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While not necessary in every environment, air conditioning is increasingly becoming a must-have feature for building owners. Whether they are buying an existing building or investigating a new-construction project, air conditioning is an important component of building design regardless of building use. With the advent of new technology and innovative designs improving upon existing models, the construction industry will always have new ways to achieve their building goals. The HVAC arena has seen leaps and bounds in the energy efficiency side of things over the last few decades. With the push for “going green” and desire for energy efficient systems, engineers have been working hard to meet increasing demands for innovative HVAC technology.
There are a number of different ways to achieve air conditioning goals within a building project. Traditionally the most common option is to install is a central air conditioner. More recently split air conditioners have become a desirable option in the construction industry. This type of system includes an outdoor unit, indoor unit, and ducting to get the air to the desired zones within the structure. The outdoor unit houses the compressor, condenser coil, and expansion coil or capillary tubing. It is usually installed on or near an exterior wall of the room or zone that needs to be air-conditioned. The indoor unit contains the cooling coil, long blower, and an air filter.
Additionally, mini-split systems are coming into vogue and are rapidly becoming the go-to option for zoned air conditioning applications. Mini-splits offer the benefits of split air conditioners with an even more streamlined approach to zoned heating and cooling.
What are split air conditioners
Split air conditioners otherwise known as split systems are widely used in applications where existing structures are being retrofitted with zoned air conditioning and heating units. The idea behind the split air conditioner is that you can have multi-zoned temperature control versus the all-or-nothing approach with a traditional central air conditioning system.
Split air conditioners are often ductless units that control the temperature in a single room. this means that occupants in individual spaces can determine how cool or how hot a room is depending on their own personal comfort level. People in the same house can have it colder or hotter in their bedroom and a different temperature in the rest of their house. This is especially helpful for people who are experiencing medical issues where they are unable to modulate their body temp and need to have a different temperature in their living space.
There are a limited number of manufacturers currently making split air conditioners. You will want to consult with your MEP engineer 2 find out who serves your area where the project will be built. What most consumers don't know, is that there are regional reps and boarders 2 sales areas that need to be respected among reps in the same company. It is very easy to accidentally purchase or initiate a purchase order with a competing sales rep from the same company in a different area. If you live in one state or work in one state but our building in another be sure you are reaching out to local sales reps and contractors as necessary.
There may be local MEP engineers that specialize in air handling and temperature control in buildings. These professionals would be best suited to help you determine if you are able to select a split air conditioner system for your building application. Bringing these professionals in early on in the design of your project is important to your overall project success.
Choosing to utilize split air conditioners will impact the load of other electrical systems in your building. it also means that the air handler unit will be different than if you were using a traditional air conditioning system. Utilizing split air conditioners are beneficial four occupants and their ease of use.
Using a split air conditioner also means you will need to choose the manufacturer you want to go with. these systems may not be a part of the original plans drawn up by the architect. You may need to bring in an MEP engineer to help you select the correct unit for your building application. It will be important to consider using a local MEP engineer to ensure you are adhering to the local building codes and regulations.
Split air conditioner systems are relatively new to the building industry when compared to more traditional methods. If this is something you want to recommend to your owner as the general contractor you may need to provide some education on the benefits and drawbacks to using split air conditioner systems.
A few of the benefits are
This list of benefits is not all-inclusive. As split systems are more widely used, the data supporting the use of split systems will only add to this list.
Each application will have a unique set of circumstances and criteria that will need to be assessed to determine if split air conditioners are the correct route for the project. Consult with an MEP engineer early on to ensure you are taking everything into account.
When are split air conditioners applicable
Split air conditioners are applicable when you want to have individual control in a space of temperature. They may make cooling a space more efficient and cost-effective Van installing a larger air conditioning unit that needs additional infrastructure to reach the room. One such example would be if you were adding an addition to a building and were unable to connect the existing ductwork to the new addition.
These units are often found in apartments, rooms, offices, and more individually used spaces. A split air conditioner can also be used to cool a specific corner of a larger space that needs more airflow. As stated at the beginning of this article, split air conditioners are especially helpful in situations where individuals need a different ambient room temperature than the other occupants in the building. This is true in places like hospitals, apartments, care facilities, and individual homes.
Larger residential spaces lake luxury homes may also benefit from using split air conditioner systems to lower the cost of cooling the home. split air conditioner systems allow users to only cool spaces they choose to when they are occupying them. This leads to lower utility costs and lower maintenance cost over the life of the unit.
An MEP engineer will be able to give you more information on how an air conditioner unit can impact and help your building. Getting their insight on how a split air conditioner system could benefit your building and its occupants will be beneficial to your project.
How do you determine if you want a split system
First and foremost it is recommended to utilize the professionals in the industry to ensure you have all of the information you need to make an informed decision about using these units in your project. Additionally, taking into consideration everything above plus
Mini-splits are a practical and economical way to provide AC to buildings that can’t have their ducting update for specific reasons. Mini-splits provide retrofit options for historic buildings and buildings that can’t easily be updated to install ductwork and other infrastructure.
Understanding how they work and the basic components of the mini-split will also go a long way in helping you determine if it’s something you want to have in your project. “Like central systems, mini splits have two main components: an outdoor compressor/condenser, and an indoor air-handling unit. A conduit, which houses the power cable, refrigerant tubing, suction tubing, and a condensate drain, links the outdoor and indoor units”, from Energy.gov.
As was mentioned earlier in this article, there are only a handful of manufacturers currently making mini-split air conditioners. That number is expected to rise as patents expire and as the industry put a heavier demand on manufacturers to produce mini-split air conditioner systems. Until that happens you will be at the mercy of the manufacturers available for lead times, cost, and shipping times.
In addition, you will need to rely on them for technical documentation and information on how to maintain the unit. The start-up process for these units is similar to a traditional unit but more streamlined in nature. Generally, there will be a trained subcontractor for your area and they will be dispatched to train you on how to use the unit and what information to pass on to your owner.
Warranties and performing maintenance as the warranty requires will be an important component of the maintenance of the unit. Letting your owner know how this works is important and should not be left out. If you are working as the general contractor it will be your responsibility to ensure your owner receives the technical documentation on the units.
Larger projects obviously will have longer lead times depending on what the manufacturers currently have in stock. Getting the manufacturer on board with the project early on will help with managing lead times and keeping the project on track. In the design phase of the project, it is possible to get the split air conditioner systems designated as the approved mechanical units to be put on the plans.
This means when it goes out for bid to contractors and subcontractors, their bids will include quotes and service information for the split air conditioner systems. This is beneficial because it takes some of the work off of you and delegates the task of sourcing the units themselves. Often manufacturers will work with architects and MEP engineers to be the preferred vendor on plans.
Why you need an MEP engineer
Bringing in an MEP engineer early on in your project means you will have access to a professional who will be able to identify all of the aspects that need to be considered. When you are looking at installing split air conditioners, having a professional involved will help you avoid costly mistakes and project delays. They will be able to see the big picture of the system and the overall design of the building. This includes how everything works together and how the new installation will affect the loads on the other pieces of your building infrastructure. This will aid them in interfacing with the architect to address any concerns they may have with the plans.
A local qualified MEP engineer will have knowledge and understanding of the local building codes and local governing bodies for the commercial construction industry. They are your expert boots on the ground in the mechanical, electrical, plumbing areas of your project. The MEP engineer is a vital component of your construction team and someone who you should use as a reliable resource. If your general contractor does not have an MEP engineer in house, do your due diligence and find one that you work well with.
Calling on the experts like an MEP engineer will help your project succeed in the long run and help you to continue being profitable and efficient. Knowing when to call in an expert is a valuable skill to have. If you think you need an MEP engineer please take a moment to contact us and we would be happy to review your project information. We are pleased to serve the Chicago area and welcome local and out of state clients.