Simulating Your Way to HVACR Innovation

January 24, 2022
heating, ventilation and air conditioning simulation

Across industries from automotive to aerospace & defense, there’s lots of talk and plenty of action showcasing simulation software’s ability to innovate better products, accelerate time-to-market, and take cost out of the product development equation.

Today, as the HVACR (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration) sector faces many of the same challenges—specifically a push to be more electrified and environmentally friendly–companies in this space need to fully digitize their design processes, including embrace of simulation software early in the design cycle.

On-going environmental regulations, including those tied to energy efficiency and the phase-down of HFC (hydrofluorocarbon) refrigerants to reduce carbon emissions, are raising the stakes for HVACR manufacturers, amplifying the need for greener and more innovative products. There’s also growing commercial and consumer interest in more sustainable electric HVACR technologies such as heat pumps as well as smart technologies, which demands modernization of design processes. In fact, the global heat pump market is expected to surge from $48 billion in 2017 to $94.4 billion by 2023, growing at 11.68% CAGR in that timeframe.

There’s good reason for the innovation push in HVACR technologies and the heightened focus on sustainability. Space heating and cooling accounts for 31% of total electricity use in the United States. More specifically, air conditioners use about 6% of all electricity produced in the United States, at an annual cost of about $29 billion to homeowners and resulting in roughly 117 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, according to the Department of Energy. As a result, leading HVACR companies like Carrier and Trane are accelerating product development of electrification solutions. Carrier, for example, has committed to be carbon neutral across its operations by 2030 and to reduce its customers’ carbon footprint by more than one gigaton through development of more sustainable solutions over the next decade.

Reimagining design processes

All of this should be a wake-up for manufacturers now competing for customers increasingly drawn to environmentally friendly HVACR technologies. Applying simulation software to the early part of the design process can help improve thermal comfort and draft ratings, increase air quality compliance, enhance energy efficiency, and significantly boost the overall performance of HVACR applications and systems. In addition, introducing simulation early in the development cycle enables companies to explore many more possible design iterations compared to the cost and time commitment of building and testing physical prototypes.

“The HVACR industry is competitive and now going through many changes. Industry leaders are turning to a simulation-driven process to reduce product development times, improve product reliability and cost, and reduce test lab time and cost,” explains Jon Zenker, Business Development Engineer at Gamma Technologies.

While simulation is already part of the design process for some HVACR manufacturers, many rely on tools with limited analysis functionality or internally developed systems. Many of these tools lack multiphysics capabilities as well as the ability to model the entire system holistically —both shortcomings that can impede the design and engineering of highly optimized HVACR products.

How GT-SUITE can assist your HVACR simulation needs

Gamma Technologies’ flagship GT-SUITE is a powerful multiphysics tool that offers both 1D and 3D methodologies to solve complex integrated subsystem problems. The software can be used for fast concept design as well as for detailed system or subsystem/component analyses, design optimization, and root cause investigation. With a HVACR use case, users could adjust fidelity for any given task within a single model environment, whether it’s to calculate fluid flow in a 1D fashion for a heat pump or to model the entire system and primary components on that same design. With the software’s multiphysics capabilities, engineers are not limited to a single thermal or FEA analysis, but rather can understand how the system’s various thermal, fluid, and mechanical dynamics come together in harmonized operation.

In addition, GT-SUITE doesn’t take hours or days to run complex simulations; HVACR engineers can run simulations in a matter of seconds or minutes, which allows for a more iterative design cycle in addition to the ability to test more product possibilities.

Trane has successfully unleashed the power of GT-SUITE and simulation on HVACR scroll compressor designs. The ability to conduct a simple sensitivity analysis enabled Trane engineers to solve a challenging performance shortfall problem that resulted in an estimated savings of between $50,000 and $40 million in product development costs.