Composite Materials Engineered for HVAC
AltraSet’s in-house state-of-the-art laboratory allows the company to fully control materials engineering and compounding. The composite materials are manufactured with high performance characteristics, which makes AltraSet products well suited for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) applications.
HVAC systems in the past were typically made of metal. However, thermoset composites offer more durability, longer life expectancy, larger heat resistance and stronger corrosion resistance. Since, the thermoset composites are condensation resistant, there is less chance of mold developing. This provides cleaner air in the effected areas.
The HVAC applications can be customized for customer’s specifications. This list includes: UV resistance, sound dampening, anti-microbial properties, heat and fire resistance and chemical and corrosion resistance. Moreover, the mechanical engineering team can provide designs to maximize molded dimensional accuracy and delivery. These functions include: molded-in color, tight tolerances, low-post mold shrinkage and repeatable moldings. These factors make AltraSet thermoset composite materials for HVAC systems the ideal cost-effective choice.
How Thermoset Composite Materials Work in the HVAC Industry
Thermoset composite parts are typically made from epoxy or polyester resins and (most commonly) reinforced with glass fibers. Depending on the application, polyester resin systems can be cured to be softer and more flexible or harder and more brittle. Thermoset composites are used across a wide variety of consumer and industrial products from bathroom showers to auto body panels, to electronics. In the HVAC industry, thermoset composite materials are finding a new home, replacing components historically dominated by the use of metal parts.
Why Thermosets Make Sense for HVAC
Years ago, heating and air conditioning units were largely made from metal parts. While very strong as a material, aluminum, stainless steel, light gauge steel, and coated metal were left susceptible to rust, corrosion, and sun damage. A newly installed metal AC unit would run quiet for the first few months, or even years, but over time, the moving parts caused screws and rivets to loosen, leaving homeowners with a loud, rattling ear sore in their backyard.
AC units are traditionally placed near the home, often adjacent to a bedroom. If you grew up with central AC in the 70’s, 80’s, or 90’s, you’ll likely be able to vividly recall the clatter of the AC unit clicking on, or worse, keeping you up at night.
As with most innovations, manufacturers heard the complaints from their supply chain and began working to solve these problems. After all, central air was here to stay. The question then became one of, “How do we make these units better?” Enter HVAC thermoset composite materials.
HVAC Thermoset Composite Materials offer:
• Durability – Requirements for parts in this industry are stringent, demanding greater durability than other industries.
• Longer Life Expectancy – Because of the increased durability of a thermoset composite part, they last longer, many exceeding ten years or more.
• Heat Resistance – Replacing metal parts meant using material that could withstand elevated temperatures without breaking down, melting, or combusting. Thermosets have an extremely high tolerance to heat while maintaining the structural integrity of the part.
• Corrosive and Condensation Resistant – Thermoset composites are resistant to the common corrosive and condensation build up commonly found in their metal counterparts.
Thermosets and Air Quality
The trickle down effect of increased EPA air pollution regulations over the last few decades has made both consumers and businesses more aware and concerned with overall air quality. Use of air filters and other air quality enhancers has been steadily rising over the last twenty years. Paying attention to the quality of the parts and systems that deliver air into our homes and businesses can have a direct impact on how healthy the artificial environment is overall.
According to the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA),
“Numerous types of contamination may be found within HVAC systems. Depending on the environment and conditions, these contaminants may contribute to mold mildew (i.e., fungal growth) and other microbiological growth. Other contaminants may include debris from outside air sources, fire damage residue, dust, vermin, etc.” (NADCA Sourced Info)
Thermoset composite parts help combat contamination issues in a couple of ways:
1. Thermosets are by design; chemical, corrosion, and condensation resistant. Reduced condensation means less opportunity for the growth of mold and fungus, mildew, and other microbial growth. Thermoset composite parts don’t break down as easily as metal, so the pits and crevices that form in corroding metal parts where mold loves to hide don’t exist in thermosets.
2. Since thermosets are less susceptible to the growth and onset of mold and fungus, the harsh chemical cleaners used with traditional metal parts is reduced or eliminated. Pumping those chemicals through the air system can be just as damaging (if not more) than the mold spores they’re being used to eliminate.
Thermoset Composite Applications Within HVAC
Adopting thermoset composite material parts in HVAC isn’t a “rip and replace” solution. Thermosets are ideal for new construction, part and component upgrades, and retrofitting applications. Because of the lightweight nature of thermosets, use in commercial applications is ideal as it can often negate the need for traditional heavy equipment required to move bulky metal pieces.
Thermoset composite material HVAC components include:
- Air Conditioning Housing
- Condensing Unit Components
Innovative thermoset Bulk Molding Compound (BMC), Sheet Molding Compound (SMC) chemistries allow for excellent UV and stain resistance, anti-microbial properties, and also provides for noise dampening with long lasting structural integrity.
The use of thermosets in HVAC is also great for installers. Working with traditional sheet metal parts meant greater risk for injury from cuts by sharp edges as well as lifting injuries sustained from lifting heavy metal parts.
Thermosets offer better airflow than traditional metal units and can be molded in color with tight tolerances and low post-mold shrinkage. Once molded, the process becomes repeatable.
Thermoset Composites Are Cost-Effective
In addition to offering noise reduction, durability, increased airflow, and superior thermal conductivity, thermoset composites are also much more cost effective than their metal counterparts.
Thermoset composites offer lower costs in both cost per cubic inch and raw material cost. When compared to other materials like thermoplastics, wood, and metal, thermoset composites simply cost less. This is primarily due to the fact that thermosets contain very low petroleum-based material. Other materials which have higher concentrations of petroleum are more expensive due to the price fluctuations around petroleum. Additionally, because they are precision molded, there is less waste with thermosets as compared to other materials.
Thermoset composites in the HVAC industry is even more cost-effective because they are replacing traditional metal parts. Metal is heavy and the cost to ship is significantly higher than the shipping costs of an identical thermoset composite part.
The Ideal Choice for HVAC
Thermoset composites are becoming the ideal choice for HVAC applications for all of the reasons stated throughout this guide. Now work with a thermoset composite manufacturer that knows HVAC.
AltraSet’s materials are well suited for manufacturing custom molded parts for your HVAC application that will achieve a high retention level of its mechanical properties, retain color, and remain durable far longer than a metal component.