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Case Studies

Jan 31, 2020 2:19:32 PM by Ron Musser

Ductless Mini Split (Finally!) Adds AC in A South Philly Rowhome

PROBLEM: A South Philly rowhome had no air conditioning. Our homeowner didn’t want to add ductwork, and there was no room outside for an AC condenser. 

SOLUTION: ECI Comfort installed a Mitsubishi ductless mini-split with four air handlers inside and a side-discharge heat pump in the breezeway.

ECI Comfort outside South Philadelphia rowhome ready to install ductless mini-splits

Ductless Mini Split Provides Air Conditioning in a Rowhome With No Ductwork

Our homeowner was excited to move into his new South Philly rowhome. Located just off Broad and Mifflin, it was a cozy old home in his favorite part of town. 

However, the home had no air conditioning -- a common issue for older Philly homes. Since they don't have ductwork, central air is never an option.

As much as our homeowner loved the old-school architecture and building quality, (you’ve heard about all the problems with newer construction in the city, right?) summers were becoming a problem.

As the climate gets hotter, ceiling fans and open windows don’t keep you cool in the summer like they used to. So when he found out about ductless min- splits, he called ECI Comfort to see if they'd be the right solution for his home.

In this case study, we’ll look at how a system like this adds cooling and heating you’d never think you could get in a South Philly rowhome. We’ll see why these homes don’t have central air and how ductless splits get around that problem. 

Finally, we’ll discover an added benefit to these state-of-the-art systems.

Why South Philly homes don’t have central air

Philadelphia Rowhomes

Most rowhomes in South Philadelphia don’t have central air because there’s not enough room. Many don’t have ductwork, and there’s often not a lot of space outside in the backyard for a loud condenser.

Many homes here also have radiator heating. Later on in the twentieth century, people began designing homes with gas furnaces and ductwork for forced-air heat. 

Then, when central air became available in homes in the seventies, people could tap into the ductwork for cooling. But no ductwork means no central air. It’s why window air conditioners are about as South Philly as tourist cheesesteak destinations and parking in the middle of Broad Street. 

For decades, window AC units were the best way to cool your home; but they come with many disadvantages. They’re loud, inefficient, and a pain to lug around in the spring and fall. They also drive up your electric bill. And for all that, they don’t even do that good of a job! 

That’s why our homeowner was looking for an upgrade.

How ductless air conditioning works

Ductless air conditioning finally lets you have comfortable, energy-efficient cooling throughout your home — even if there’s no ductwork. The secret to it is the mini-split setup. 

Rather than ductwork to deliver cooling, there’s just a small line of refrigerant piping. The piping is flexible and runs between air handlers inside the home and a heat pump outside, so it’s simple to run those lines between rafters and along walls. 

They take up almost no space, and they let us add cooling components wherever you need them. 

The result is what we called zoned heating and cooling. That’s when you divide each part of your home into a different HVAC zone and treat each one individually. 

(Yes, we’ve only been talking about air conditioning so far. We’ll get to the heating a little later.)

First, an HVAC professional assesses your home and determines precisely how much air conditioning you need, and where you need the treatment the most. 

From there, you work with them to design a set up that puts the air handlers wherever they need to go. The trick is that each one has a built-in thermostat. 

That means each zone gets separate treatment. If the first floor cools off quickly, that air handler goes into low-power mode. Meanwhile, the one in your bedroom, that’s always too hot, stays on longer. Then, that room gets to the temperature you want. 

Zoned cooling offered by Mitsubishi allows you to control the temperatures of every room.

With a mini-split, our homeowner can set each thermostat the same for even cooling throughout the house. Or, he can set his home office to be a little warmer during the day, and his bedroom cooler at night.  

Installing the Ductless Mini Split System

Once we worked with our homeowner to choose the best models and locations for his equipment, the interior components — those air handlers — were easy to place. 

Almost every room that required one had an exterior wall on the same side of the house, so we ran the lines through the wall behind the unit. This way, all our homeowner sees is the air handler, not the line set. It even works downstairs, where the ceilings are higher and  there's a closet where  he wanted the air handler placed. High wall unit in bedrooms easily tucked away, looking unnoticeable.

Outside was a little trickier, but we made the best of what little space the breezeway offered. 

To make it work, our homeowner chose a side-discharge heat pump. These units transfer heat and air through the sides rather than panels on the front or back. This way, we could put them very close to the house without restricting airflow. Outdoor, narrow units on the side of South Philadelphia rowhome.

In all, the job took less than a week to give our homeowners comfortable cooling. But that's not all they got!

Supplemental heat for the rowhome

The same system that provides cooling can also produce heat, so the mini-split also comes in handy during the shoulder seasons (late fall and early spring) when you need some heat but not the full blast of a radiator. 

Now, when the temperature dips just a little, our homeowner uses his heat pump instead of the radiator. Since it uses far fewer resources than his furnace, he saves money by not turning on the regular heat. And, again, he gets the exact temperature he wants in every room. 

If he wants, he can also upgrade the heat pump later to a Hyper-Heat model that can handle warming a house even when it’s 13 below zero. 

But for now, finally having a nice, cool South Philly house is enough.

If you’re looking to upgrade the cooling and heating in your rowhome, click the button below or give us a call at 215 - 245 - 3200 for a free consultation. We’ve been the industry leaders in ductless HVAC in the Delaware Valley for decades, and we can help you make your home more comfortable than you’ve ever dreamed.

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This entry was posted in Mitsubishi Electric, Ductless, Philadelphia, PA, Zoning