No cooling – no problem

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Seen in a computer server room application, the Unico I-Series inverter heat pump can do heating, cooling and DHW with an optional de-superheater.

Multiple air conditioning options can solve even the most difficult installation

By Glenn Mellors

Today’s air conditioning options can now provide efficient cooling in homes regardless of their age, design and heating systems.

If we look at the definition of a home, we will find that from the earliest of days a home was to provide shelter from the rain, wind and the cold. Nowhere could I find that keeping cool was part of the design criteria beyond shade and openings to allow a cross breeze on the hottest days.

The general population grew up in homes without air conditioning; it wasn’t even a consideration until the 1960s when centralized fan-forced heating became the norm. Prior to and even after the 1950s homes were not air conditioner friendly. We wandered through an era of lowering construction costs by using baseboard electric heaters, an era of low-cost electricity designed electric resistance heating embedded in the walls and ceilings.

The 70s brought back a resurgence in the use of hot water boilers in new construction as well as the heating solution for pre-war housing. Of course, wood heating gained popularity during the “oil war” of high-cost heating fuels and let’s not forget the slab on grade housing with hot water in-floor heating era.

The point is that we have literally hundreds of thousands of homes that wanted cooling solutions but was limited to the use of a window or through-the-wall air conditioners made popular by appliance companies in the early sixties, the same appliance companies that made oscillating fans popular for blue collar workers.

New solutions

Times have changed and now there are solutions for almost every home. Name the situation and there is probably a viable product produced on the market today; most of these design solutions came from Europe where homes of 600 years of age still exist. Europe is decades ahead in engineering solutions for these homes than North America.

The 1990s and internet shopping opened up to a global market; companies like eBay introduced consumers to products they had never heard or seen before. eBay, in my opinion, took down the boundaries of what is out there, creating a North American demand for products such as air conditioning for homes that could never have air conditioning.

Let’s take a closer look at some of these solutions:

The old mansion

When people purchase these homes, they typically have an admiration for the high ceilings and decorative plastering of lighting medallions and cove mouldings. Disrupting the architecture is unthinkable. The problem is, we want the luxury of controlled climate. One of the first solutions introduced in the 1980s was that of a “high velocity” air conditioning.

Small duct, high velocity (SDHV) air conditioner systems, like the Unico System, are a smart way of adding modern A/C to homes that don’t have the room for the large ductwork associated with traditional AC units. SDHV air conditioning systems do not require an extensive build out and will not disrupt the home’s original interior or exterior. They also quietly deliver conditioned air through flexible supply tubes at a higher static pressure or velocity.

The electric baseboard

Residential new home construction in the 1960s and ’70s was very competitive; contractors were struggling as the demand for lower cost housing was the flavour of the day. Electricians became heating specialists, installing low-cost electric baseboards (EBB) into new homes. Other forms of electrically heated homes created other barriers for forced air cooling. Resistant heating coils were run through floors, walls and ceilings, creating their own set of challenges. And, of course, the hot water or steam wall radiators required a similar non-evasive installation.

The 1990s introduced a new solution, the mini-split high wall evaporator stand-alone air handler with outdoor condensing units. These units are a perfect “No Cooling” remedy.

Today the heat pump version dominates the previous cooling only market. The units can be zoned to provide multiple heads attached to one condensing unit. They can provide additional heating in troubled areas and can be designed into an addition so as not to affect the sizing of the current heating and cooling system. These units can be hung on any wall depending on line-set access and require only a small penetration of the building to attach the evaporator to the outdoor condensing unit. Unlike window units they are less vulnerable to air leakage, transfer of outdoor noise and they offer surprisingly quiet operation.

Houses too close together

Even when a home or lot is narrow, your customer’s choices aren’t. Because with units like York’s Affinity Series cooling systems, it really is possible to find innovative, energy-saving home comfort technology in a unit perfect for small yards and zero-lot-line homes. Nothing’s been left out. Nothing’s been compromised. This is the same Affinity Series design, the same industry-leading performance and super-quiet operation, in a sleek model that will keep your home comfortable for years and years.

Nothing is Impossible

As we can see here in the photo, Link ClimateCare, Lindsay, Ont., found a way to provide the customer with the geo system of their choice and install it in a crawl space with little access. Once the main unit was lowered into the crawl space, the typical ducted heating and cooling system were completed.

The massive A-coil problem

With government initiatives to reduce carbon footprint and reverse some of the environmental damage that thermal expansion cooling has created comes the giant a coil dilemma. The need to meet efficiency ratings with R410 refrigerant created a need for a larger coil surface area. The abrupt changes found us trying to fit an elephant into a girdle. When 52-inch-high furnaces were still the norm, 37-inch-high A-coils was introduced and would have had the top of the coil poking through the floor in the living room. Manufacturers scrambled to create a furnace air handler unit much shorter in height and the 39-inch furnace was born.

Now we had an opportunity to update the furnace with the air conditioner, a logical and responsible thing to do anyway. I am not a proponent of downgrading the efficiency to put in a coil that is smaller and less efficient, let alone potential warranty issues in five years. Sometimes it makes sense to switch the system to a horizontal installation to allow the consumer to win on both efficiency and comfort; after all, we are installing a central dehumidifier and the byproduct is cool dry comfortable homes.

And finally, …

Since humidity is our enemy and our air conditioner is a form of a dehumidifier, then it makes sense that if all else fails to cool your customer’s home a solution may be to add a whole home dehumidifier or possibly portable dehumidifier. Since humidity equalizes throughout the home, the location of the unit is not as important as having one. The use of a dehumidifier will make any type of air conditioning unit perform significantly better.

So next time your client comes to you for a cooling solution you can say no problem, let’s have a look together at your options.

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