Commercial air conditioning systems are systems that cool and clean (filter) the air in commercial spaces. By doing so, they promote both health and safety and comfort. This can, in turn, improve productivity. While all commercial AC units perform the same core function, there are significant differences between several types of AC units. Here is a guide on how to choose the right commercial AC unit for your business.
Types of commercial air conditioning units
The four main types of commercial air conditioning units are split systems, packaged systems, rooftop units, and variable refrigerant flow (VRF) systems. Here is an overview of each type of system.
Split system air conditioning is so-called because it has distinct indoor and outdoor components. The indoor unit accommodates the evaporator coil, air filters, and fan, while the outdoor unit accommodates the compressor and condenser coil. Electrical wiring and refrigerant lines connect the two units, enabling the transfer of air and heat to cool the space effectively.
Pros of split system AC include energy efficiency, installation flexibility, and zoning capabilities. It offers high energy efficiency, saving on operating costs. The separate components allow for flexible installation, with the outdoor unit placed conveniently. Zoning capabilities enable independent cooling of different areas.
On the minus side, installation can be complex and may require professional assistance. Maintenance needs are higher due to the two units. Additionally, they may not be suitable for large commercial spaces requiring high cooling capacity.
A packaged system is a compact commercial air conditioning unit that combines all necessary components into a single enclosure, typically installed outside or on the rooftop. It includes the compressor, condenser, evaporator, and air handler.
The key benefit of a packaged system is its space-saving design, as it eliminates the need for an indoor unit. This is advantageous for businesses with limited space. Additionally, packaged systems are cost-effective and easier to maintain due to their simplified design.
On the flip side, packaged systems may have limitations in terms of cooling capacity compared to larger split systems. They can also generate more noise since the entire unit is situated outside. Furthermore, finding suitable outdoor or rooftop installation space can be challenging for some businesses.
Rooftop units are self-contained systems that house all the necessary components, including the compressor, condenser, evaporator, and air handler, within a single unit. They are designed to manage large cooling capacities and are suitable for medium to large commercial spaces.
One of the main advantages of rooftop units is their space efficiency. By being installed on the roof, they free up valuable indoor space that would have been occupied by traditional indoor units. RTUs also simplify maintenance and servicing since all components are contained within a single unit, making access easier for technicians.
On the flip side, rooftop units may be more exposed to outdoor elements, such as weather conditions and debris accumulation. This can affect their performance and cause them to require regular maintenance. Additionally, installation and access for maintenance may be more challenging due to the rooftop location.
Variable refrigerant flow (VRF) system
In a VRF system, a single outdoor unit is connected to multiple indoor units using refrigerant lines. This allows for individual temperature control in each zone, providing customized comfort for different areas within the building. The system utilizes variable-speed compressors that adjust the refrigerant flow according to the specific cooling or heating requirements of each zone, resulting in energy savings and improved comfort.
One of the major advantages of VRF systems is their energy efficiency. By delivering the precise amount of cooling or heating needed in each zone, they avoid energy wastage. Additionally, VRF systems offer flexibility in terms of installation, as they can accommodate varying loads and configurations. They also provide the benefit of simultaneous cooling and heating in different areas of the building.
On the minus side, VRF systems tend to have higher upfront costs compared to traditional systems. The complexity of installation and the need for specialized expertise may also be considerations. Additionally, maintenance and repairs may require technicians with specific knowledge of VRF systems.
What to consider when choosing a commercial AC unit
Here are the six key points to consider when choosing a commercial AC unit.
Workplace size and layout
Workplace size and layout play a crucial role in determining the appropriate commercial air conditioning unit. The cooling capacity needed is typically calculated based on the area of the space. Open-plan workspaces need a uniform approach to cooling to ensure a consistent temperature. By contrast, divided spaces may require separate units or zoning capabilities to provide individual temperature control.
Heat load and occupancy
Heat-generating equipment such as computers, machinery, and lighting can significantly impact the cooling requirements. Additionally, the number of people occupying the space contributes to the heat load. By assessing the heat sources and occupancy levels, businesses can determine the necessary cooling capacity to maintain a comfortable environment. This calculation ensures that the chosen AC unit has sufficient cooling power to handle the heat generated by equipment and occupants.
Energy efficiency and cost-effectiveness
Evaluating the energy efficiency ratings, such as Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) and Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER), helps determine the unit’s efficiency in converting electrical energy into cooling power. A higher SEER or EER rating indicates greater energy efficiency and potential energy savings. Additionally, businesses should consider the long-term cost savings and return on investment of the selected unit. While more energy-efficient units may have higher upfront costs, they can lead to significant savings in energy bills over time.
Maintenance and service requirements
Businesses should assess the complexity of maintenance and servicing tasks associated with different units. Some units may require more frequent or specialized maintenance procedures. It is crucial to consider the availability of qualified technicians who can effectively service the chosen unit. Service contracts with reputable HVAC companies can provide added peace of mind by ensuring regular maintenance and prompt repairs.
Temperature and humidity control
Businesses should ensure that the selected unit has the capability to effectively regulate both temperature and humidity levels in the desired range. Maintaining appropriate humidity levels is particularly important for certain environments, such as server rooms or laboratories, where precise control is necessary to protect equipment or sensitive materials. Additionally, businesses may find value in additional features like programmable thermostats, which allow for customized temperature settings based on occupancy schedules.
Evaluating the noise produced by the unit is essential to ensure it meets acceptable standards for the workspace. Excessive noise can be disruptive to employees and customers, negatively impacting productivity and comfort. It is important to review the manufacturer’s specifications regarding noise levels and compare them with any noise regulations or guidelines in place.