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VRF/VRV Systems: Pros & Cons

These terms relate to the variable refrigerant flow (VRF) or variable refrigerant volume (VRV) of systems. These systems offer alternatives to conventional residential and light commercial systems and have advantages and disadvantages over conventional systems (also known as 5 ton and under and often made by Carrier and other brands). These makers are now offering VRF/V systems as well.

The Advantages of a VRF/VRV System

  • Packaging – These systems are configured differently, and they are able to fit in more architecturally challenging spaces. They offer slim flat indoor units, tall flat outdoor units and a generally high-tech look. They are quiet and come in multiple size configurations. Several indoor units can be mated to a single outdoor unit, further improving space utilization.
  • Capacity and Efficiency – Small units can be used to efficiently heat and cool small spaces. Multiple units can be joined together on single outdoor units – up to 5 or 6 tons in capacity for single phase power applications (larger is three phase power is available ). Each unit also runs at variable capacity.
  • Zoning – Rooms or areas can be heated and cooled individually with dedicated indoor units, allowing for more flexibility and individual user satisfaction.
  • Power Requirements These are heat pumps that do not require backup electric strips, which often require significant amperage. This is especially helpful for homes in rural areas.

The Disadvantages of a VRF/VRV System

  • Cost – In many cases, multi-zone high efficiency applications are most costly up front. More units may also mean more maintenance cost over time, although typically not significantly so. Some of these costs are offset by lower electric bills.
  • Lack of Interchangeable Parts and Support – If you start with a brand on your project, you will stick with it for all components for life. Components (including controllers) cannot consistently be swapped across brands, so it is important to buy a known, supported brand from a quality installer. Although this technology is becoming more common, not all technicians are versed in maintenance and repair of these systems.
  • Humidity Management – Compared with the top conventional systems, these systems do not have the same level of humidity management and may require an auxiliary dehumidifier in the property design. The dehumidifier becomes another machine to maintain, repair and, at some point, replace. Coupled with dehumidification, these systems often offer the best of all scenarios – from comfort to efficiency.

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