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New System Tool Reveals BEST Options Early On

For many years, HVAC industry professionals have lamented the inadequacy of packaged equipment efficiency ratings to evaluate entire operating system types equitably. 
When commercial HVAC equipment is laboratory-tested and assigned an efficiency rating, water-source heat pumps may as well be apples, and VRF systems: oranges.  Obviously, boilers are peaches, centrifugal chillers are bananas, and cooling towers become watermelons.

Suffice it to say, the cornucopia of efficiency rating systems (EER, IEER, SEER, AFUE, COP, etc.) makes the task of comparing real-world, as-applied system efficiencies and lifecycle costs a lengthy, arduous task.  That is, until recently.

Members of the Hydronics Industry Alliance – Commercial (HIA-C), a committee of the Radiant Professionals Alliance, have recognized the importance of creating a common denominator among all HVAC system types.  This allows building owners, mechanical engineers, and design/build contractors to accurately compare real-world performance in a specific building.  Ideally, this could be done in the early design phase, even before ground is broken.  This idea emerged about five years ago, and the software has now come to fruition.

Available for free, the Building Efficiency System Tool (BEST) is a commercial building total HVAC system comparison tool that now solves the challenge of accurately comparing different styles of HVAC systems. 

With the very simplest of inputs, BEST compares the energy performance, first cost, life cycle cost and more for all major types of HVAC systems – and is broadly applicable to most commercial buildings anywhere on the continent.  All BEST outputs are represented in operating dollar figures, making comparison easy.

BEST does this accurately, and quickly.  It compares up to four system types in a matter of minutes, instead of the hours or days programs like EnergyPlus require, and efficiently narrows the choices to be run in EnergyPlus, significantly reducing design time.

“While different types of HVAC equipment are tested to various rating protocols, the bigger issue is that they’re all tested to different standards,” said Greg Cunniff, manager of application engineering at Taco Comfort Solutions. 

“The testing parameters, lab procedures and resulting efficiency scores for some types of equipment are relatively comparable to their real-world performance,” added Cunniff.  “For other systems, the discrepancy between tested and as-applied performance is surprisingly large.  Owners, engineers and contractors needed a tool that refines the choices and compares all technologies on common ground.”


While BEST provides a powerful tool for design professionals, the HIA-C offers a seat at the table for all its members, where getting the word out about the true operating costs of various HVAC systems is the goal. 

The HIA-C is a diverse organization comprised of commercial manufacturers from the United States, Mexico and Canada. Through collaboration, even amongst staunch competitors, the most comprehensive comparison solution emerged. 

“With BEST, professionals can rapidly analyze all the real-world HVAC options to determine the system that best meets budgetary and performance requirements,” said Rick Bostian, HIA-C chairman and Business Development Manager at WaterFurnace International. 

“In its most basic comparison function, the user only inputs the location for weather and utility data, building size, and number of stories to get a comparison of four options among the 30 pre-determined systems,” he continued. “If desired, the design team can change any of the program’s defaults to more closely match the building. Comparing a lot of ‘what if’ scenarios can be expensive and time consuming, and BEST narrows the choices at no cost to the user.”

BEST uses the Building Energy Efficiency Ratio™ (BEER), which uses certified AHRI data, including certified unit efficiency ratios, manufacturers’ published performance data, component performance curves, and the pipe or duct required in typical systems with “as applied” correction factors. BEST bridges the gap between laboratory test data and real world HVAC system performance, including installation and utility cost against calculated load and actual local weather.

“BEER rerates published efficiency data for actual operating conditions and any distribution energy that’s missing from AHRI data,” said Mark Hanzel, VP Product Regulatory Affairs/Director HVAC Commercial Buildings/Applied Water Systems at Xylem, Inc.  “For example, pumping energy in a hydronic system is absent from AHRI numbers.  And when VRF systems are AHRI tested in a lab, the demands on the compressor - based on length of refrigerant lines (25 feet) and load applied - are far less than what a typical field installation is likely to include.”

While a building’s heating, cooling and ventilation energy consumption and operating cost is of great importance, the intent of BEST is not to predict annual energy consumption of a given system, but rather to  provide the user with a comprehensive comparison of multiple, complete HVAC systems using an identical load profile, specific to building size, weather pattern, installation and operating cost.  BEST reports, in detail, the information needed for informed decisions regarding HVAC system selection at the early project design phase.

“BEST outputs cumulative lifecycle cost by year, system payback time, pump and fan HP, total system integrated energy efficiency ratio (IEER) for cooling, coefficient of performance (COP) for heating, and more,” explained Mark Chaffee, Taco VP of governmental relations & sustainability, and founding member of the HIA-C.  “The cost data is based on industry averages for first cost and maintenance costs collected from over 50 contractors around the U.S.”

Quick adoption

The new software program has been five years in the making. BEST already has roughly 2,500 registrants.  This number continues to grow as more professionals learn of its capabilities. 

Now available at no cost, this game-changing, first-of-its-kind software provides the information owners and designers need to properly evaluate the many options available to heat and cool their buildings. 

BEST avails real cost data, energy efficiency comparisons and lifecycle costs of the HVAC system long before detailed plans are created. 

Learn more and download BEST for free at www.besthvac.org


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