The European Union (EU)-funded Life-ZeroGWP Project has developed the first high-efficiency double-ducted propane (R290) air conditioner with no outdoor unit.

The Life-ZeroGWP Project is coordinated by Italian HVAC&R manufacturer Innova, and the project’s application of R290 in a double-duct machine is the first of its kind, according to the project website. Other partners in the project includes the University of Padova, Studio Fieschi & soci, and IVAR CS.

The Innova 2.0NR is a redesign of the existing Innova 2.0, which can function both as an AC and heat pump. The redesign process included updates to heat exchangers, thermo-plastic injection molding structures, copper pipes and thermo acoustic insulation.

The 2.0NR will be commercially available from the beginning of 2022.

The new mono-block INNOVA 2.0NR has a compact design, with reduced energy consumption and lower direct emissions, according to the project website. Each refrigeration circuit uses less than 150g of R290 (5.3oz), keeping the units in compliance with existing safety standards in Europe.

The INNOVA units are hermetically sealed, eliminating the need for an f-gas certified refrigeration technician, and with no outdoor unit there is no need for piping or fittings. The units are also decentralized, meaning that installation does not require any intervention on pre-existing pipes in the building.

One of the objectives of the project was to demonstrate the reliability and transferability of the R290 double-duct AC technology. As part of this, more than 60 units were installed in Italy, Slovakia and the Czech Republic between June and August 2020. They were installed in residential homes for long-life tests, in-field validation and customer evaluations. All the installed units are connected to the internet for easy data acquisition.

“The results obtained with the INNOVA 2.0NR have not only indicated that this solution is technically feasible and complies with the most stringent European safety standards, but that it achieves the same results in terms of energy efficiency and convenience as the best HFC machines on the market,” Life-ZeroGWP stated. “These features make the INNOVA 2.0NR and the air conditioning model it is offering an excellent replacement for high and medium GWP HFC refrigerant solutions.”

Economically competitive

The project is not only focused on the environmental benefits of the new R290 AC, the project has also “proposed an appropriate business model” for SMEs.

“The economic competitiveness of this product is based precisely on those parameters that establish the superior value of European manufacturing: ecology, the sustainability of materials, the safety and the aesthetics of their design,” the project stated. “All of this is achieved without relocating production but by creating jobs inside the European Community.”

The Life ZeroGWP 2.0NR has been nominated for inclusion in the “Pathway to Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions for Cooling” report being prepared by the Kigali Cooling Efficiency Program (K-CEP), the Cool Coalition and the Carbon Trust. The report includes a list of sustainable HVAC&R products from around the world.

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