Sustainable yachting also means having efficient onboard systems that use less energy. We were at Veco to discover the most innovative technologies for fridges and air conditioning
by Niccolò Volpati – photo by Andrea Muscatello
THE NEED TO REDUCE ENERGY CONSUMPTION ON BOATS HAS BEEN A TOPICAL ISSUE FOR SEVERAL YEARS. The entire yachting industry has become more sensitive to environmental issues and, as a result, the energy requirements of onboard systems are being scrutinised more closely than ever.
Is air conditioning the enemy of sustainable yachting? «No, in fact, it may even be the opposite. The latest technology provides opportunities that didn’t exist until very recently, so it is now possible to enjoy the cool air without using the generator or being connected to a 220-volt supply on the quay», says Giulia Formenti of Veco S.p.a. It can’t run endlessly in that mode of course, but the efficiency coefficient of the devices that are being designed and implemented, including made-to-measure systems, in Giussano, where the company has been based for many years, has doubled. As for generators, the secret lies in varying the RPM level.
Three people currently run the company: Carlo Formenti, the president and founder; Carlo’s daughter Giulia Formenti, who is the engineer and sales director and Stefano Gallazzi, the technical and production director. They represent the second and third generations. Veco is a family tradition. It was founded in 1971 by Giulia Formenti’s father and grandfather. «My grandfather worked with refrigeration systems; he was a thermo-technical engineer. Almost as a game, he built his first fridge for a boat together with my father in the family villa in Verano Brianza because a friend had asked them to. Not long afterward we outgrew the garage and so we moved to Giussano, which is where we still are». There are still two brands: Climma and Frigoboat. As well as making those, Veco S.p.a. is also the Italian dealer for Fischer Panda generators.
Everything is done in-house to ensure the quality of the products and the ability to customise air conditioning and refrigeration systems.
In the past, the refrigeration systems featured a very big compressor, which was the “engine” of the system, attached to a cooling plate. The role of the machinery was to reduce the plate to the lowest possible temperature, and this then functioned rather like an icebox, gradually releasing its coldness. It works both with fridges, which are sealed and insulated and also for the air in a cabin below decks. «But all that is prehistoric. We now have variable speed compressors and, over the past few years, there’s an increasing demand to manage even variable speed water pumps», explained Stefano Gallazzi, director of the technical and production department. What are the advantages of this? In contrast with what went before, the “engine” doesn’t have to run at full capacity and thus uses a huge amount of energy. Varying the revs mean that it can adapt to requirements. When there is a lot required of them, they work flat out, but otherwise, they regulate themselves to ensure limited energy consumption. The difference is immediately obvious.
For example, on sailing boats, one used to have to turn off the fridge the moment one unhooked the electricity cable from the quay or killed the engine. Instead of air conditioning, there were wind scoops so you could try to increase the amount of air coming through the portholes. But now you keep the fridge on at all times, and even the air conditioning can last for a while.
So essentially, you don’t need to have the generator on the whole time, either for sailing boats or motor-powered ones. Of course, they can’t keep going forever, but the systems are much more efficient than they once were. And also, the bigger a boat is, the greater the efficiency of the machinery is, with huge benefits in terms of energy consumption. It is essentially a system, which simply moves cool water from the sea to the system, with the aim of cooling down the air inside the boat. «At Veco, we have been making devices with variable speed chillers for six years, and for three years we have been installing pumps with variable speed», says Stefano Gallazzi.
A completely new website
Veco S.p.a. recently updated its website. The aim was to make the firm and all of the brands more readily accessible both in terms of buying and also for after-sales service. On the site, you can easily browse the network of dealers around the world and contact specialist technicians. Assistance is guaranteed, whether remotely or in person, wherever you are. As well as the Climma and Frigoboat brands, the site also introduces the Fischer Pandagenerator range, for which Veco is the importer for Italy.
And then two factors are essential in improving efficiency: electronics and the fulfilment of the onboard system. For both fridges and air conditioning systems the management and control software aren’t just a fashion but actually helps to make it work better and more efficiently, also due to the water-driven cooling system of the electronics. It also helps in terms of remote maintenance and after-sales servicing. Giulia Formenti said on this point: «We are investing a lot in this area, because the remote control of the plant, especially aboard mega yachts, is essential».
Variable speed chillers and heat pumps mean that you can have systems that don’t use a lot of energy. Veco’s experience is vital for yards and designers who want to optimise efficiency by also working on the installation and insulating rooms.
In designing a boat, just as important is the insulation, and for that, you have to work in partnership with designers and shipyards. If you want to improve the efficiency of an air conditioning system you can’t leave even five millimeters gap for air to get under a cabin door, or make the walls of a fridge too thin. «The sensitivity from designers and yards is increasing, and they try to reach a compromise. The looks of the boat are also important of course: you can’t just take into account the needs of whoever is putting together the air conditioning system. I realize that ventilation grills aren’t pretty, and so you have to work together to get the right balance between aesthetics and functionality. But I am optimistic because many designers have started to take a holistic view of things. Sustainable yachting is becoming more and more popular. Boatyards want it, and owners and designers are beginning to understand that just having suppliers who offer cutting-edge components is not enough. Designing a system also means working on adjusting the spaces on board to allow a correct installation and provide the suitable needs of insulation».
The US branch of Veco is also a guarantee for Italian yards who sell their boats on the other side of the Atlantic.
The materials which are used are still the same. The difference comes from the quality of the steel and the way it is worked. Stefano Gallazzi explained this better: «When a piece of steel arrives, we laser cut it to the shape that the technical department wants. Then we handle assembly, bending it, welding, and lastly, we test it to see how it works and try it out. The only things we do externally involve the painting or special treatments we add to change how the sheets look. We assemble all of the components. Everything is done in-house so we have complete control of how the product is made».
But there is also customised working which is requested, above all, by yards who build large boats. «There are two kinds of customisation. There is a kind of semi-custom one that applies to the aesthetic aspects for fridges, where the furniture is put together with something similar to a car configurator. And then there is the full custom service for some mega-yachts when designers ask us for custom made solutions for both the fridges and air conditioning. In both cases, the design takes into account a wide technical expertise, so the realisation is much easier and quick», says Giulia Formenti.
(Veco, global cooling – Barchemagazine.com – July 2021)