Pandemic Downturn Leads HVAC Recovery Momentum

Dr. D. B. Jani, Associate Professor, Gujarat Technological University, talks about opportunity for HVAC companies to develop innovative technologies, amid responding to Gopal Anand from Cooling India, and pronounces that new trends in HVAC business will definitely shape 2021.

To enable us share with our readers’ please explain your journey till presently Associate Professor and as Reviewer in London Journals Press?

Through the platform, which I got as research scholar in refrigeration lab at IIT Roorkee; I was going through many quality articles appearing in various national and international journals available there. This turned out to be a great success, as I came across many established researchers around the world via network of research-get like platform. I myself tried to write many quality articles from my experimentally measured data, on hybrid desiccant cooling system. Big journals like energy and buildings; International journal of exergy; applied thermal engineering etc., published my research and invited me to join as reviewer to scrutiny articles communicated to these journals. This gave me lot of confidence to work at international level with peer reviewed journals. As the volunteer reviewer, I came across many communicated manuscripts matching my expertise. After submitting my referee report, the editor provided personalized feedback to me; thereby, it turned into a learning experience. This positive experience gave plenty of justification to continue the peer review volunteer journey as editorial manager too, in many peer reviewed journals, like London Journals Press.

What is your perception about the HVACR industry in India and globally?

HVAC systems contribute to around 31% of the energy used by commercial buildings in India. An important objective of an energy efficient building, therefore, must be to optimize the air-conditioning systems. Buildings account for more than 20% of total energy use in India. With market penetration for HVAC as low as three percent, it is estimated that the growth rate in this sector has been 20% per annum over the last 5 decade, and is expected to accelerate to 30% per annum over the next five years. Enhancing the efficiency of HVAC systems, powering these systems through renewable sources, and reducing heating/cooling loads are steps that are imperative for any building energy efficiency policy. The country has a limited number of policy initiatives in place for energy efficiency and green buildings through control and regulatory instruments – including appliance standards, mandatory labelling and certification, energy efficiency obligations, and utility DSM (demand side management) programs; economic and market-based instruments; fiscal instruments and incentives; information and voluntary action. Thus far, the energy efficiency/building-related policy framework in India addresses and recognizes incremental reductions in energy use. The Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) was launched by Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), Ministry of Power in 2007, on a voluntary basis.

From $8,526.7 million in 2019, the Indian heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) market size is expected to grow to $31,598.6 million by 2030, at a CAGR of 16.0% during the forecast period (2020–2030). The key factors propelling the industry are – increase in the disposable income of people and growth in the commercial, industrial, and residential infrastructure investments in the country. The Indian HVAC market growth is being negatively affected by the COVID-19 scenario, both on the demand and supply sides. Due to the lockdowns imposed in several countries to curb the spread of the disease, both the manufacturing and import of such equipment to India have been severely hit. Similarly, non-essential commercial and industrial operations in India have also ceased, which has put a deeper dent in the manufacturing and supply of HVAC equipment. On the demand side, people are facing unemployment and salary cuts, which is, why they are hesitating in buying such non-essential stuff.

What damage has been caused to the HVAC industry during pandemic times?

The corona virus pandemic has had a significant impact on the HVAC market. Heating and air conditioning systems, and all those companies supplying components or services, are essential to personal comfort, particularly when more people are at home. Even more essential, HVAC technology provides the cooling and air filtration necessary in life-sustaining hubs, like hospitals and medical laboratories. Outbreaks and quarantines disrupted supply chains and forced us to think differently about how to use our global supply network to support business continuity. The virus also challenged HVAC business to change operational procedures, in order to protect employees and plants. It required a steady balance of complying with new and varying regulations and safety procedures, while continuing to serve customers and critical infrastructure. COVID-19 has tested almost every facet of the HVAC business, but is also helping in building stronger relationships with customers, channel partners, governing bodies and industry associations.

How much optimistic are you about HVAC industry recovery momentum and what suggestions do you opine towards for the same.

The coronavirus pandemic has drastically changed the way HVAC companies conduct their businesses – at least in the near term. However, the crisis has also created new opportunities to deploy HVAC technologies and new approaches to help diminish the disease. In the short term, the pandemic has created a brutal economic downturn, which has been felt at every level of HVAC industry. Hopefully, that downturn will be followed by a recovering economy that includes a renewed appetite for the HVAC products and technologies – industry sells.

As reviewer in London Journals Press, what nature of topics you come across generally, under your domain of Mechanical Engineering and technology.

To be a successful in domain of mechanical engineer, some of the most important skills one can develop are:

-Problem-solving: essential to solve all the complex puzzles that stand between you and the perfect mechanical product/device/system.
-Creativity: the only way to come up with innovative solutions sees, what others do not, and create something from nothing.
-Communication: needed to work with your team, and even more important when explaining clients and users – how to use your product or solutions.
-Teamwork: mechanical engineers often work in groups, which helps them brainstorm ideas, compare suggestions, and find the right answer to a given challenge or task.
-Math skills: solving mechanical engineering problems most often requires the use of mathematical principles, like Calculus or Statistics.

The nature of topics that come across to me as reviewer are the heat transfer and thermodynamics and their application to the design of advanced engineering systems. The objective of the communicated research problem is to introduce readers about the fundamental processes of heat transfer and thermodynamics in complex engineering systems, to enable more efficient, cost-effective and reliable designs with less environmental pollution and impact. An understanding of heat transfer and thermodynamics is required for the design of efficient, cost-effective systems for power generation (including advanced energy conversion systems in HVAC), propulsion (including combustion engines and gas turbines), heat exchangers, industrial processes, refining and chemical processing. This area of interest is important to many industries—aerospace, defense, automotive, HVAC, metals, glass, paper and plastic, as well as towards the thermal design of electronic and computer packages.

Your area of research involves TRNSYS and desiccant cooling. Could you detail about the prospects of and advancement done in this field?

Researchers, designers and manufacturers of refrigeration and air-conditioning systems and equipment, today, are focusing on new and alternative technologies, in view of the phasing out of CFCs. This has brought about a revolution in HVAC industry with the advent of new replacement technologies that operate independent of refrigerants. Desiccant-based and desiccant assisted air-conditioning systems are currently emerging from a 60-year industrial heritage and expanding into commercial applications. Today, both the user and the consultant opt to adopt non-conventional approach, case by case, rather than sticking to conventional method of designing systems. Effort at all levels is being made to identify new slots / areas, where desiccant cooling system provides immediate applicability i.e., stand-alone, as well as it provides economical and efficient alternative, by way of lowering TR (Reduce impact of CFCs). Thus, the air-conditioning industry, worldwide, has been battling to meet new economic, environmental, and regulatory challenges, like improved ventilation-rate standards, upgraded indoor air quality demands, reduced levels of gaseous emissions, phase-out of CFC refrigerant, and peak electric demand. To meet these challenges, the industry, the government in India and the rest of the world, especially in the field of HVAC, are focusing on alternative and new technologies, like desiccant cooling and dehumidification technology. New approaches and options to air conditioning, such as desiccant cooling and dehumidification are providing important advantages in solving many of these problems. However, these options have to be evaluated to resolve economic, environmental, and regulatory issues.

TRNSYS is an extremely flexible graphically-based software environment, used to simulate the behavior of transient systems. While the vast majority of simulations are focused on assessing the performance of thermal and electrical energy systems, Trnsys equally well, can be used to model other dynamic HVAC systems also. TRNSYS is an extensive library of components, each of which, models the performance of one part of the system. The standard library includes approximately 150 models ranging from pumps to multi-zone buildings, wind turbines to electrolyzers, weather data processors to economics routines, and basic HVAC equipment to cutting-edge emerging technologies.

Models are constructed in such a way that users can modify existing components or write their own, extending the capabilities of the environment. After 35 years of commercial availability, Trnsys continues to be a flexible, component-based software package that accommodates the ever-changing needs of both researchers and practitioners, in the HVAC energy simulation community.

What challenges do you see in HVACR trends and technology in 2021?

As we move to the New Year, it is for sure that the trends in HVAC business will definitely shape 2021. The industry faces new challenges, whether that is: emerging green technologies, smart homes or the growth of new technology. With new technology, comes new training. Global demands for HVAC equipment increased by 6% through 2020. The growth of the HVAC market brings with it, extra demand for skills across a globe. The baby boom generation are entering retirement and the millennial generation may be much less likely to enter – a skilled trade. The HVAC industries are, therefore, looking at the way they recruit and train the staff, investing more in employee training and skills programs, as they adapt to change. The most recent employment numbers for the HVAC industry are record-breaking. In 2018, 1.2 million people were employed by HVAC industries, a more than five percent boost over 2017. The HVAC industry outlook also predicts 13% growth through 2028, which clearly speaks to the overall health of the industry. A few years ago, the Internet of Things was a buzz-phrase referring to a growing number of Wi-fi enabled household appliances line such as TVs, stereos, refrigerators and thermostats. Today, it’s estimated more than 14 million homes use “smart home” or “smart technology” devices and products—and that number is only expected to go up. More and more consumers express concerns about the environmental impact of the products and services they buy. They are often willing to pay more for the sustainability of options, that are more environmental-friendly than others, whether in new building projects or retrofits. Global Web Index (GWI) found a rising number of consumers were ready to pay for more expensive, eco-friendly products, including 46% of Baby Boomers and 61% of Millennials. The trends, outlined above in this feature, demonstrate that there is a huge opportunity for HVAC companies to develop new innovative technologies, which make residential developments more sustainable, smarter and cost effective. Tackling the cost-efficiency challenge will revolutionise the market and allow the variety of consumers to widen, as connected living becomes the norm.

Could you brief about your achievements in your area of specialising?

Surely, me as Dr. D.B. Jani, received Ph.D. in Thermal Science (Mechanical Engineering) from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Roorkee and am working as Ph.D. supervisor at Gujarat Technological University (GTU). I published more than 150 research articles in International Conferences and Journals, and presently, working as Associate Professor at GEC, Dahod, affiliated to Gujarat Technological University, GTU, Ahmedabad (Education Department, State of Gujarat, India, Class-I, Gazetted Officer). The area of research is Desiccant cooling, ANN, TRNSYS, Exergy. Also, I authored 5 international books in areas of clean energy, TRNSYS simulation, Exergy analysis, renewable solar energy etc. Now, being engaged as reviewer and as editorial board member in many peer reviewed journals from Elsevier, Taylor and Francis, Sage, Inderscience etc. Over and above, a research grant for working in area of desiccant cooling has been sanctioned.

What are your future plans and anything else you may want to share with us.

My future research will be focused on three key principles that consider: efficient dehumidification and cooling; proper ventilation and indoor air quality (IAQ), while building an energy-efficient, sustainable HVAC that offers better indoor thermal comfort. These help to regulate temperature and humidity to keep the indoor warm in winter and pleasantly cool during summer.

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