Split Systems / HVAC Commercial Market

Historic House’s Fresh Start With Ductless

January 23, 2012
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A giant sandstone manor stands in the center of Hanover, Pa. It was built in 1896 for Howard Young, one of the industrial town’s early movers and shakers.

As the town grew, so did the mansion. The Youngs sold the home to the Hanover Shoe Co. in 1945, then one of the fastest growing firms in the nation. Hanover shoes — whose managers were known for their ambitious effort to sell the best shoes possible for one price, $2.50 a pair, while eliminating the middle-man by selling directly to the public — quickly renovated the home as a corporate office facility.

Air conditioning was added to keep office staffers comfortable. During the 36 years of the shoe company’s ownership, two additions were constructed. A first-floor addition was completed in the ’50s and a second-story addition was added in the ’70s.

The town continues to be one of the most productive in the Keystone state. Yet, the mansion, surrounded by enterprise in motion, was mostly neglected during the last two decades of the 20th century.

Hanover has endured as an American industrial community and, once again, the great mansion is enjoying a renaissance. The snack food giant Utz and the famed pretzel company Snyder’s of Hanover are nearby. Steam still rises from the nearby Glatfelter Paper Mill and, across town, Elsner Engineering continues to manufacture industrial converting equipment sold worldwide.

With so much industry in one place, there’s also a healthy demand for supporting services. One local entrepreneur is coupling marketing savvy with his appreciation of old architecture. His ambition and vision have given the old mansion a new purpose. “We already have a few tenants interested in first-floor offices,” said Scott Roland, CEO of Hanover-based Blue Ridge Holdings.

Save Façade

“The Young Manor is a significant landmark in downtown Hanover,” said Roland. After the town grew up around it, the building remained structurally sound but in desperate need of mechanical renovations. Enter Czapp & Griffith, another longstanding Hanover business.

The nine-technician firm offers full-service plumbing, heating, and cooling to customers in south central Pennsylvania. and northern Maryland. With the help of R.F. Fager Co., a local distributor, Czapp & Griffith has begun the building’s mechanical overhaul. After much consideration, it was decided that a ductless heat pump system would be the best, most cost-effective and efficient way to heat and cool the structure.

“It would be a shame to surround this gorgeous facade with large condensing units,” said Roland. “Our decision to go with ductless systems won’t impact the curb appeal of the building.”

The mansion’s deep red stone was chemically cleaned, the brick repointed, slate roof fixed, and years’ worth of untamed shrubbery torn out to expose the entire building. A giant 175-year-old beech tree remains, now groomed and regal in a place of honor in the backyard.

Between 1896 and 1944, the nearby carriage house included a coal-fired steam plant for the home, complete with a 60-foot brick smokestack. The old 6-inch steel pipe that once carried Btu underground to the home now acts as conduit for high-speed communication lines.

In With the New

“The project was split into three phases, one per floor,” explained Mike Wolf, technician at Czapp and Griffith. Phase one started in September 2011 and includes six high-efficiency condensing units: a 2-ton system, one sized at just 18,000 Btu, and four 3-ton units.

Inside, six ceiling cassette units handle the heating and cooling demand for the building’s ground level. Roland insisted on having one condensing unit per suite so each tenant has full comfort control and is billed separately by the electric utility.

The first phase avails 186,000 Btu of heating and cooling for the mansion’s first floor. Phases two and three, when complete, will be similar in capacity. Ultimately, there will be 16 condensing units on a flat, rooftop space, well out of view.

The ductless Fujitsu Halcyon Inverter systems chosen for the task are a combination of single and multizone units. Inside, 24 cassette evaporators, ranging in size from 18,000 to 36,000 Btu, will handle the building’s entire heating and cooling needs. The heat pumps operate at efficiencies of 15 and 16 SEER (depending on the unit) in an ambient temperature range of 14 to 115˚F.

“We considered several system possibilities, but the ductless system allows us to meet Roland’s two main goals: efficiency and invisibility.

“We’ve done ductless projects before,” said Wolf. “But this is the largest. Computer rooms would be a typical installation. We especially like to use Fujitsu equipment because of its efficiency and reliability. Also, our distributor is a real asset to our business operation. With them, it’s a complete package with many advantages.”

“We’ve worked with Czapp and Griffith for about five years, ever since R.F. Fager opened the Hanover branch,” said Matt Wildason, sales associate. “We’ve had the Fujitsu line since 2003.”

R.F. Fager Co., headquartered in Camp Hill, Pa., carries a variety of building materials and HVAC equipment. Roland sought advice from Barry Wiseman, Fager’s Hanover branch manager, and he suggested the ductless system.

R.F. Fager also handled the heat load calculation and some of the engineering details. From there, Wolf designed in key details, including custom mounting brackets for the condensing units.

When the project began, small rooftop units were removed from the flat roof space. A crane was rented to hoist them down, and the Fujitsu units were taken up. Channel steel was also lifted onto the roof. With this, Wolf constructed a mounting framework that reused the old anchors. He was careful to keep the load balanced, distributing weight across the entire roof surface.

Out With the Old

The mansion’s basement is a veritable museum of mechanical history. The original steam system’s giant cast iron components lay strewn through several rooms. An old gas meter against an outer wall speaks volumes, literally, about how inefficient the building was. Its bolted case could house a small-block V-8.

Even heavier than the gas meter, two circa 1945 compressors from the original a/c system share a large space with a massive duct plenum. Their 10-hp motors are nearly the size of a beer keg.

In the post-war years, when the original steam plant was taken offline, a coal-fired steam boiler was installed in the basement. It was later replaced with a gas boiler to heat the mansion until 2011, delivering heat through cast iron radiators and steam coils in the 1945 ductwork.

An enormous walk-in vault, the largest of three, remains. Its monolithic steel door still swings easily with just the slightest push. Hanover Shoe installed the vaults for fireproof record storage.

No Cake Walk

Ductless systems aren’t particularly invasive, but Wolf and his partner, Kevin Strevig, had their hands full during the installation. The cranky old home knew how to throw a curveball.

“Some walls are sheetrock, some are wood paneling, but most of the building is horsehair plaster,” said Wolf. Most of the building was constructed of stone, block, and wood of varying thickness. Woven through every nook and cranny are the remains of several electrical systems.

“We’ve come across Romex, fabric cable, and knob-and-tube wiring,” said Wolf. “On top of that, toss in old pneumatic thermostat controls and gas lines. The place has copper lines running to long-gone gas lamps all over the house.”

“You never know what you’ll find when you start cutting,” continued Wolf. “At one point, we discovered an old dumbwaiter in the wall. So, we used the chase to run coolant lines.”

The sheer size of the building, coupled with the restriction of where the condensing units could be placed, called for several long line sets. The longest run for phase one was 75 feet.

“We’ve also been very careful with the building itself,” said Wolf. “Each of the seven fireplaces has ornate, ceiling-high woodwork and original, exotic marble. The trim and banisters would be nearly impossible to replace.”

Work has gone as quickly as the job permits. Phase two of the project began with the new year, and the project should come to a close in mid-2012.

“It’s been exciting so far,” said Roland. “I’m still looking to find bags of gold somewhere in a wall or buried outside. We did unearth a hatch leading to a basement in the carriage house. The previous owner had the property for three decades and had no idea it was there. Needless to say, he was surprised when we showed it to him.”

“My daughter calls the project my midlife crisis and says I should’ve just bought a convertible,” said Roland.

Publication date: 01/23/2012

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