC system

  1. Energy efficiency

The VRF HVAC system is not just energy efficient because of the multiple smaller air handlers but also because the system provides only that amount of energy that is required for cooling under current conditions.

Plus, it is designed to redirect the heat absorbed in the cooling process to other parts of the house for heating purposes. So, it runs at a lower capacity and less frequently, helping you save a lot on energy and on your monthly bills.

  1. Gives simultaneous heating and cooling

The most convenient and important feature of this system is that it can provide heating in one area of the house while cooling another zone at the same time.

  1. Noiseless

The condensing unit is installed outdoors and there are multiple small air handlers indoors as compared to one big unit like in split air conditioning systems. So, this system is not loud.

  1. Fewer breakdowns

The VRF HVAC system runs only as and when required and uses only that much refrigerant that is needed to cool the different areas of the house. Compared to traditional systems, this does not have to overwork and hence there is less wear and tear of parts, leading to fewer breakdowns which is good because no one should take those Bay Area summers or winters for granted.

It may not be Alaska or Arizona but no one wants to live in a 40 or 95 degree home.

  1. Takes less space

This system does not require ducts and the air handlers are small. Hence you can save a lot of space.

  1. Has modern control options

Residential VRF HVAC systems have mobile device control options. So, you can easily regulate the temperatures in different areas of your home from your phone.

I invested in a new heating and cooling system

When we moved into a new home, there were quite a few projects that needed to be completed. We were faced with an ancient roof, windows that leaked air, outdated appliances and an inefficient heating and cooling system. Because of the severe weather in our local area and the cost of temperature control, replacing the furnace and air conditioner were a priority. We considered the new HVAC system as an opportunity to enhance comfort, air quality and the value of our home. A modern central air conditioner can be expected to last around fifteen years with annual maintenance. A new gas furnace often performs reliably for upwards of twenty years. Since we expected to live with our choices for quite some time, we were willing to spend more to benefit from a better quality heating and cooling system. Since we plan to remain in the house long-term, we knew the investment into a high-efficiency system would pay for itself in lower monthly energy costs year after year. My husband and I took some time to research the different manufacturers, models and efficiency ratings on the current market. Air conditioner efficiency is provided by a unit’s SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating, which is displayed on a yellow Energy Guide sticker. The current federal mandated minimum is a 14 SEER, but there are Energy Star rated options that achieve up to a 26% SEER. The federal minimum AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating for a gas furnace is 78%. There are adaptable-speed models that offer up to a 98% AFUE rating. We chose top-of-the-line heating and cooling equipment that includes features such as wifi connectivity and zone control. 

How to choose a VRF system

My husband and I purchased an older home that needed to be nearly completely gutted to make it liveable. The roof had leaked for quite some time, causing a great deal of water damage to the ceilings, walls and floors. We were faced with crumbling plaster, warped doors, corroded pipes and an electrical system that wouldn’t pass code. The heating and cooling system was not salvageable. Even the ductwork was in such bad shape that it needed to be entirely torn out. This left us with options. We were starting from scratch and could choose any type of temperature control system we wanted. After a lot of debate, we decided on a VRF system. Variable Refrigerant Flow technology involves an air-cooled and refrigerant-based process that uses an outdoor condenser linked to multiple small air handlers. The air handlers can be individually controlled. The main advantage of VRF is the system’s ability to regulate the amount of refrigerant flowing to each of the air handlers.

The compressor detects the precise requirements of each zone and sends the exact amount of refrigerant necessary to maintain ideal comfort. Because of this, the operation minimizes energy uses and is especially efficient and cost-effective. It also maintains very consistent comfort, optimum humidity levels and avoids hot and cold spots. Plus, a VRF system can heat one room while cooling another. It will even repurpose the heat pulled from the air conditioning process and send it to those areas that need heat. Since the air handlers are especially compact and don’t require ducts, the system is a space-saving alternative to conventional heating and cooling equipment.

A dehumidifier can do a lot for the comfort in your home

I moved south a couple of years ago. I was anxious to get away from the snow and cold of long northern winters. I’d had enough of shoveling snow, scraping ice and relying on the furnace for eight months of the year. I looked forward to the heat and sunshine further south. I didn’t realize that heat and humidity can be as problematic as sub zero temperatures. I now rely on the air conditioner for eight months of the year. I stress over the cost of electricity and am often trapped inside due to the severity of the weather. Within the first six months of living in my new home, I realized that I needed to do something about the humidity. Turning down the thermostat simply put more strain on the air conditioner, over-cooled the space and cost me a fortune in utility bills. The air still felt sticky, and there was condensate running down the window panes. I struggled with mold and mildew growth and found it difficult to sleep at night. Initially, I purchased a portable dehumidifier. That didn’t solve the problem and simply created more work. I needed to empty the reservoir constantly, and I worried about the standing water breeding contaminants. I finally consulted with a local HVAC contractor and invested into a whole-home dehumidifier. The dehumidifier is installed into the cooling system where it pulls moisture out of the air as it passes through. Since adding the dehumidifier, I’ve been able to raise the temperature setting on the thermostat several degrees. The house feels cooler and more comfortable and even smells fresher. 

A heat pump could be the perfect unit for you!

Shopping for a heating and cooling system for a new construction home was a long and stressful project. My husband and I wanted to make the most out of our investment. We were looking for a unit that would provide year round comfort and longevity but also keep our monthly bills reasonable. Energy efficiency was a priority for running costs as well as environmental impact. We researched forced air furnaces and central air conditioners but weren’t thrilled with the idea of giving up space to ductwork. From what we read, the average duct system gives up as much as 30% of energy to leaks. After a lot of debate, we finally chose a geothermal heat pump. Although the price tag to purchase and install a geothermal system is much higher than a conventional alternative, this innovation met all of our requirements. Geothermal systems are considered the most environmentally responsible choice by the EPA, achieving up to 400% efficiency ratings.

The underground loop system is warrantied for 50 years and can be expected to last twice that long. Because the actual heat pump is installed inside the home and protected against the weather, it should operate reliably for over twenty years. There are few moving parts which minimizes maintenance requirements and the chance of malfunction. Geothermal systems are great for dehumidification and won’t dry out the indoor air. They are safe, clean and quiet. Plus, with the addition of a simple switch, we benefit from a virtually free source of hot water. The best perk of the geothermal heat pump is that it keeps our house totally comfortable no matter the season or weather.

A water heater is an expensive appliance and totally worth doing annual maintenance on

Plumbing services are best left up to the professionals. DIY projects can easily go horribly wrong and lead to a great deal of inconvenience, damage and expense. Licensed plumbers have the training, specialized tools and resources to handle unexpected issues and complexities. The help of professional contractors can reduce the amount of disruption and mess caused by repairs, replacements or installation. Rather than grab a water heater off the shelf of a home improvement store, it’s better to consult with a knowledgeable contractor. A plumber knows how to calculate the proper size for household demands. He should be familiar with the make and models and recommend one of better quality. While all tank-style water heaters might appear the same, there are significant differences that add to convenience, value and satisfaction. The heating element affects how quickly the water heats up. The anode rod helps to remove hard water chemicals. Warranty coverage is also important. An experienced plumber can potentially fix the existing water heater, provide life-extending maintenance and helpt to determine if conversion to tankless would be feasible. Tankless water heaters are about the size of a small suitcase, mount to the wall and can be installed indoors or outdoors. The system heats water on-demand and eliminates standby energy losses. Because the water isn’t constantly reheated in a tank, it doesn’t absorb harmful chemicals. Plus, there’s no waiting for water to heat up and no running out of hot water. Tankless water heaters also offer a much longer lifespan. Like all water heaters, maintenance is essential to performance. Having service performed by a licensed plumber every year fulfills the warranty requirements.

Box seats with air conditioning

One of the best parts about my husband’s job are the perks he receives. His boss enjoys taking care of his employees, so he not only pays them well, but he treats them well. One of the best perks is the season tickets for our hometown baseball team. During the first year my husband started working for this company, they told him that he could attend all the baseball games for free. Before we went to our first game, we made sure to dress as light as we could and we lathered on sunscreen. We were prepared to sit in the heat for all 9 innings, as it was an afternoon game. When we arrived, we went to the ticket box to receive the tickets with our seats. We were shocked when we were handed massive tickets in the box seated section! My husband and I looked at each other with disbelief. As soon as we walked into the box area, we were greeted by the cool air conditioning. Each box room was connected to the central air conditioning system, so the entire room was chilled evenly. My husband and I were able to watch the entire game in the comfort of the air conditioning. Of course we couldn’t control the temperature of the room, so if we got too cold we sat on the outside balcony. When we became overheated from the intense temperatures and humidity, we walked back inside and relaxed in the air conditioning. Since we’re able to sit in the air conditioning, we attend as many home games as possible!

HVAC for older homes

There are pros and cons to purchasing an older home. I appreciate the historic integrity and charm of my house. The construction is extremely sturdy and well done, with everything perfectly square and plumb. The hardwood floors, doors, moldings and staircase are exceptionally beautiful. I love the big windows with stained glass insets, the high ceilings and wide front porch. However, we moved into a house with an extremely outdated electrical and plumbing system. We also had no access to central heating or cooling. There was no way I was willing to struggle with box fans, window air conditioners and electric baseboard heaters. I was very reluctant to tear into the original walls and ceilings to install a duct system. That would have created extensive damage and mess, cost me a fortune and consumed a great deal of space. I started looking into alternatives and found that there’s one type of system designed specifically for older homes. A high velocity heating and cooling system requires very little space and causes no disruption to the existing structure. It utilizes mini-ducts that are flexible and just two inches in diameter. They are small enough to be snaked between studs in the walls or ceiling rafters. The vents are also much smaller. Where conventional vents are usually around six inches tall and twelve inches wide, the high velocity vents are only five inches in diameter. The heated and cooled air is supplied from a compressor to a high-velocity air handler that sends it through the ducts at a very high rate of speed. The air then circulates rapidly and raises or lowers room temperature quickly. The high velocity system doesn’t need to run as long as most types of heating/cooling units and therefore uses less energy. 

HVAC equipment

There’s a lot of new technology in the HVAC industry

Although the initial set up cost is higher than purchasing a more conventional style of heating and cooling option, a dual fuel system actually pays for itself. The system works to conserve energy and trim operational costs all year round. Because I live in an area with summer and winter weather extremes, finding a powerful yet efficient solution is a priority. I needed a system that could handle temperatures that vary between negative twenty and ninety degrees. Humidity is also a big problem. I looked into all the different makes, models and styles of units on the current market. A lot of research led me to something called hybrid heating or a dual fuel system. It is the combination of a natural gas furnace and an electric heat pump. It saves money because the heat pump achieves higher efficiency ratings than the furnace or a conventional air conditioner. It works a lot like an air conditioner in that it transfers heat from one location to another. However, the heat pump provides the added bonus of a heating mode.

Modern features include adaptable speed technology that allows the equipment to automatically adjust and operate at lower capacity for longer cycles. This achieves greater dehumidification and air filtration. In heating mode, the system doesn’t negatively impact humidity. Plus, heat pumps are wonderfully environmentally friendly, safe and clean. There’s no combustion byproducts such as carbon monoxide. When the outside temperature plummets, the heat pump starts to struggle to keep up. That’s when the furnace automatically takes over and handles comfort. We couldn’t be happier with the benefits of the dual fuel system. 

A ductless mini-split is great for a small room

I think one of the best inventions is ductless mini-splits. This type of temperature control is extremely versatile. It can accommodate almost any size or layout of home or commercial space. The equipment is super compact, lightweight and requires very little for installation. The system consists of a single outdoor compressor that links to anywhere from one to eight indoor air handlers. They connect by way of a conduit that houses the drainage and refrigerant lines. The indoor air handlers mount up high on the wall, into a drop ceiling or even down near the floor. They can be strictly air conditioners or heat pumps that provide both heating and cooling. The process works by simply moving existing heat between the indoors and outdoors. Modern ductless systems utilize inverter technology that allows the equipment to automatically adapt speed to changing demands. The system supplies only the specific amount of heating or cooling necessary to maintain very even temperature and optimize energy efficiency. They don’t cost much to run.Plus, this results in better dehumidification and air filtration. The better ductless units include wifi connectivity so that programming and adjustments can be made through an app on a smartphone. Each air handler includes an independent thermostat for the benefits of zone control. There’s no need to heat or cool empty rooms and the temperature can cater to preferences. Another advantage of ductless heating and cooling is the ease of the installation process. In most cases, the system can be up and running within a few hours. There’s no major mess, disruption or big renovation project. The ductless air handlers are streamlined, operate quietly and require very little maintenance. They are far superior to window air conditioners or portable electric heaters.