Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) Case Studies

High-end restaurant interior with inconspicuous HVAC at ceiling
Lolita Cucina restaurant's VRF system solves HVAC and aesthetic challenges

Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) heat pumps offer a streamlined heating and cooling solution for commercial buildings, with zero on-site emissions and high-efficiency performance. VRF is a heat pump technology that is widely applicable to both new construction and a variety of challenging building retrofit projects.


VRF heat pumps operate on the same principle as an air conditioner or refrigerator: they move heat energy from one place to another. VRF systems do not burn fossil fuels. They run on electricity but are much more efficient than old-fashioned electric resistance baseboards. VRF heat pumps build on the technology familiar to some as “mini-split” or ducted air source heat pumps, though with greater heating and cooling capacity, features, and sophistication. These modern, customizable systems can significantly reduce a building’s carbon footprint while providing excellent occupant comfort, zoning, and controllability through all four seasons, including New England winters.

VRF Retrofit Case Studies

VRF systems can be designed to meet a wide range of objectives. The retrofit projects featured in the following case studies represent a small subset of the 107 VRF projects MassCEC supported over the course of our two-year, $6 million pilot program, which concluded in 2019. Most of the projects entailed full electrification of heating, so that fossil fuels are no longer needed in the buildings.

Restaurant table setting

Bar & Restaurant

Lolita Cocina Restaurant in Boston's Fort Point District wanted a highly efficient system that was compatible with its unique aesthetic and zoning needs.

Book shop icon

Bookstore/Event Space

Boston's More Than Words bookstore and event space needed a heating and air conditioning system that could adjust to wide swings in occupancy, provide quiet operation during events, and keep operating costs down.

Two low-rise commercial buildings

Historic Mill Complex

Wannalancit Mills in Lowell, MA needed a system that was adaptable to a large, historic structure and could make use of existing ductwork.

Small house used as town office building

Town Offices

Up in the Berkshire Mountains, the town of Windsor, MA wanted to reduce the carbon footprint of its Town Office while providing year-round comfort to employees and visitors.

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