Why the Reinvented Aermec Modular Chiller is Transforming the Industry

Why the Reinvented Aermec Modular Chiller is Transforming the Industry

Mar 26, 2020 | Case Studies, Insights

An Executive Q&A with:

What is a chiller plant?

HVAC systems regulate the comfort levels of most indoor environments. Under this engineering umbrella is the chiller plant – a centralized system that provides the cooling portion of HVAC equipment. According to ENERGY STAR, about 39% of buildings larger than 100,000 square feet contain chiller plants.

The majority of chillers in New York City are conventional and can be divided into two groups. These are steam and gas-fired absorption chillers and centrifugal chillers that use older refrigerants. However, chiller technology has been innovating, and newer and better options exist. These alternatives support sustainability, electrification, decarbonization and cost savings.

In general, what challenges exist with conventional chillers in New York City?

Conventional chillers in New York City pose serious challenges to building owners, engineers and contractors alike. These include:

  • Difficult to install in tight spaces: In New York City’s buildings, space is a rare commodity when it comes to fitting in a conventional centrifugal chiller. Hallways are tight, doors are narrow, freight elevators are the same size as non-freight ones, HVAC mechanical rooms are small and sometimes even a subway line crosses through the building. This makes installation difficult, costly and time-consuming for large, conventional chillers since walls have to be removed and replaced, leading to massive construction efforts and costs.
  • Redundancy takes up valuable space: Proper redundancy for a conventional chiller means that an entire second chiller of the same size needs to be installed in case the first one malfunctions. For example, if a large 300-ton chiller is installed, a second 300-ton chiller also has to be there ready to run in case the first one fails. That takes up a lot of extremely valuable floor space.
  • Expensive and complex to maintain: If a conventional chiller has a problem and needs maintenance, the entire unit has to be turned off and the whole system needs to be looked at to pinpoint the issue. This makes the maintenance process costly, time-consuming and tremendously disruptive for building operations.
  • Noisy and inconvenient: Conventional chillers make an incredible amount of noise, which means they can only be installed far away from any inhabitable spaces. This is particularly challenging when the building has an outdoor space, such as a roof deck or patio, since a conventional chiller can’t be installed close by to such an area. This adds to the inconvenience of installation.
  • Limited flexibility: With conventional chillers, you’re driven by the size of the unit, resulting in minimal flexibility. You have a gigantic, inefficient and polluting system on your hands, that will dictate everything around it in the building.

Regarding energy specifically, what challenges exist with conventional chillers in New York City?  

When looking at energy specifically, conventional chillers pose serious challenges to energy efficiency and sustainability. These include: 

  • Older equipment is difficult to replace, thus perpetuating inefficiencies: Older chillers are kept in operation because they’re difficult and costly to replace. Often, an expensive makeover will be done of an old piece of equipment that’s inefficient and polluting instead of swapping it out for a newer system since this is the cheaper path. This not only perpetuates inefficiencies, it also impacts the environment since many older systems use refrigerants that have been phased out, and the equipment is prone to leaks.
  • Carbon-emitting equipment runs counter to building electrification, Local Law 97 and NYC 80×50: By 2050, the world is set to use more energy for cooling than heating due to a predicted 33-fold increase in global power consumption for cooling purposes. Fossil-fuel-powered conventional chillers are principal contributors to this energy increase. This is because they’re inefficient and burn an excessive amount of fossil fuels to run, thus releasing harmful carbon emissions. This runs counter to both global and local efforts to cut carbon, which are centered around making building electrification a reality. For example, conventional chillers are in direct contrast to New York City’s Local Law 97, which creates carbon-emissions limits for most buildings over 25,000 square feet. It impacts over 57,000 buildings in New York City, with the goal of reducing building-based carbon emissions 40% by 2030 from a 2005 baseline. Conventional chillers also don’t support the NYC 80×50 initiative, which aims to cut carbon emissions 80% by 2050. As a result of these efforts, if building owners don’t replace their conventional, fossil-fuel-powered chillers, the consequences will be major costs and fines.
  • Out of step with the heat-pump revolution: One of the main ways that building electrification, Local Law 97, NYC 80×50 and all sustainability initiatives can be achieved is by installing electric heat pumps. However, conventional chillers are completely out of step with this movement since they don’t accommodate the use of heat-pump technology. Keeping conventional chillers in a building will only serve to propagate antiquated ways that are wasteful and don’t support the environment.

Why is the reinvented Aermec modular chiller transforming the HVAC industry?

There’s a solution to the challenges posed by conventional chillers, particularly relating to the replacement and upgrading of existing equipment. This is the Aermec modular chiller. It was reinvented based on specific design recommendations from HIGHMARK to create a chiller that would excel in New York City’s demanding buildings.

The Aermec modular chiller is a small-tonnage chiller plant that connects and operates in a series to make up a larger chiller. It can overcome the challenges faced by conventional centrifugal chillers in New York City for the following reasons:

  • Easy to install in tight spaces: Aermec modular chillers come together to form one larger chiller, which means each module is compact and has a small footprint. As a result, individual modules can be rolled through standard New York City doors and into regular elevators. Once all the modules have passed through the tight spaces and reach the installation destination, they can either be stacked or placed side-by-side or front-to-back, depending on the dimensions of the installation site. This means that walls don’t have to be taken down since the modules fit easily through tight spaces and conform to the space available. As a result, modular chillers can utilize spaces that wouldn’t be used in the past for conventional chillers.
  • Takes up less total-installed space: The beauty of the modular system is that for redundancy purposes, instead of having to install an entire full-size second chiller – like with a conventional chiller – it’s only necessary to install one extra module, which is compact and takes up minimal space. This means that the second 300-ton centrifugal chiller required in a conventional-chiller scenario can be replaced by a 30-ton modular chiller, while still fulfilling all redundancy requirements.
  • Simple to maintain, uninterrupted operations: Maintenance is simple on a modular chiller since any issues that arise can be easily pinpointed to a single module. Additionally, because of the way the chiller modules are connected, when one needs work, the whole system doesn’t have to be taken offline. This ensures uninterrupted operations during maintenance, unlike with a conventional chiller.
  • Significantly reduced costs: Serious cost savings add up when using an Aermec modular chiller. Construction costs are minimized since walls remain intact and debris doesn’t have to be removed when the chillers are brought into the buildings. Installation is much easier and faster, which means fewer costs. Less total-installed space is used, thus opening up valuable square footage for other uses that can generate revenue for building owners. Maintenance is quick and easy, which saves on upkeep expenses. This is good news for the building’s bottom line.
  • Quiet operations: The Aermec modular chiller was designed to be so quiet that the modules can be placed right next to an outdoor patio area without any concerns of noise problems. This opens up many additional installation areas since noise concerns are alleviated.
  • Ultimate flexibility: There’s no other product on the market today that’s as flexible as the Aermec modular chiller. Because the modules are designed so compactly, and they fit through standard doors and elevators, numerous configurations are possible. The modules are, in a sense, similar to Legos or building blocks, and can get around columns and be moved nimbly throughout the building. This provides tremendous flexibility to engineers and contractors.
  • Energy and water efficiency: With free-cooling capabilities, variable-flow pumping and low refrigerant charges, modular chillers are much more environmentally friendly than conventional chillers. This means that Aermec modular chillers meet and exceed New York City’s most stringent energy codes.
  • Upgrade older equipment cost-effectively: Modular chillers enable you to upgrade conventional equipment without the cost since they’re much easier to install. Older chillers can be cut up and removed easily, and modular chillers can be brought in through the existing space and installed inexpensively.
  • Support building electrification: Replacing inefficient, wasteful or fossil-fuel-powered conventional equipment with efficient and electric modular chillers supports building electrification. Electric modular chillers can play an essential role in making building electrification a reality.
  • Make NYC Local Law 97 and 80×50 a reality: New York City’s Local Law 97 establishes carbon emissions limits for most buildings over 25,000 square feet. This impacts over 57,000 buildings in New York City, with the goal of reducing building-based carbon emissions 40% by 2030 from a 2005 baseline. The NYC 80×50 initiative seeks to cut carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. Efficient and electric Aermec modular chiller are integral to making New York City’s Local Law 97 and 80×50 initiative a reality.
  • Heat-pump ready: Electric heat pumps are a vital part of the foundation upon which New York City’s Local Law 97 and 80×50 initiative will be built. Unlike conventional chillers, Aermec modular chillers have the option to convert to a heat pump. This enables simultaneous systems and furthers building electrification and sustainability efforts.

What product options exist for the Aermec modular chiller?

Aermec offers two modular-chiller options that have been reinvented to meet the unique and demanding needs of the New York City market. These are the NYB Air-Cooled Modular Chiller and the WWM Water-Cooled Modular Chiller. These two systems have been designed to change the way chillers are installed, serviced and replaced in New York City and across the country.

Aermec NYB Air-Cooled Modular Chiller

The award-winning Aermec NYB Air-Cooled Modular Chiller is the industry’s first modular air-cooled chiller to feature integrated free-cooling operation. Inspired by HIGHMARK, the NYB is AHRI Certified and designed specifically to meet stringent New York City energy codes by maximizing free-cooling potential.

Aermec NYB Air-Cooled Modular Chiller

The NYB’s key benefits include:

  • Compact footprint: Due to its small size, the NYB has an extremely compact footprint and can overcome tight space constraints.
  • Easy to install and use: The NYB fits easily through standard doors and into elevators, and Victaulic connections allow for fast installation. Operation is also simple.
  • Efficient and environmentally friendly: The NYB modular air-cooled chiller features integrated free-cooling operation. This reduces energy consumption by cutting down the amount of mechanical cooling required, thus supporting the environment.
  • Low refrigerant charge: The NYB’s compact size enables it to have one of the lowest refrigerant charges in the industry.
  • Green-building certified: The NYB is UL Listed and AHRI Certified to meet ASHRAE 90.1-2010 minimum efficiency levels.
  • Peace of mind: Functionality and performance tests are conducted on each NYB module in a climatic test chamber to ensure ultimate reliability.
  • Uninterrupted operations: During servicing, the NYB always maintains full operations. You can service the adjacent modules without impacting the system’s operations. What’s more, with accessibility provided at the ends of the unit, the NYB enables quick in-row servicing.
  • Enhanced redundancy: The NYB utilizes the latest scroll-compressor features, which strengthens its redundancy capabilities. Unlike conventional chillers, which lock you into older compressors from the original manufacturer, Aermec makes the newest and best compressor technologies readily available. This ensures that equipment is back up and running much more quickly.
  • Advanced user-friendly control: The NYB’s user-friendly microprocessor controller optimizes mechanical and free cooling.
  • Lowest noise levels: The extremely quiet operation of the NYB provides a solution to sound-sensitive applications.
  • Multiply your benefit: Multiple NYB modules retain a 100% free-cooling capacity without additional dimensions needed.
  • Award-winning design: The NYB was named a 2017 AHR Expo Innovation Award Finalist for its cutting-edge design that challenges the HVAC status quo.
Aermec WWM Water-Cooled Modular Chiller

The Aermec WWM Water-Cooled Modular Chiller is small in size, flexible in terms of installation, simple to service, energy efficient and compliant with strict New York City energy codes. Inspired by HIGHMARK, it was designed to make it easier to install chillers, and it’s the most compact and energy-efficient chiller in its class on the market today.

Aermec WWM Modular Chiller

The WWM’s key benefits include:

  • Tremendous flexibility: Unlike other products, the WWM has many flexible installation and layout options, including back-to-back, side-to-side, top-to-bottom or any of these combinations. This allows for as much cooling tonnage in a square foot as in a large centrifugal chiller. In addition, its modular design enables the cooling capacity to be easily increased over time and at a limited cost, thus furthering flexibility.
  • Compact footprint: The WWM’s footprint is extremely compact, thus enabling it to fit through standard-sized doors and into elevators for simple installation. Its small size also frees up valuable square footage for building owners to utilize for boosting lease potential.
  • Easy installation: Due to the WWM’s modular design, installation can be adapted to suit specific development needs while guaranteeing improved safety and reliability.
  • Simple maintenance: The WWM is simple to service in tight building interiors. For example, the refrigeration components that need to be serviced are located in a drawer in the front that slides out for easy access.
  • Uninterrupted operations: Operations aren’t interrupted during servicing since a module can be worked on without impacting any of the other cooling in the plant.
  • Enhanced redundancy: Like with the NYB, the WWM utilizes the latest and best scroll-compressor features provided by Aermec. This improves redundancy and enables equipment to be back up and running much faster than with conventional options.
  • Maximized energy efficiency: The WWM is the most energy-efficient chiller in its class, while having the lowest refrigerant charge of any chiller on the market.
  • Free-cooling capability: The WWM’s advanced microprocessor control allows for seamless and safe integration with water-side economizers. This enables free cooling, which optimizes energy efficiency.
  • Compliant with strict energy codes: The WWM is AHRI Certified and exceeds all ASHRAE 90.1 energy code requirements for chiller energy efficiency.
  • Low refrigerant charges: Like with the NYB, the WWM also enjoys one of the lowest refrigerant charges in the industry. This is due to its compact footprint and efficient operations.

Why is the New York City-inspired reinvented Aermec modular chiller relevant for all of North America?

New York City’s buildings present some of the most demanding design challenges for modular chillers due to the tremendous space constraints and structural complexities. Therefore, if a modular chiller can succeed in a New York City building, it can do well anywhere.

In fact, Aermec worked with HIGHMARK to design the NYB and WWM for the New York City market first and then to introduce the products to the rest of North America. Today, many NYB and WWM units are thriving in a variety of installations across North America.

Why is the Aermec-HIGHMARK partnership so effective in New York City?

Aermec is the market leader for chillers in so many aspects. Primary among these is the fact that they’re exceptional in customizing their products to meet and exceed the needs of different markets. In addition, Aermec’s research, development and robust track record of innovation are unparalleled in the industry. The company is committed to designing and building the best chillers possible.

In the New York City market, the HIGHMARK team knows exactly what technologies need to be implemented to increase building efficiency. They know what works and what should be avoided. Aermec shares HIGHMARK’s passion for state-of-the-art building-efficiency technologies and for challenging the HVAC status quo. Both companies are committed to achieving shared goals of increasing building efficiency and sustainability, cutting costs and exceeding customer expectations.

Case Study: Aermec WWM

Read how the Aermec WWM Modular Chiller overcame the many challenges – limited space, budget and time – in a high-rise multifamily in New York City.

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