Challenging energy resources and the constant focus on energy-efficiency and innovation have become key market drivers for compressor manufacturers.
Industry insiders concur that owing to the focus on energy efficiency, the market now demands compressors that are designed to reduce energy consumption, while optimising operations to the fullest.
Explaining how the industry is striving for energy efficiency in the compressor segment, Biju Kannan, Regional Sales Manager, Danfoss, explains that the recent innovations in the compressor segment have been focussed on energy efficiency and environment-friendly solutions. “It means producing compressors that can work with low global warming potential (GWP) refrigerants and which are compatible with the new eco-friendly refrigerants,” he says.
Echoing his views, Fazal Rashid, General Manager – UAE, Middle East and North Africa, Bristol Compressors International, says: “Energy efficiency is a top priority. Increasing energy efficiency for air conditioners has become a focus for governments across the Middle East.”
A path to energy efficiency
The strategy to achieve energy efficiency in the compressor segment begins with the selection process and technological design of the compressor.
As Ghassan Freiwat, Commercial Director – Middle East and Africa, Trane, says: “A critical component to achieving efficiency levels (in chillers) are compressors, which are the largest energy consumer of a chiller (approximately 90%). For this reason, compressor technology is a top priority for innovation and investment. We approach our compressor strategy as a key differentiation to ensure our portfolio is vertically integrated to address key customer concerns, such as efficiency, first cost, sustainability, flexibility and ease of service.”
Freiwat further points out that owing to new regional visions and energy regulations mandated by government agencies, the industry is strategically driving towards energy efficiency. “Compressor manufacturers have to provide the market with highly efficient products that can meet customer needs and without compromising the commitment towards sustainability and environment,” he says.
Further elaborating on the energy-efficiency drive, Rashid adds: “Our system design engineers select compressors that allow them to optimise system performance and provide the best value to the customer. This optimisation considers the cooling capacity, power consumption, sound and vibration. Our compressors include built-in protection that assures the compressor will always operate within its design parameters.”
However, stakeholders like Tariq Al Ghussein, CEO, Taqeef, say it’s not just the compressors that drive energy efficiency. He believes that it’s the synergy of the other components, too, that push towards better efficiency. “The efficiency of a compressor can’t be looked at in isolation; it’s about the harmony of all components working together that ensures the best energy efficiency and safety,” Ghussein says “The correct integration of all evaporators, coils, printed circuit boards (PCBs), flow control refrigerants, etc., is what optimises the cooling, safety and efficiency gains. It’s this bespoke approach that gives manufacturers a competitive advantage and sets their quality apart.”
Drivers and trends
Apart from the environmental demands, other sub-sectors of the HVAC industry have created opportunities for the compressor segment. Al Ghussein believes that with the penetration of cooling sectors like variable refrigerant flow (VRF) and District Cooling, opportunities for the compressor market have been created.
The other driver that impacts market dynamics is the pricing, believes Freiwat. He points out that prioritising of pricing differs at various levels of the project. Further elaborating, he says, “While the initial cost of investment is a top priority for contractors, installers and in some cases developers, this can have a lower importance on the priority scale in the case of end-users and owners, as return on investment (ROI) and operating costs become more critical versus initial cost of investment.”
Sharing a similar view, Rashid adds that, while his company believes that quality and reliability are the underlying foundations of the industry, pricing is also a significant market influencer, even as they strive to achieve the quality mark.
Owing to the growing trend of less dependency on oil, stakeholders like Danfoss are innovating towards oil-free compressors, says Kannan. “Large chillers have a much higher capacity and the ‘Turbocor’, a centrifugal compressor uses no oil for lubrication, unlike typical electrical motors, which have bearings that require regular lubrication,” he says.
While the industry has made significant technological advancements in the compressor segment, the underlying principle is “Green Technologies”. Believing in the “Green Revolution”, Rashid explains that his company is gearing towards greener refrigerants, inverter-based designs and revolutionary new mechanical technologies. “The demand for lower power consumption is driving investment and research in increased compressor mechanical and electrical efficiency, and this requires a holistic approach that includes the mechanisms of the compressor, thermodynamics of the refrigerant and optimisation of the electrical efficiency to match with the system performance,” he says.
Sharing details of the innovations made by his company, Freiwat says that the current line includes hybrid-solutions, which is in addition to the market focus on centrifugal compressors for District Cooling applications, apart from the market demand for magnetic bearings in compressors. To meet these demands, he adds, Trane has developed air-cooled GVAF and water-cooled GVWD chillers that have been fitted with high-speed centrifugal compressors.
Even stakeholders like Danfoss are pushing towards the green technological revolution, with the introduction of scroll and centrifugal compressors that have been designed to reduce energy usage and increase cooling capacity, explains Kannan. “These compressors are built with enhanced speed variation that monitors and sets the speed according to the cooling load or demand, which reduces the energy usage. The compressor is equipped with an electrical motor with a permanent magnet that ensures lower power consumption.”
Like every segment, stakeholders concur that even the compressor market is plagued with challenges. One such challenge is the issue of ‘fake compressors’ that are circulating in the market.
Illustrating how fake compressors impact the market, Kannan says, the use of counterfeit products leads to a much higher risk of fire and other hazards that compromise safety. Apart from that, he points out that the use of counterfeit products increases the energy consumption and decreases the lifespan of the equipment, and they also hurt the economy. To counter the fake compressor intrusion, Kannan says that Danfoss has been conducting large-scale raids in partnership with law-enforcement agencies.
Sharing a similar view, Rashid adds that the issue of fake compressors has been haunting the industry for many years and that there is an on-going effort to raise the level of awareness on how to identify counterfeit components amongst contractors and distributors. A partnership with government agencies can eradicate the fake goods market, he believes.
Highlighting the impact of fake products, Ghussein adds that there is an adverse effect on brand owners, in addition to the loss of revenue, reputation and brand damages. He further says that counterfeit products also corrode investor and consumer confidence in the brand.
While key industry players are rightly using technology and innovation to achieve sustainability, ultimately, it is the end-user who has to embrace the Green Agenda with an insight on how and why the industry is going green