February 1998

New Research Program Focuses on Improvements for the 21st Century

Copper Applications in Plumbing

By Glenn C. Hourahan, P. E. (Director of Technology, Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Institute)

A bold, new research initiative was approved by the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute Board of Directors at the November 1997 meeting at La Quinta, California. Dubbed HVAC&R Research for the 21st Century (21-CR), this research program will explore ways to improve HVAC&R applications.

Program Emphasis

The 21-CR program will undertake research that will enable HVAC&R manufacturers to offer equipment and services in the next decade that, once integrated into building and process applications, will utilize dramatically less energy (as compared to today's applications) while addressing the comfort and indoor environmental quality (IEQ) needs of building occupants. Some of these energy and IEQ improvements will accrue by innovative advancements in the heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC&R) equipment itself. Other benefits will be garnered by better incorporation of improved equipment into more comprehensive systems for particular applications such as buildings or refrigeration processes.

The program will focus on precompetitive research that provides information and solutions to obstacles that prevent or impede HVAC&R manufacturers from introducing new systems and components. Once these technical challenges have been addressed, it is then up to individual manufacturers to apply the research results and to produce products that satisfy market needs.


The envisioned research is on the cutting-edge of the HVAC&R industry, and entails a high degree of technical risk. Currently, personnel and testing resources within individual HVAC&R companies are spread thin because of the pace of product changes necessitated by development of new equipment that use alternative refrigerants and offer improved efficiencies, with global warming implications to come. Precompetitive collaboration among HVAC&R companies and other interested entities will enable significant resources to be applied to strategic research areas. As a result, substantial savings should be realized by building owners and operators through reduced operating costs, even greater equipment reliability, and improved comfort levels.

Copper's Usage in Energy Efficient HVAC&R Systems
1970 Equipment1995 Equipment
Systemlbs CU/unitavg Efflbs CU/unitavg Eff
2.5 ton AC 17 7 EER 47 10.7 SEER
3.0 ton HP n.a. 7.1 EER 51 10.9 SEER
400 ton chiller 2036 .88 kW/ton 3013 .65 kW/ton
1000 ton chiller n.a. .82 kW/ton 7670 .60 kW/ton

21-CR Focus Areas

The effort seeks to foster an environment where technical barriers are identified, solutions investigated, and information shared. Areas of interest are related to all aspects of the HVAC&R industry. Focus areas are:

  • alternative equipment
  • high efficiency equipment
  • smart system integration
  • indoor environmental quality
  • new environmentally-friendly working fluids

Examples of Energy Efficiency Oriented Possible Copper-Related Research Activities

  • Heat exchangers
  • Heat transfer research
  • Higher efficiency motor systems
  • New technologies for humidity control
  • More efficient air handling
  • Not-in-kind systems

Organization of the 21-CR

The 21-CR effort will be under the auspices of the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Technology Institute (ARTI), the research arm of ARI. A Steering Committee has been established to guide the 21-CR initiative and to monitor the research. ARTI's Board of Directors has selected Dr. Kenneth Hickman, vice president of York International, to serve as chairman of the Steering Committee, with Mr. H. "Ed" French, president and COO of Heatcraft Inc., to serve as deputy chairman.

The Steering Committee, comprising senior industry executives, will assure that the work will be of value to the industry and has a path to commercialization. The Steering Committee members also will assure that the subcommittees have access to necessary information, support, and personnel. The 21-CR Steering Committee will assign priority levels and approve funding support of individual projects recommended by its five newly-formed Subcommittees.

The five 21-CR Subcommittees, comprising senior industry engineers and technologists as well as competent, knowledgeable persons from pertinent industry sectors, will identify specific project needs, prepare work statements, prioritize the research, and identify contractors capable of performing the individual research. Once individual projects have been approved for funding by the Steering Committee, the pertinent subcommittees will provide technical review of contractor-submitted proposals, recommend contractor selection, monitor and oversee the on-going research, perform site reviews, and review the submitted final reports. In performing their duties, the subcommittees will review/monitor and coordinate (where possible) industry/public-sector pre-competitive research. The purpose of this ancillary focus is to encourage other entities (e.g., government laboratories, university researchers, etc.) to perform work of interest to the industry while also striving to minimize duplication of effort.

Program Schedule

Specific research projects, dollar allocations, prioritizations, and scheduling will be as directed by the 21-CR Steering Committee. During 1998, the Steering Committee and its subcommittees will address these issues. The ramp-up schedule for the first year of activity is as follows:

Feb 98:
The first meeting of the 21-CR Steering Committee to be held with invited guests from entities interested in seeing that the effort is undertaken.
1st Q 98:
The 21-CR Subcommittees are established.
2nd Q 98:
The Subcommittees begin identifying research needs within their focus areas.
3rd Q 98:
A workshop is held among the 21-CR participants to provide guidance on the integrated research needs.
4th Q 98:
The Subcommittees finalize the initial set of work statements.
1st Q 99:
The Steering Committee begins to review the work statements, prioritize the efforts, and authorize the start of specific projects.

It is anticipated that one or two "fast-track" projects will start by the end of 1998.

Level of Effort

It is anticipated that $15-20 million of research will be undertaken in the next five-to-seven years. In addition to ARI, a number of outside entities (including CDA) have expressed interest in the program and are positioning themselves to support the effort.


The HVAC&R industry, which has been experiencing evolutionary growth for the last 40 years, has suddenly undergone a period of unprecedented change. The pressures driving these changes -- protection of the environment and conservation of our natural resources -- will only become more pronounced in the future. Developing new technologies to address these pressures will necessitate a large concerted effort. By providing a solid basis for industry collaboration in precompetitive technology areas, the 21-CR program can catalyze progress in a range of developments that individual U.S. companies otherwise are unable to undertake.

Persons interested in learning more about the overall 21-CR effort and/or requirements for serving on a 21-CR Subcommittee should contact ARI's Director of Technology, Glenn Hourahan.

21-CR Subcommittee on Energy Efficiency

The 21-CR Steering Committee has formed five subcommittees to address the indicated research. The scope of the Energy Efficiency subcommmittee is as follows:

Energy Efficiency:
Focuses on research to improve the efficiency of current HVAC&R systems used in various applications (e.g., unitary, chillers, refrigeration, etc). Heat exchangers, motor systems, compressors, controls and sensors, air handlers, etc. are examples of specific component areas falling under the Subcommittee.

Benefits of the 21-CR Effort

Benefits to the U.S. HVAC&R industry

  • resolve HVAC&R-related technical hurdles
  • maintain dominance in the U.S.
  • maintain / increase AC&R's penetration in the world market
  • position industry ahead of the environmental and regulatory challenges on the horizon
  • develop new research infrastructure to further U.S. technology

Benefits to consumers, building owners and the general public

  • greater equipment efficiency
  • reduced operating costs
  • reduced CO2 emissions at the power plants
  • greater equipment selection and reliability
  • greater equipment capability and flexibility
  • improved comfort levels

Also in this Issue:


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