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What is a VRF HVAC System?

Posted by: Cooper MechanicalSunday, October 18, 2020

What is a VRF HVAC System?

Variable refrigerant flow, or VRF, is a type of heating and cooling system for residential or commercial applications. In order to understand how VRF is unique, it’s helpful to understand the basics of common HVAC systems. Most heating and cooling systems fall within two broad categories: ducted split systems or ductless, mini-split systems (like the packaged terminal air conditioning found in many hotel rooms). 

If you live in a residential home in the Myrtle Beach area, chances are you have a split system with a compressor unit outside and an evaporator in the garage or attic. These systems use refrigerant (older units used R-22, newer ones R-410A) and a water-based system to cool air. The coolant is used to change the temperature of the coils, which cycling air passes over. 

Ductless systems like PTACs are similar, except they don’t use ducts. Instead they blow cold or warm air directly to the space they are housed in. For this reason, they are more popular in commercial applications like hotels or apartments where heating and cooling is focused on a smaller part of a larger structure. PTAC and ductless systems are also convenient for homeowners wishing to bring HVAC to a garage or add-on space without ducts and vents.

So what makes a VRF system unique?

How is a VRF System Different?

Variable refrigerant flow systems operate a little differently than a split system. 

The VRF system relies on refrigerant alone instead of a water-based cooling system. Without chillers or coils, a VRF system is quick, responsive, and adaptive to outdoor conditions. 

VRF systems use inverter compressors. This allows the compressor motor to run at variable speeds to save energy. Like your car in “eco mode,” your HVAC system adjusts energy usage based on heating and cooling needs.

A VRF system allows for multiple air handlers within the same system. Since the VRF system doesn’t use ducts, different rooms or spaces are equipped with a wall or ceiling mounted indoor unit to distribute air. This lets users make more specific heating and cooling decisions based on the room or space.

VRF HVAC system diagram

Who Should Get a VRF HVAC System?

Variable refrigerant flow systems are high-efficiency heating and cooling solutions for residential or commercial buildings. VRF is ideal for customers looking to trade a higher up-front cost for increased energy savings (up to 55%) and room-to-room HVAC customization. 

If you’d like to learn more about heating and cooling options, call Cooper for reliable, expert advice.