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Case Studies

May 5, 2021 1:55:10 PM by Ron Musser

Ductless AC Cools South Philly Trinity While Preserving Artwork

PROBLEM: A historic trinity home near the Italian Market was always too warm in the summer with no ductwork for central air. 

SOLUTION: ECI Installed a Mitsubishi ductless mini-split system with three indoor air handlers. We mounted the outdoor heat pump along the second floor to preserve artwork near the sidewalk.

You can’t get much more South Philly than this home: a tiny three-story, better known as a trinity, complete with mosaic work from the creator of Philadelphia's Magic Gardens, and just a few blocks from the historic Italian Market.

And, as you might've guessed, no air conditioning.

ECI installs ductless AC in South Philadelphia.

Like so many homes in Philadelphia, this house had radiator heat with no ductwork. That meant our homeowners relied on fans and window air conditioners to stay cool. But as the temperatures get hotter in the summer, noisy and inefficient window units don't cut it. 

So, our clients searched for a way to stay cool in the summer without the expense and hassle of adding ductwork; and when they heard about ductless mini splits, they called ECI Comfort to find out more


Air Conditioning Challenges in a South Philly Trinity

A common problem in the summer for many rowhomes is that the second or third floor is often warmer than the first. In many cases, you can get almost a ten-degree difference from the first floor to the top. It’s why window air conditioners are so common, even though they’re not exactly ideal.

If you’ve got them, you know: they’re noisy. They’re clunky. They drive up your electric bill. And for all that, they don’t even work well!

Additionally, old homes like these have radiator heat, which means there’s no ductwork to use for central air conditioning. 

Since most gas lines weren't installed until the 1920's, radiator heating was the most popular option when these South Philly homes were built centuries ago. While radiators are great for heating in the winter, they were built with pipes instead of ductwork. So when central air became available in residential areas in the 70's, most homes couldn't get air without the hassle of installing ductwork.

Not only is this expensive to do, but it requires bulky parts and big renovations that mess with the home's aesthetic -- an important aspect to keep for Philadelphia homeowners. It’s no wonder this couple decided to contact ECI Comfort for a simple change that would make all the difference.

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Ductless Air Conditioning in South Philly 

Philadelphia Rowhomes

Ductless air conditioning has been becoming more and more popular in the U.S., and South Philadelphia specifically, over the past two decades -- and for good reason. 

What makes it work so well for these cozy rowhomes is the setup: instead of ducts and vents, you have air handlers that are permanently mounted on the walls in your home.

The air handlers are then connected to a heat pump outside using just a few small lines. No ductwork or soffiting needed. But the perks don’t stop there!

Benefits of a ductless mini-split

Along with easy installation, other benefits of ductless mini splits include: 

  • Customized "zoned" cooling
  • Quiet operation
  • Energy efficiency

Zoned Cooling

Zoned cooling offered with ductless AC

Each air handler in the house has its own thermostat that works independently from the other units. With ductless, the third floor no longer gets treated according to what the thermostat reads in the two floors below. 

For the first time, our homeowners were able to get nice, even cooling throughout the house. Ductless even allows you to run different settings in each room, depending on which area of the house you use at different times of day. 

Quiet Operation

Each air handler is whisper-quiet -- when they’re running at full power, they’re about as loud as leaves rustling outside. Most of the time, you would need to stand in total silence right underneath one to hear anything at all. Ductless definitely beats window AC units in this category.

Energy Efficiency

Green is the way to go today, and ductless fits the bill. 

All Mitsubishi ductless systems are Energy Star-certified to do the same job — or better — as traditional air conditioners while using much less electricity. For our homeowners, that means significantly lower electric bills. For everyone, it means less wear and tear on the electrical grid and the pollution that comes with that usage.

Installing a ductless mini-split in a South Philly Trinity

ECI installing ductless mini splits in South Philadelphia

Once our homeowners decided on a ductless mini-split, they worked closely with us for a design that would work specifically for their South Philly Trinity. 

In the end, they went with three wall-mounted air handlers -- one for every floor. Since the square footage of each story wasn't too big, one on each floor was sufficient for the entire space. Plus, each air handler uses sensors to located hot and cold spots throughout the space, then uses special fans in the unit to direct tempered air where its needed most. This eliminates the issue of hot and cold spots and provides every floor with maximum comfort. 

We installed all three units close to the exterior wall on the corner. That made it easy for us to run the lines outside without taking up a lot of space inside the home. 

Second-floor heat pump installation near the Italian Market - South Philadelphia

Outside, our homeowners wanted to install the heat pump without disrupting the mosaic from famous artist, Isiah Zagar, that took up much of the first-floor wall outside. 

The solution? We mounted the air handler above the work, right around the second floor. Fortunately, these units are relatively lightweight and won’t go anywhere.

In fact, we often do this for rowhomes with little or no room in the back or on the sides. 

Providing comfort in older homes like this one usually calls for tricky solutions. But with the ease of installation and benefits of ductless mini splits, we were able to get these homeowners ready for summer without disturbing the iconic artwork.

If you’re interested in upgrading the old heating and cooling in your South Philly home, call or email us at ECI Comfort today. Starting with a free consultation, we’ll help you design a system that’s perfect for you!

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This entry was posted in Mitsubishi Electric, Ductless, Rowhomes, Philadelphia, PA, Row & Townhome Style Homes