Revival of the console air conditioning unit: modern designs that are fast-fit (or retrofit), 30% more economical and eco-friendly

There is as yet no legislation driving organisations to replace older equipment with more eco-friendly solutions

September 20, 2012

By Neil Cameron, Johnson Controls Systems & Service South Africa.

While there is as yet no legislation driving organisations to replace older equipment with more eco-friendly solutions, aggressive legislation is expected to be rolled out by 2015. Meantime, the draw card in terms of acquiring newer R410A equipment is the improved technology that accompanies it – offering an expected improved efficiency of up to 30%. The really good news is that they are now available in sleek modern designs that are completely eco-friendly.

The primary concerns for facility owners and managers are purchase and lifecycle costs associated with equipment, as well as ease of maintenance. They are also very aware of the requirements of tenants – be they hotel guests or businesses leasing premises who want to conserve energy use, ensure eco-friendliness of equipment and that their staff can function optimally in a physically comfortable and healthy office environment. New console units meet all of these requirements.

Eco-friendly R410A, inverter efficiency
Older console units made use of HCFC refrigerants, notably R22 which, while less harmful to the environment than ozone depleting CFC (chlorofluorocarbons) refrigerants, still cause damage. Today, leading manufacturers of these units are producing solutions that use R410A, a refrigerant with zero ozone depleting potential, as well as inverter technology.

While there is as yet no legislation driving organisations to replace older equipment with more eco-friendly solutions, aggressive legislation is expected to be rolled out by 2015. Meantime, the draw card in terms of acquiring newer R410A equipment is the improved technology that accompanies it – offering 30% more efficiency.

Older units had on/off controls that switched the compressor on or off, and on each start-up they drew considerable energy. Now, fitted with inverter technology, the compressor simply speeds up or slows down, depending on the amount of cooling needed. It’s brought the efficiency and lifetime costs of these units in line with other air conditioning systems. In addition, it’s ensured these units run more quietly and, with less mechanical wear on start-up, for longer.

Hotels, new builds, refurbishment
These units are often the first choice for new builds, and are likely to remain so. Building owners, facility managers and lessees all love console air conditioning units. The benefits are obvious: compared to expensive central heating solutions and duct heating, which is difficult to access and maintain, console units are a breeze. The technology is not complex, so they are easy to install, and maintenance is a matter of push-out, replace, repair, return. And since new units are the same dimensions as previous iterations of the product, when it’s time to retrofit or refurbish, it’s a matter of simple replacement – no breaking out walls or ceilings or hanging out of windows.

For the building owner that must constantly adapt office space to suit the requirements of new lessees, these units are also ideal – they are easy to shift around and need only wheel in the right number of units. As for the individual user, they no longer have to make do with whatever the facility manager managing central air conditioning decrees, they can adapt the aircon’s output with an easily accessible dial to suit their needs.

Four models, varying capacity
Leading manufacturers are making new units available in four different models with capacity ranging from 2600 to 5200 Watts (or 9,000 to 18,000 Btu/h) which will provide cooling capacity for areas of x18 m2 to 36m2.

For organisations or building managers looking to refurbish or replace console units, or for architects and designers assessing the needs of new building, these new efficient and ecofriendly console air conditioning unit are certainly a good investment.