How EPP reduces Energy Consumption in HVAC systems

Energy efficiency is a priority for the European Union. To achieve this, a wide range of measures are being developed, from the promotion of renewable energies, to measures closer to the citizen, such as reducing the energy consumption in HVAC products or improving the energy efficiency of products (Regulation (EU) 2017/1369). 

The latter is achieved by integrating eco-design. 

This concept involves designing products considering energy consumption (and consequent CO2 emissions) throughout their life cycle.   

 

Introduction to EPP in HVAC systems 

Expanded polypropylene (EPP) is a plastic foam 98% made of air. This composition gives it excellent insulating properties, high mechanical strength, and light weight. 

This material can be easily moulded to create customized parts. Applied to HVAC systems, it makes it possible to manufacture tailor-made components that fit like a glove in the systems, replacing the mechanisms or gears that until now made several assembled or screwed parts. 

From a sustainability perspective, this foam has an environmentally friendly profile: it is a mono-material that is easy to recycle when the system reaches the end of its cycle or when the part itself needs to be replaced.   

 

Benefits of EPP in HVAC 

HVAC

Reduction of energy consumption 

The first benefit is, undoubtedly, an improvement in efficiency using EPP in HVAC systems. That is why the incorporation of this material is one of the best strategies for manufacturers to add energy saving solutions in HVAC.  

The end-users do not need to know about mechanics to perceive this reduction in energy consumption in their HVAC systems, be it air conditioning, ventilation, or heat pumps. They only need to check the savings on their electricity or gas bill. 

 

Thermal insulation 

Its low thermal conductivity reduces heat loss in heating, or cold loss in cooling appliances.   

 

Airtightness 

The components are flexible and custom-designed for millimetre-tight fit for maximum airtightness. This minimises air leakage and optimises system performance. 

 

Sound insulation 

The air-filled bead structure of the EPP absorbs noise from operating equipment. In addition, its mechanical ability to dampen vibrations further attenuates noise. 

 

This quality is highly appreciated by the end customer. In fact, along with energy efficiency, it often plays a major role in the purchasing decision as these systems operate for hours at a time and reducing noise pollution ensures pleasant spaces to live or work in.   

 

Prevents condensation 

EPP prevents moisture condensation. The use of EPP technology in air conditioning or ventilation systems eliminates the risk of corrosion of metal components and the feared appearance of fungi or other micro-organisms harmful to health, for instance this material is conformed to the VDI6022 for ventilation unit. 

 

Sustainability of HVAC systems with EPP: Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) 

Global warming is forcing industry to redesign its products to reduce CO2 emissions. For its part, the depletion of many material resources and the need to increase competitiveness forces the incorporation of abundant, affordable and agile materials to be incorporated into the assembly.  

This optimisation of resources with EPP in HVAC is best appreciated by looking at the entire life cycle of the system.  

  • Raw material: Polypropylene is one of the most abundant plastic materials. The manufacture of EPP beads is an industrial process with low energy costs compared to other materials. 
  • Moulding: simple and low energy cost compared to other materials.
  • Assembly: much simpler, quicker, and faster thanks to the fact that they are single pieces, without screws or glue (clap to fix).
  • Transport: its low weight reduces the energy cost of transport.
  • Use phase: its isolating and mechanical vibration damping properties enable a more efficient use of the systems. The incidence of breakdowns is also reduced, making the equipment more durable. 
  • Repair: repair or replacement, either of adjacent parts or of the EPP part itself, is quick, clean, and simple. Tasks require fewer tools, fewer fasteners, and less time.
  • Recycling: EPP is recycled mechanically. This system offers low energy costs and high material recovery. 

Energy consumption of buildings and the contribution of EPP in HVAC systems 

Buildings consumed the 42% of the EU’s energy in 2021. Approximately 80% was used for heating, cooling, and domestic hot water (globally the average is 12%, considering less developed or cooler countries). In many cases, this energy expenditure exceeds that used for lighting, various equipment (computers, televisions, refrigerators, kitchens, etc.) or lifts. 

As we have seen, improving energy efficiency in HVAC benefits both the manufacturer (lower production costs and improved product energy certification) and the end user (savings on energy bills). But the planet also wins: the environmental impact of EPP in HVAC is another step towards decarbonisation in Europe.  

 

Main end-uses by consuming sector HVAC
Main end-uses by consuming sector. World, 2020. Based on IEA data https://www.iea.org/reports/net-zero-by-2050

 

 

Sustainability and competitiveness: the PEP ecopassport  

Improving thermal insulation with EPP brings a competitive advantage to the final product. Far from being a marketing argument, it is measurable and comparable.  

This is ensured by the Environmental Product Declaration Programme (PEP), better known as the PEP Ecopassport® which measures the environmental impact of electrical, electronic and HVAC products. It is carried out by an independent, non-profit international body, the P.E.P. Association, and is validated by Bureau Veritas. 

Once the study is done, a fact sheet is posted online with the results of that body (this is known as the PEP eco-passport). This information, sorted alphabetically by product type, manufacturer, and product model, is publicly available. 

The fact that the end consumer can quickly compare the efficiency of different equipment gives transparency and competitiveness to the sector. This possibility also stimulates the constant incorporation of innovations in HVAC systems with EPP or other state-of-the-art technologies. 

 

Case study: Alnor’s distribution boxes in EPP 

An efficient heat recovery ventilation system provides thermal comfort without additional energy costs. Let’s take a look at Alnor case study on EPP. This Polish manufacturer takes advantage of the benefits of using EPP in HVAC to achieve optimum insulation of the air distribution system (EPP plenums and distribution boxes with λ = 0.039). 

The efficiency of EPP foam in HVAC components

The FLX-PLO-EPP-R distribution boxes collect semi-rigid 75 mm ducts which are then distributed throughout the rooms. Typical installations contain 1 to 2 such collectors for supply air and extract air. 

The development of these components in EPP solves the problem of lack of insulation or incorrect insulation. Moreover, being an inert material, it prevents the proliferation of fungi or other microorganisms, which ensures excellent air quality with HVAC EPP.  

 

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