Plumb Line Air Conditioning – How does an HVAC split system air conditioner work? Split system air conditioners or heat pumps are common in residential and commercial applications. It is called a split system because the indoor and outdoor components are separate or separated from each other and connected by refrigerant piping and control wiring. This differs from a self-contained rooftop package unit with indoor and outdoor components. We will look at various designs using the split system.
HVAC split systems are convenient to use in existing buildings because it is very easy to route small refrigerant piping to an indoor coil, then run several large air ducts using a rooftop packaged unit. As you can see the rooftop unit requires large openings for the supply and return ducts to enter the building. Split systems use small copper tubes and require a small opening in the ceiling or wall.
- Plumb Line Air Conditioning
- How A Central Air Conditioner Works
- The Different Ways Drain Video Inspections Can Save Money
- Top Of The Line Plumbing Heating And Air Conditioning
- Infinitech 38 & 78 Hvac
- What Is A Condensate Drain Line?
- Ventilation Drain Pipe, Pipe Connector, Air Conditioning Flat Color Line Icon. Stock Vector
- Preferred Brands For Plumbing And Heating Services
- Keeping Your Cool: 4 Diy Air Conditioning Maintenance Steps
- Air Conditioner Installation
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Refrigerant has a higher heat capacity than air, allowing smaller refrigerant pipes to run more easily through building structures and components than larger air ducts. With the exception of ASHRAE 62.1, Ventilation Air Requirements, split systems have their advantages, which we will discuss later.
How A Central Air Conditioner Works
A split system consists of an outdoor unit, often called a condensing unit, because this is where the refrigerant liquefies from gas, and an indoor unit that evaporates. An indoor unit may be called an air handling unit (AHU), fan coil or furnace with coil.
Split systems are available from less than one ton to 100 tons of refrigeration capacity. Split systems come in two basic configurations, either as cooling only or as a heat pump, which we’ll explain later.
Heating can be in the form of gas furnaces, electric strip heaters, electric heat pumps, hot water or steam. Here we show two ways to get heat into an occupied space using a split system. First, you can use a split system heat pump, which works to cool the space in the summer and heat the space in the winter. Watch our video to understand how heat pumps work.
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Another option is to install a furnace with a coil. A furnace requires some type of fuel to heat, such as natural gas. Cooling will be accomplished by installing an evaporator coil above the furnace connected to an external condenser.
A furnace requires an inlet for combustion air and means for exhausting the combustion gases. It is important that the discharge flue be at least 10 feet away from any air intake, check your local code for proper clearance.
You must install a condensate drain pipe from the cooling coil drain pan to an approved receptacle such as a floor sink or sink tailpipe.
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An electrical connection will need to be made from the breaker panel to the disconnect switch on the side of the appliance. A disconnect switch is a safety device that allows any technician working on the equipment to lock out electrical power to HVAC equipment.
Another option is to use a boiler to provide hot water to the coils inside the air handler. A boiler requires a fuel source for combustion, in this case natural gas. All air handlers in a building require a hot water heating pump to circulate the water.
Here we show just one air handler for hot water heating, but in larger buildings it could be as many as a dozen. Hot water pipes may need to be insulated with some form of fiberglass pipe insulation to prevent heat loss from the pipes. No other accessories are shown such as makeup water and expansion tank. An air handler may also have a steam boiler with a steam coil to provide this heat.
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Among the challenges for split systems is providing the required ventilation air to each air handler. ASHRAE 62.1 requires that ventilation air be provided to each space or indoor fan coil or air handler. This requires ducting to the space or fan coil from outside or from the DOAS unit. Watch our video on “Dedicated Outside Air Systems” for a better understanding.
This dedicated outdoor air filter and controls outdoor air before the fan sends it to each air handler. A dedicated outdoor air system handles the latent load of ventilation air so that air handlers do not have to increase for this additional load.
Each air handler shall receive the required amount of ventilation air in accordance with ASHRAE 62.1, based on the occupancy, room size and type of use of the space.
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Another option is to provide ventilation air using filtration and supply fans, but no outside air conditioning. This reduces the need for an indoor air handler fan to remove outside air. The disadvantage is that the air handler needs to handle the additional heating and cooling load for the ventilation air.
The least expensive option is to separately duct the ventilation air from each indoor air handler. This requires additional power for the air handler fan and coil. This would require several small ducts running from each air handler into the building, unless you need an economizer for your indoor air handler because it meets your energy code thresholds, then the ducts would be too big and might not make sense.
A condensing unit consists of two major components, the compressor and the condenser coil. The compressor is the heart of the unit and pumps the refrigerant around the piping circuit. Condenser coils provide a means of rejecting outside heat by using a fan blowing air over the heating coil.
Ventilation Drain Pipe, Pipe Connector, Air Conditioning Flat Color Line Icon. Stock Vector
In this picture we can see that this condenser has not been repaired and is covered with dirt. This will reduce the efficiency of the unit, so be sure to check your outdoor coil at least once or twice a year.
We can see that the hot gas discharge piping is coming from the top of the compressor and feeding the condenser coil which is responsible for rejecting the heat in the building. But it doesn’t work in this weakened state. There is a filter drier in the hot liquid line that leaves the condenser and sends the liquid to the evaporator valve. The suction piping comes from the indoor evaporator section and enters the compressor below the discharge piping.
The outdoor unit will also have some controls that communicate with the indoor unit and provide various safety features to protect the compressor and other parts of the system. Communication from a thermostat or space sensor is common for residential units, while in commercial installations a BACnet card can be added which allows communication with a building automation system (BMS).
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An air handler consists of an indoor fan and an evaporator coil. The evaporator coil is where the refrigerant absorbs heat from the building air blown into the coil. As the refrigerant in the evaporator evaporates as it cools the air in the building, watch our video on “Refrigerant Cycle 101” for a better understanding of how the refrigerant cycle works. An expansion valve or metering device separates the high side from the low side and adjusts the amount of refrigerant passing through it relative to demand.
Residential systems are relatively simple and small, while commercial versions can be much larger and have many other options installed in their homes. Commercial air handlers can be packaged, custom made or built-up with individual components selected and field prepared. Watch our next video on “Air Handling Units” for better understanding.
Small residential units of less than 10 tons are likely to have 1 compressor, while commercial units of 10 tons or more may have two or more compressors. Compressors differ in their ability to change capacity. A smaller system would use a hermetically sealed compressor with a scroll compressor. Larger systems may use semi-hermetic, reciprocating and scroll compressors in 1 or more configurations depending on size.
Keeping Your Cool: 4 Diy Air Conditioning Maintenance Steps
Most compressors use oil for lubrication, and that oil circulates around the refrigerant circuit continuously during operation. It is important that the oil returns to the compressor at the same rate as it leaves, as the compressor must always be lubricated.
In addition to cooling-only split systems, there are heat pumps that reverse the refrigeration cycle to provide heat. There is a movement to go all electric in some states and countries like California. Heat pumps are all electric so no carbon-based fuels are burned. Watch our next video on “How Heat Pumps Work” for a better understanding.
One of the differences between heat pumps and other cooling units is the metering device. A metering device separates the high side from the low side and controls the amount of refrigerant passing through. heat pump
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