Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships

Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) Market Strategies Report

2019

Since 2013, NEEP has worked on a regional market transformation initiative to accelerate the market adoption of VRF technology in the Northeast region. The initiative collectively developed and recently updated the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic ASHP Market Transformation Strategies Report to provide a “roadmap” of coordinated regional activities to effectively transform the residential market. The regional initiative and its working group have since advanced many of the key strategies, though there is still active work being done to transform this market. Then in 2017, NEEP’s Regional Assessment of Strategic Electrification further underscored the urgent need for market transformation for both residential and commercial heat pumps.

This report takes the framework of the residential ASHP initiative and adds a new focus on commercial application of VRF and the respective market strategies that, if implemented by regional stakeholders, would result in accelerated adoption of commercial VRF heat pumps in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic region.

Like their smaller residential-scale heat pump technology counterpart, VRFs have continued to improve in efficiency, introducing high performance cold climate versions designed to provide rated heating capacity even in low ambient outdoor temperatures. In Europe and Asia, market share of VRF heat pumps represent approximately 80-90 percent of installed HVAC systems in commercial buildings. In the United States, however, the technology is still a nascent – but rapidly growing – market. Increased adoption of VRF offers the potential for significant gains in efficiency for cooling applications. As such, it can become an important technology solution in NEEP’s broader ASHP electrification strategy for commercial heating applications. However, increased regional coordination and collaboration is needed to realize the potential for VRF as a GHG mitigation strategy in shifting away from fossil fuels. 

This report maps out the critical strategies necessary for VRF market transformation. Like the 2016 NEEP ASHP report, recommendations are framed for the broader community of regional stakeholders and sub-strategies identify specific stakeholders for implementation.