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Building a greener HVAC industry

Climate Change By Varun Malhotra, Senior Engineer, Building Services – 23 June 2022

Metal industrial air conditioning vent. HVAC. Ventilation fan.

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Varun in the Dubai office with awards on shelving behind

Varun Malhotra

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As the world is accelerating the transition to net zero, sustainability has also been the driving force in the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) industry. Despite its challenges, sustainable HVAC has finally grown within reach thanks to energy efficient and lower emission technology.

Countries in the MENA region are very vulnerable to the impact of climate change, as they are naturally affected by harsh climate conditions and extremely high temperatures. The International Monetary Fund and World Health Organisation have both identified MENA as one of the most impacted regions, with acute risks to public health from heat effects. For most buildings HVAC, therefore, is no longer an optional luxury, but a must have, and climate change effects are already boosting the market’s growth year-on-year in the Middle East.

In response to the twin dilemma of the growing need for cooling and the imperative to reduce energy-related carbon emissions, the HVAC industry has aligned itself with the global decarbonisation trajectory.

The potential benefits are substantial. The International Energy Agency, for example, has estimated that climate-friendly, energy-efficient cooling technology could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by up to 460 billion tonnes over the next four decades. Doubling the energy efficiency of equipment by 2050 would also enable the world to meet the growing demand for cooling while avoiding the need to generate an additional 1,300 gigawatts of electricity and save on the costs associated with generation and distribution.

Coinciding with this, government agencies are setting stricter energy performance standards and making sustainable HVAC compulsory. This includes the developing nations where regulations accompanying the acceleration of cooling equipment uptake are also encompassing a transition in technology to reduce, if not eliminate, the use of fossil fuels to reduce their carbon footprint.

The industry is also slowly shifting the perception that new, energy-efficient technologies are expensive and out of reach, and consumers are now catching on to the benefits of sustainable HVAC. The value proposition of increasing comfort while making significant saving on energy bills and maintenance costs is very clear, and advances in equipment coming onto the market are breaking through the performance ceiling in relation to affordable cooling capability at a reasonable energy cost.

Below are some of the most promising sustainable HVAC trends:

Adopting green energy


Conventionally, HVAC accounts for more than a third of a building’s operational carbon footprint. Leading players are introducing products that rely on alternate sources of energy including renewable energy to help in reducing dependence on traditional fossil fuel-reliant energy resources. With the use of green energy sources, consumers can reduce energy consumption by 25% to 50% and decrease greenhouse emissions.

Increased automation and energy monitoring


The rise of automation is shaping all industries, from marketing and IT to HVAC. Programmable thermostats, for example, enable users to automate temperature monitoring. More advanced HVAC systems can be used along with smart home controllers and building management systems, even detecting and fixing technical issues without human intervention. This technology allows users to operate their heating and cooling units remotely. For example remote operation enables the use pre-cooling for an hour before returning home from work so that instead of coming home and turning it on at highest level to quickly cool down a hot room/home, it can be set to a more energy-efficient level. Energy analysis software programs are also emerging, enabling users to identify energy solutions and reduce utility costs by helping identify and prevent energy wastage. These programs also optimise equipment operation times to coincide with peak supply from any onsite renewables.

Stricter efficiency standards


This is another piece of great news for both consumer utility bills and the planet. The minimum efficiency ratings for HVAC systems are now changing and are expected to increase over the coming years. Globally, manufacturers are conducting a significant amount of research to develop products that help building operators and owners meet the energy efficiency criteria, reducing their carbon emissions and energy consumption.

As the Middle East and Africa’s HVAC market is projected to generate a revenue of $10.1 billion by 2024 the adoption of sustainable HVAC systems is a welcome trend that is being observed across the region.

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