Efficiency and Environmental Concerns are Changing the Chiller Industry

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An interview with Cam Whitelaw from Smardt Chiller Group

Smardt Chiller Group, a global company with headquarters in Dorval, Quebec, Canada, produces air-cooled chillers, water-cooled chillers, evaporatively-cooled chillers, and plant optimization software. Smardt is among the top five manufacturers globally and ranked number one in oil-free high-efficiency.

Smardt's Montreal Headquarters

Increased Efficiency with Turbocor Oil-Free Compressor Technology

Cam Whitelaw, Smardt’s Group Marketing Manager, describes the advantages of the patented Turbocor oil-free compressor technology used in Smardt Chillers.

“The Smardt Chiller products are exclusively using magnetic bearing technology. This type of compressor inherently operates at higher efficiencies than traditional lubricated screw or centrifugal compressors. This approach allows for a 20% to 50% increase in efficiency versus conventional technology.” Whitelaw explains, “Traditional technology, especially before variable speed drives, meant that your chiller was designed to full load operation. But, when you look at the typical operation of a chilled water plant, 99% of the time you’re not operating at full load; you’re always operating in part-load conditions.”

Smardt’s magnetic bearing compressors and oil-free chillers work even more efficiently in part-load conditions. “IPLV efficiencies using magnetic bearing compressors are by far the best in the industry,” Whitelaw adds.

Many industries use chillers, but educational facilities such as schools and universities benefit significantly from variable speed drives. Whitelaw says, “They often need the flexibility to ramp up capacity during peak school time, and then ramp down when you have students going home for vacation.” He adds, “That flexibility in being able to ramp up and turn down capacity with a single machine is certainly an attractive proposition for those types of customers. You can do this with Smardt because of our efficiency at part load.”

Consistent Performance that Saves Money

Over time, some systems using a screw or centrifugal compressor lubricated with oil contaminate the heat exchangers with oil leaks. That causes build-up on the copper tubes and decreases performance over time.

Smardt’s oil-free technology does not face these issues. Whitelaw states, “Smardt Chillers’ case studies show that our products perform as consistently from day one to year 15.”


GWP Savings with Smardt Chillers

Whitelaw describes some major environmental benefits of using oil-free compressor technology. “The efficiency of an oil-free magnetic bearing solution inherently uses less electricity per ton of cooling. If you’re in a state that is using a lot of coal-powered electricity, then your contributions to greenhouse gas reduction are significant when using our technology.”

In addition to energy savings, Whitelaw explains, “We see a lot of traction with our air-cooled products in data center markets where efficiency is keen, but water consumption is also a factor. Water-cooled chillers need a cooling tower. Using an air-cooled product will improve your efficiency, use less electricity, and also use less water.

“Another driver in this industry right now is looking at the global warming potential (GWP) of refrigerants. In this part of the world, many chillers still use R-134a refrigerants. In North America, the goal is to have R-134a phased out by 2024.” He adds, “One of the initiatives that Danfoss Turbocor is working on is developing alternative compressors that can run different refrigerants with a lower GWP. So they can also operate on R-513A, R-515b, and R-1234ze. R-1234Ze is currently the lowest GWP option.”

Smardt and Danfoss Turbocor Work Together to Push Development

Smardt maintains a close relationship with Danfoss Turbocor in Tallahassee, Florida, to develop new compressors. Since the debut of the original TT compressor, Smardt and Danfoss Turbocor have co-developed a suite of different models.

Whitelaw explains, “They’ve recently launched the VTX compressor, a larger capacity compressor designed for water-cooled chiller applications that does 450 tons per compressor.  We do a lot of testing with them in our facilities, we share data, they often give us early prototypes, and we were the first of any of their OEM partners to sell this compressor in an actual project.”

Whitelaw emphasizes the importance of continuous development to compete with larger multibillion-dollar companies. He says his teams continue to push the envelope. “Our magnetic bearing water-cooled product goes up to 3600 tons.” He emphasizes, “There is no other manufacturer in the world that can build a chiller that large with a magnetic bearing compressor right now.”

Smardt is also exploring the potential in the decarbonization and electrification of cooling and heating systems. There is a growing appetite for air and water source heat pump technology in the North American market. Smardt’s R&D team has been working on new solutions. “We will be showcasing both a water source and air source heat pump in January at the 2022 AHR Expo. We believe that in certain parts of the US, this will be an exciting product.” He notes, “Most of the states driving this conversation are along the west coast; California, Oregon, Washington, but also New York and a few east coast states. Weighing the benefits of natural gas boilers versus heat pump technology continues to be an important focus for the industry.”

Want to Learn More About Smardt Chillers?

Coward Environmental Systems, Inc. is proud to represent Smardt in the Philadelphia region, Central PA, Delaware, and Maryland. Contact us today to discover how Smardt can be a part of your next project.