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Using VRF System for Heating and Eliminating Radiators

Using VRF System for Heating and Eliminating Radiators

We have been asked this question many times by our clients if the building can be heated by VRF system and old radiators can be eliminated.
Architects/Owners/Building engineers have likely heard of VRF systems but might be wondering what exactly VRF is and how it works and can be used for heating. Even though it has been widely used in other countries for over 30 years, VRF, which stands for variable refrigerant flow, has only been available in the United States since the early 2000s. In this article we will learn what VRF is, how it works, and if it can be used for heating.

VRF heating in lieu of traditional radiator heating?

VRF systems have different types. We will discuss only straight cool or heat type in this article. VRF system is basically a traditional heat pump system using refrigeration cycle in reverse mode. The difference between traditional split DX unit which is common in many buildings and VRF system is the compressor operation. VRF systems get their name from variable compressor operation. Compressor speed modulates based on the building demand which results high efficiency in cooling/heating system. When the VRF system is in heating mode, it can provide warm air to the space like a traditional heat pump system.

The main question is that Can We Eliminate Radiators and Use VRF Heating Only?

The answer to this question is “Yes” but has some restrictions. VRF system can be the only heat source for heating but it depends on the location and the building load. Engineers check these variables and decide if the VRF system is viable option for heating. If the building load and location parameters acceptable, radiators can be eliminated.

Most common building types for VRF heating is residential buildings. Smaller windows and low heat loss can allow eliminating the radiators and using VRF system. Calculations shall be performed by engineer to make the determination.

Location is also a factor. VRF systems are much better in low ambient temperature operations than traditional DX heat pumps. VRF system can be used for heating in NYC since winter design temperature is 7 degF. Specifications and selections for the VRF heating has some specialties. Engineers specify the VRF requirements for low ambient temperature operation for the region.

Benefits for eliminating radiators and using VRF system for heating:

  • Eliminates gas or fuel for heating
  • Eliminates boilers or heaters and all required infrastructure
  • VRF system is more efficient than any other DX system.
  • VRF system can provide cooling and heating.


VRF systems are very efficient and can be used as sole heat source. Deciding for VRF system can be complicated and shall be performed by professional engineers. Using wrong type of system can be costly to correct.


More topics will be discussed, register to our Blog.

  • Can VRF system be used for commercial buildings
  • VRF system types
  • Cost of VRF system and ROI

YEC Engineering has designed many VRF system projects in NYC and other states. Currently we are working on residential projects in Brooklyn and Queens with Fontan Architecture.
Contact us about VRF system design and converting your heating system.
Questions about MEP engineering and our services. Contact us

Baltu Yorkos, PE
(646) 248 6788

Graduated from Florida in 1991, he started his career 27 years ago designing various types and sizes of projects. Baltu has worked for national recognized companies and local small firms. Large commercial buildings, schools, colleges, public buildings and residential buildings are his focus for his practice. He started his own NY engineering practice in 2014 as part of his Florida practice. He has been designing and managing small renovations to large infrastructure projects. His strength comes from using detailed quality control process and applying ISO9000 procedures. He lives in Manhattan with his family. As part of being a New Yorker, he enjoys the city and put every effort to make it a better place.

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