Larry Cook

What are VRF Systems – Pros and Cons of Variable Refrigerant

Commercial and residential customers alike are often interested in VRF systems. VRF stands for variable refrigerant flow. VRF systems are a high-performing, energy-efficient, HVAC system that is able to provide customizable comfort without ducts. Instead of ducts, hot and cool air is delivered through refrigerant piping directly to each space. VRF systems are popular for customers who want to separate their business or home by zones to control the temperature in each zone. 

Vrf system

How do VRF Systems Work 

VRF systems work similarly to ductless mini split systems. When compared with ductless mini split systems, VRF systems are often larger and more complex, with multi-zone climate control. Most VRF systems have one outdoor condenser unit and multiple indoor units with their own heat pump or heat recovery system. VRF systems are controlled by a thermostat, analyzing the temperature and then communicating with the indoor units to heat and cool the indoor space. 

What’s the Difference between VRF vs VRV HVAC Systems

Some people are confused about the difference between a VRF system and a VRV system. VRV systems are generally only used in large commercial buildings, whereas VRF systems are more often installed in smaller commercial buildings and residential homes. 

Advantages of VRF Systems

We think that knowledge is important when it comes to selecting the right HVAC system. We’ve outlined a handful of pros and cons of VRF systems to help you make a more educated decision on the right HVAC system for your home or business. Below are “pros” of VRF systems: 

  • Energy Efficiency. VRF systems are considered an energy efficient HVAC system. These systems are efficient because they are designed to provide the exact amount of cooling or heating needed in a space. 
  • Control Temperature Easily with Zoning. With a VRF system, the temperature in specific rooms and spaces can easily be customized for each individual space or room, allowing for maximum comfort and flexibility. 
  • Small Space Friendly. VRF systems don’t take up a lot of space inside the walls and ceilings because they do not have traditional ducts. Additionally, there are a variety of shapes to choose from when it comes to indoor units to work in any space – even in awkward or architecturally difficult buildings. 

Disadvantages of VRF Systems

Below we’ve outlined a handful of the “cons” of VRF systems: 

  • Expense. Before selecting a VRF system, be sure to understand how much the equipment and installation will cost. VRF systems often cost more money than other HVAC systems. Before writing VRF systems off completely due to up-front cost, be sure to consider the operational savings over time with VRF system’s energy efficiency. Also, VRF systems typically require less maintenance because the system only operates on demand. 
  • Refrigerant Leaks. VRF systems have long refrigerant lines with flare fitting connectors that, if loose, could result in hard-to-fix leaks. Maintenance is important on VRF systems for longevity and efficiency. 
  • Parts and Support. While VRF systems are becoming more popular, there are still many HVAC technicians and companies who are unfamiliar with this technology. As a result, it’s important to find a professional HVAC company that you can rely on before installing your VRF system. Additionally, keep in mind that replacement parts for VRF systems cannot often be swapped with parts from other brands. 

Before you Purchase a VRF System 

Now that we’ve covered commonly asked questions, such as “What is a VRF system?” and “pros and cons of VRF systems,” you are better equipped to determine whether or not a VRF system is right for your home or business. 

Selecting an HVAC system is an important decision. Be sure to consider the total cost of installing a VRF system, including maintenance expenses over the lifetime of the system. VRF systems are a more expensive HVAC system. Consulting with a professional HVAC company regarding the HVAC options that you have is recommended. At Larry Cook Heating and Cooling, we offer free customized estimates. 

For instance, customers that are considering VRF systems often are interested in ductless mini split systems. Both of these systems are great HVAC options. Ductless mini split systems are not better, or worse, than VRF systems – it simply depends on the particular space and customer needs. More often, our customers select ductless mini splits systems over VRF systems.  However, it’s important to fully understand your options and how these options would work for your space. 

See our article about mini split systems

Do you have questions about whether a VRF system is right for you? Call Larry Cook Heating and Cooling at 316-322-5668 to schedule your free custom estimate. We are passionate about educating our customers about their available HVAC options! 

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