How VRF Technology from Mitsubishi Electric Trane Can Help Your Indoor Grow

Some of the most successful contributors to the cannabis industry are those who’s products are well established outside the industry. By leveraging prior success, these contributors are delivering measurable value and leading innovation to the cannabis industry.

One such contributor is Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC (METUS) – a joint-venture of HVAC industry titans Mitsubishi Electric and Trane Technologies who’s Ductless and Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) air conditioning systems are renown for long term reliability and energy efficient operation.

METUS has brought their decades of product design excellence and innovation leadership to cannabis professionals providing indoor cultivators with lower monthly operating expense, reliable operation, consistently higher output, while helping customers decrease their carbon footprint.

We sat down with Senior Manager of Strategic Programs Michael Hampton to discuss the company’s history, their initial foray into cannabis, and their current position when it comes to industry progress and innovation.

Leafwire: How was Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC first started?

Michael Hampton: Our parent company, Mitsubishi Electric is one of the world’s leading names in the manufacture and sales of electrical and electronic products and systems used in a broad range of fields and applications. Our products are used in factory automation, visual info systems, energy systems, power generation, and of course air conditioning systems.

The technology our cooling and heating products are known for – inverter-based – came to the US in the early ‘80’s. Our ductless and VRF air conditioning systems have helped stimulate the US adoption of energy efficient products into homes and businesses.

LW: When and why did Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC begin servicing the cannabis industry?

MH: We’ve been in the cannabis business for a long time as our products are uniquely applicable due to their small, modular, and easy to install features.

Because the cannabis industry has experienced incredibly strong growth over the last 6-7 years, we’ve increasingly worked to partner with informed and motivated owners who need their facilities operating reliably and profitably month in and month out.

LW: What were some issues with cannabis HVAC systems you identified and hoped to solve when you entered the industry?

MH: Large, inefficient, very inflexible products. Typically, cannabis HVAC systems are either large packaged units that sit up on a roof – which requires steel structural support – or, they sit outside, and you have to run duct work across the building in order to move air around in the right places.

These products were large, heavy, and inefficient when it came to energy consumption. This resulted in high energy bills for owners and growers, because the machines either had to be 100 percent on or off to work.

Grow rooms also tend to be fairly smaller in size, so there is usually very little room to run duct work or have large pieces of equipment hanging from the ceilings. Our small modular design really addresses those issues and benefits operations.

LW: What are some of the most popular trends you’ve found in today’s cannabis indoor grow world?

MH: The need for the ability to use a single system and spread its energy across multiple rooms, which our modular approach easily addresses. Instead of having one system service one room at a time, we’re able to take a single system and spread it across multiple grow rooms in a way that creates both efficiency and helpful redundancy. If you have one system down but it’s spread across four different rooms, you can still optimize 50-70 percent of your grow capacity. 

LW: How does this approach support the industry’s growing need for sustainable operations?

MH: Across all industries, we’re experiencing a growing concern for the environment: reducing high energy costs, and moving away from fossil fuels. This fits right into our products. They’re all electric, they provide cooling and heating, and they reduce the cost of energy by being so efficient. 

LW: What are some top tips every indoor grower should know about their HVAC system?

MH: Growers are paying their electric bills every month, and that’s an expense that reduces profitability. If they can reduce those electric or utility costs, it will have a profound impact on their overall success. As a grower, you need to make sure you’re investigating the best solutions for your grow room in terms of efficiency and energy use. It’s sort of like buying a car: you can buy a car that gets 10 miles to the gallon, or a car that gets 40 miles to the gallon. Be aware of that efficiency margin.

You should also make sure you’re taking advantage of redundancy capabilities. Design your rooms in a way that, should a mechanical system experience a failure (which will happen at some point in time), you won’t lose your entire room. You might go from 100 percent down to 75 or 50 percent, which gives you time to keep your crops growing while you wait for that system to be repaired. Take advantage of any products that can enable your progress in that area.

Finally, be aware that there are systems that can average temperatures within a grow room, and therefore do a better job of cooling it. Areas within a grow room can be warmer or cooler at any given time, so having things like multiple sensor locations or multiple averaging temperatures can provide a more uniform cooling experience, which also saves energy.

LW: What sets Mitsubishi Electric Trane HVAC apart from your competitors?

MH: Our support. As a manufacturer, we provide support from the design stage through startup and beyond. We have people whose sole job is to ensure our products are working and reliable. We have tech support, design support, and training support for people who are installing and servicing our products.

We’ve been in the U.S. market since the early ’80s, and we’re basically the first manufacturers of this technology. We’ve been doing it the longest, have the most experience, and we made the investment to support customers throughout the country.

Finally, part of the total cost of an AC system isn’t just the initial installation. You also have to factor in how much it costs to operate, and how easy it will be to maintain.

A lot of our competitors require major maintenance costs to run efficiently. Our products do not. Our filter changes are easy to perform, and there’s no water treatments necessary, or drives or bearings to lubricate or oil. As long as you keep your coils clean on a yearly basis and change your filters on a quarterly basis, you’ll have a system that performs reliably and consistently for many years. This is a cost that no one thinks about until something breaks and everyone is panicking, but we’ve factored that in from the start.

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