Operation and performance of VRF systems: Mining a large-scale dataset
The energy consumption of air-conditioning systems has gained increasing attention as it contributes significantly to the global building energy use. The variable refrigerant flow (VRF) system is a common air-conditioning system applied widely in residential and office buildings in China. Understanding the actual operation and performance of VRF systems is fundamental for the energy-efficient design and operation of VRF systems. Previous research on VRF system operation used either limited field data covering certain building types and climate zones or used a questionnaire to obtain a larger dataset. However, they did not capture the wide applications of VRF systems quantitatively across all building types, climate zones, and operating conditions. To fill this gap, statistical and clustering analysis was conducted on the newly proposed key performance indicators of approximately 287,000 VRF systems for residential and commercial buildings in all five climate zones in China. The main findings are: (1) VRF systems are mainly used for cooling in all climate zones in China; (2) among all building types, the duration of use is lowest in residential buildings and highest in hotels and medical buildings; (3) the distribution of the ideal VRF cooling coefficient of performance (COP) is similar across all climate zones and building types; whereas the COPs of ideal VRF heating in the Severe Cold region and Cold regions are lower than those in other climate zones; and (4) partial load operations for VRF systems are common in residential buildings and office buildings due to the part-time-part-space operation mode. These findings can inform the actual application of VRF systems in China, supporting the design, operation, industry standard development, and performance optimization of VRF systems.