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Posts from the ‘HVAC’ Category

Building Blocks of Artificial Intelligence for HVACR

 

JohnWallace_Blog_Image John Wallace | Director of Innovation, Retail Solutions

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Emerson is applying our expertise in commercial refrigeration and AC toward building predictive models for a variety of applications and architectures, a foundation for the emerging artificial intelligence technologies in the HVACR industry. I recently discussed our work in ACHR News magazine, “The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on HVACR.” You can read the full article here.

The building blocks of artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled equipment and systems in HVACR are already well in development: next-generation sensors and controllers, increasingly sophisticated predictive analytics, and machine-to-machine learning (M2M) software, cloud data storage and the growing implementation of the internet of things (IoT). These tools are already providing opportunities to improve comfort, save energy, reduce maintenance costs and extend equipment life, all while helping end users better manage their operations.

But integrating these tools into true AI solutions — data- and algorithm-driven applications that will enable systems and equipment to learn and automatically perform critical tasks without human intervention — is a challenge that will require a deeper understanding of the complexities of equipment, HVACR architectures and building systems.

At Emerson’s innovation centers and in customer field trials, we’re tackling this challenge head on — but methodically. Rather than simply throwing more technologies into the mix, we’re leveraging our deep refrigeration domain expertise to simplify complexities and uncover insights into the industry’s most common refrigeration scenarios. We are in the process of understanding how deeply AI could be implemented into equipment and buildings, and how effectively it could help solve the industry’s biggest challenges.

As I stated in the article, Emerson is researching how some newer AI-related technologies can be utilized for more advanced services, such as detecting problems faster and pinpointing which actions need to be taken. For example, we are already incorporating some AI-related technologies into equipment when we learn they add value, such as sensors that warn of refrigerant leaks in supermarket refrigerants.

However, delivering on the promised value of AI — autonomous predictive analysis and control of HVACR equipment and even entire building environments — will require more than simply installing connected sensors and devices, transmitting clouds of data, and creating libraries of algorithms. As the automobile industry has learned, building a self-driving vehicle is a far more complex undertaking than it appears. This example is important to keep in mind when considering the inherent complexities and diversity of commercial refrigeration applications.

A typical commercial refrigeration system consists of many interdependent components — often from multiple suppliers — with potentially diverse data sources. The proliferation of system architectures and refrigerants has resulted in an ever-expanding diversity of applications. This makes data modeling and defining predictive algorithms difficult. At Emerson, we believe that the development of AI in HVACR will grow as an iterative process, via data processing performed at the equipment level — with tighter integration of sensors and controllers providing richer data to cloud- and IoT-based services. These services provide both real-time alerts and historical trends of equipment performance under a given set of conditions — including indications of potential failures.

These data sets are the foundation of the next level of AI, enabling predictive maintenance models that will anticipate problems and maintain optimum conditions across a defined range of variables. Reaching that point will require generating sufficient historical data detailing the operation, failures and problems of equipment and components. And while much of this data is available today, new sensors may also be required to provide more advanced predictive capabilities.

Relatively speaking, the use of AI in HVACR equipment and controls is still in its infancy. But we’re working to accelerate its advancement to help our industry reap its potential benefits, including: improved reliability, energy savings, prolonged asset life and, of course, predictive analytics. As more AI-related technologies arrive in the HVACR space, we’ll start to fully understand the significant benefits and valuable data they are capable of providing.

Emerson Supports and Sponsors “World Refrigeration Day”

Emerson will be a sponsor of the first annual World Refrigeration Day on June 26 which will be celebrated on the 195th birthday of refrigeration pioneer Lord Kelvin and raise awareness and understanding of the significant role that refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump (RACHP) technology plays in modern living

World Refrigeration Day

ASHRAE, UN Environment OzonAction and WRD Secretariat are organizing an international Webinar on the 26th June at 9 a.m. EDT titled “ Refrigerants for Life: How Refrigerants Affect Modern Life”. The event will feature RACHP and HVACR organizations and professionals from around the globe, including: the U.S., India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, Australia, Africa, and Europe. Representatives from these countries, regions, and organizations have pledged their interest and support for the establishment of World Refrigeration Day and will participate in a variety of activities.

Emerson’s vice president, system innovation center and sustainability, Rajan Rajendran, who is also the 2019-2020 Chair of ASHRAE Refrigeration Committee will participate in the webinar as Keynote Speaker to present the Responsible Use of Refrigerants and cover the following topics:

  • The complexity of choosing a refrigerant for HVACR applications
  • Considerations such as global warming potential (GWP), ozone depletion potential (ODP) and lifecycle climate performance (LCCP)
  • The environmental characteristics of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
  • The growing trend toward the use of environmentally friendly refrigerant alternatives
  • A review of natural and synthetic refrigerants that offer lower LCCP

He will also discuss how the selection of refrigerants and their systems must be based on a holistic analysis that encompasses a variety of criteria, including: energy efficiency and performance attributes, environmental impacts, employee and public safety, and economic considerations. This event will also provide an opportunity for the refrigeration and air conditioning industries to continue a dialogue and address the many challenges we are facing, such as:

  • Rapidly evolving environmental standards
  • Global warming
  • The growing ubiquity of digital technologies
  • Food safety concerns
  • Never-ending energy and operating cost concerns

Emerson is pleased to participate in World Refrigeration Day and promote the roles that refrigeration, air conditioning, and heat pump technologies and applications have in today’s world.

You can register for the Wednesday, June 26 “Refrigerants for Life: How Refrigerants Affect Modern Life” webinar, here.

 

 

Trends Impacting the Supermarket Refrigeration Landscape

JasonBorn_Blog_Image Jason Born | Innovation Lead, The Helix
Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

During our E360 Forum last year in Houston, I led a Q&A panel discussion on the trends and market forces impacting the refrigeration landscape in food retail. Sharing their thoughts and insights were industry experts Derek Gosselin, director, technical product support, Hillphoenix; and Brad Thrasher, south central regional sales manager, Zero Zone. Below are some of their views on key trends; view the full E360 Forum presentation.

The Changing Face of Food Retail

Thirsty from wandering the aisles of your local grocery megamart? How about a craft beer break? Or maybe shopping for food just makes you hungry. Grocery shoppers today can virtually eat their way around the world as in-store food bazaars offer freshly prepared ethnic fare: Mexican “street food”, noodle bowls and wood-fired pizza. No time to shop? There’s always curbside pick-up of weekly grocery staples on your way home from work — just click and collect. And today, going small has never been bigger, with millennials and Generation Z flocking to urban areas and higher-density living. It’s no surprise that smaller-footprint grocery and food specialty stores are popping up in mixed-use buildings that were never intended to support things like complex refrigeration or HVAC systems.

Yes, the face of food retail is changing. And with this change comes a host of new opportunities (and challenges) for commercial refrigeration. I’ve summarized some of the key takeaways from this informative question and answer session.

On e-commerce, omnichannel and digital shopping

The first topic of discussion was the impact of the digital shopping trend. Today, more consumers are shopping for groceries online. I asked the panelists how brick-and-mortar retailers were responding.

Thrasher: I’ve seen some reports (FMI-Nielsen) that say that online grocery sales could grab up to 20 percent of the market. That seems pretty aggressive to me. But it’s definitely a rising trend. Traditional food retailers are responding by adding services like curbside pick-up. They are making home deliveries. You have to adapt to whatever direction the market is going.

Gosselin: For the retailers, it’s about what identifies them as different. Amazon is driving sales directly online. What can you offer to differentiate yourself, not only from online shopping, but the competition in your marketplace? Many stores have found success creating destination centers within their produce and other perimeter departments: food preparations, beer and wine tastings, restaurants, meals-to-go programs. That’s where the trends are going to be. And, of particular interest to everyone here: How do make sure you have appropriate refrigeration at these dynamic destination centers so that they can control your food quality and get it efficiently distributed?

On Click & Collect

Building on the idea of curbside service, I asked our panelists about the grocery pick-up lockers that are popping up everywhere and what that might mean for the future.

Gosselin: If you’re going to offer perishables as part of your curbside pick-up, you’re going to need to incorporate refrigeration. And it’s not just with in-store Click & Collect programs. I’ve also seen trends where retailers will place a portable refrigerated unit on your porch, so when they deliver fresh food or frozen items, they have a convenient and appropriately refrigerated location. Most consumers are probably not going to give you the key to their home.

Thrasher: Many stores are looking at self-contained or hybrid systems. Future refrigeration will need to be more flexible so that retailers can expand quickly and easily. If your curbside (pick-up) starts minimally but grows quickly, you’ll want a flexible, easy-to-implement solution so you can move quickly to serve customer demand.

Curbside pick-up is a relatively recent phenomenon. To add it as service, you have to dedicate and adapt more space in your store. But that doesn’t come without cost and questions. As we all know, for everything new you add in-store, something else will probably need to come out.

On the future

Before jumping into an audience Q&A, I asked the panelists how their retailers are dealing with change and some of the main factors driving their refrigeration decisions.

Thrasher: No one knows with certainty where the future will go. Some decisions will continue to be informed by technology and regulatory changes. And, certainly, costs always play a critical role. With refrigerants, for example, as regulations come, they may eliminate possibilities. It’s hard to go “all in” into a refrigerant when it could eventually be obsoleted, driving costs up for replacements. The same concept applies to system architectures.

Gosselin: How do you get in front of change? Do you go micro-distributed? Do you use natural refrigerants? What technologies will be developed in answer to changing rules?

For the end user, the challenge is not only what do they have to do to maintain their current fleet of stores, but what are they going to do for future stores so that they don’t add to the problems? And then how do they do that under a cost-effective and compliant refrigerant management program?

Thrasher: The bottom line is that there’s simply no one solution for everyone. Every retailer has a different set of objectives and challenges, influenced by regulations, technology and costs, but ultimately driven by the evolving needs of the markets they serve.

To take a deeper dive into our discussion, be sure to watch the full E360 Forum session.

 

Five Prestigious Reasons to Become an HVACR Apprentice

BobLabbett_Blog Bob Labbett | V.P. – Aftermarket Distribution, Cold Chain

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

As National Apprenticeship Week (March 4–8, 2019) once again approaches, the critical shortage of qualified HVACR technicians within the U.S. continues with an estimated industry shortfall of 118,000 technicians by the year 2022. Recruiting apprentice HVACR techs remains as challenging as ever, because students with an aptitude for technical trades are not being encouraged to pursue vocational or technical training. Students need to be convinced that an HVACR career path is a viable alternative to a four-year college degree, offering them a chance to work on new and emerging technologies in meaningful careers that contribute to society.

What’s stopping them? One is the perception among American high school students that a college degree is more valuable and prestigious than an apprenticeship and a fast track to a career. The other is that we collectively as an industry are not adequately presenting them options. Here are five great reasons for a high school student to consider becoming an HVACR apprentice.

  1. College is more popular — and more expensive — than ever.

At least two-thirds of the high school class of 2020 intend to go to college; this represents the highest rate of secondary education attendance in U.S. history. They and their parents know that college is getting more expensive, while financial aid is shrinking. The average student graduates with an average of $40,000 in student loan debt just as they’re about to begin looking for an entry-level job. What isn’t as well-known is that about half of all college students drop out without earning a degree — and with no real job skills. Yet schools, guidance counselors and peers continue to push students straight to college.

  1. There is an alternative: A fast start — with no debt.

When many “traditional” students are just starting their sophomore year in college, some of their high school friends will be beginning their careers as HVACR apprentices with average entry-level salaries ranging from $47,000–$60,000 a year, depending on skill set. It’s a matter of supply and demand, and being an HVACR tech is a vocation in extremely high demand. It’s time high school guidance counselors had information about alternative apprenticeships on hand.

  1. An apprenticeship is a wise path for students who can use their heads — and their hands.

A bright student with some high school courses in math and/or physics can learn to read a blueprint and earn an HVACR apprentice certificate at a community college in six months to a year, at little or no cost and with no student debt. Others can even start straight out of high school, getting paid while earning their certificate on the job. In an industry that needs 118,000 new HVACR apprentice technicians, their certificates mean they are almost certain to get job offers from almost any company to which they apply. As an apprentice, their future career tracks are limited only by their ambition and drive (or lack thereof).

  1. An apprenticeship is a top-notch education.

An HVACR tech certificate may not sound as glamorous as a college degree. But four years of on-the-job training in a technical field are easily the equivalent of a four-year academic degree. HVACR techs are responsible for maintaining healthy environments at major medical centers. They work in the aerospace industry and in high-tech corporations. HVACR techs know how to maintain and repair 12-ton coolers, heat pumps, furnaces, ultralow-temperature freezers and refrigerators; they can manage the electronic systems that connect them; and they can run the software and internet programs that monitor and control them. HVACR techs work with advanced technologies, doing essential work that significantly affects people’s lives.

  1. They’re wanted.

The HVACR industry is working with educators, unions and contractor organizations to make it even easier to earn apprentice certification, with more online courses, night classes and technically advanced curriculums to create valuable on-the-job training. Even the federal government has stepped in, with the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act providing funds for students who are looking for more career-oriented education after high school.

 

Refrigerant Management: How Changes to Section 608 Impact Our Industry

JohnWallace_Blog_Image John Wallace | Director of Innovation, Retail Solutions

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

I was recently interviewed for an article in ACHR’s The News magazine, “EPA’s Proposed Changes to Section 608 Cause Concern in the Industry,” where I provided my perspective on the current state of leak detection, repair and other provisions.

Refrigerant leak response and repair regulations have placed our industry in uncertain waters. As you may know, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed a new rule that rescinds some provisions of its Section 608 mandate, affecting equipment with 50 lbs. or more of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) or other substitute refrigerants. These best practices were developed in consultation with the HVACR industry to ensure safety, establish proper reclaim and recycling processes, and of course, reduce carbon emissions.

In November 2016, the EPA extended the scope of Section 608 — from refrigerants containing ozone-depleting substances (ODS) to nonexempt substitute refrigerants such as HFCs. Because the Court of Appeals ruled in 2017 that the EPA could not ban HFCs, the agency has decided that it also did not have the authority to regulate these refrigerants under Section 608.

Establishing best practices

Awareness of the importance of leak detection has grown exponentially in recent years. Today, most companies understand that implementing a leak response and repair program is simply a best practice. And for those companies that have already taken steps to comply with Section 608, the vacating of this rule will have little impact.

I stated in the article: “These procedures not only benefit the environment but also help ensure HVACR equipment operates at peak efficiency, including at the lowest overall cost. One of the benefits of the existing regulations has been to raise the awareness of best practices related to HVACR maintenance. Increased awareness generally leads to broader adoption by those in the industry, regardless of whether regulations are in place.”

Simply put, leak detection and repair programs make good sense, regardless of the regulations in place or the type of refrigerant being used. However, with the reversal of Section 608, equipment operators will no longer be under federal mandate to follow these widely adopted refrigerant management best practices:

  • Conducting leak rate calculations when refrigerant is added to an appliance
  • Repairing an appliance that leaks above a threshold leak rate
  • Conducting verification tests on repairs
  • Conducting periodic leak inspections on appliances that exceed the threshold leak rate
  • Reporting to the EPA about chronically leaking appliances
  • Retrofitting or retiring appliances that are not repaired
  • Maintaining related records
  • Overseeing technicians’ use of certified equipment and the reclamation process

These procedures are already considered to be the optimal standard practice, and end users who are focused on operational excellence are likely doing many (or most) of them today.

Maintaining other key program elements

The absence of a federal mandate for responsible HFC management creates a quandary for our industry. Currently, the EPA is seeking comments about the remaining provisions of Section 608, raising concerns about the potential for overturning other benefits of programs — specifically, guidelines for refrigerant reclaim procedures and technician certification and training programs.

Proper refrigerant reclamation reduces the likelihood of introducing impurities, which could lead to premature failures and increased maintenance costs for owners of HVACR equipment. What’s more, the certification program provides the vital information on how to deal with the ever-growing number of refrigerants. As I stated in the article: “One benefit of certification is that wholesalers are able to sell refrigerants to technicians who have a sufficient background and understanding of their liability under the Clean Air Act.”

Path forward

Already, several states are adopting standards for leak detection and control. Again, as I noted in the article, “We are already seeing some states such as California enact regulations that adopt many of the requirements in Section 608. Other states will likely step in, which may create more headaches for the industry. This could create problems for the industry and lead to a patchwork of inconsistent regulations that would be challenging for manufacturers and service providers to navigate.”

As always, Emerson will help you stay informed about further changes to Section 608. Regardless of the regulatory decisions, we’ll continue to provide guidance and expertise on how to design and implement refrigerant management programs.

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