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But ductless is also a practical residential choice.
"Ductless systems are absolutely viable for the residential market," said Roy Kuczera, marketing manager for Fujitsu General. "They provide an efficient alternative to central air and window air conditioner units, and are ideal for older homes or homes with unique heating and cooling needs."
But a contractor does not necessarily have to choose a central system over a ductless system. In fact, many contractors are discovering that mini-splits can come in handy as a source for supplemental cooling.
Extra ComfortAccording to Fujitsu, mini-splits are an option when it comes to adding extra comfort to a home that already has a central cooling system. For example, the company has been involved in new housing construction developments in Hawaii.
Aloha Air Conditioning in Maui has been supplementing the central air conditioning systems it installs in many new construction projects with Fujitsu wall-mounted 18,000-Btu dual zone mini-split systems.
The systems were installed to better address the comfort needs of many customers. More specifically, mini-splits address multi-family living situations where one central unit may not keep all individuals in the home comfortable.
Fujitsu ductless systems were recently installed in over 100 up-scale residences in Irvine, Calif. The Sienna at Quail Hill is a housing development constructed by Standard Pacific Homes. The homes are priced at up to $1 million, and range from approximately 3,000 to 4,000 square feet.
Aliso Air of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., installed Fujitsu 18RC Halcyon mini-split systems in the guest quarters, or "casitas," of each Quail Hill home. Each of the homes has two conventional central split system heat pumps, but to control the comfort in the guest spaces, 18,000-Btu systems were mounted flush on the ceiling.
According to Kuczera, the Halcyon systems provided several benefits, not just for the homeowners, but also for the contractor.
"Halcyon ductless mini-split systems were chosen for this project for their ease of installation, high-capacity cooling capabilities, quiet operation, and attractive appearance," he said.
For the installer, Kuczera said that the Fujitsu systems were easy to install, presenting very little challenge. The Halcyon mini-splits include one exterior unit, which houses the compressor, and one interior unit. According to Kuczera, this helps to keep noise at a minimum. The outside unit pumps refrigerant through copper tubing to the inside units, which cool and circulate the air without the ductwork required by central air systems.
"In addition, the units are highly efficient, offering simple zone control to homeowners through the use of remote controls that adjust indoor climates for maximum comfort," Kuczera said.
The unit also has consumer-friendly controls. Some of the features include automatic changeover from cooling to heating, dual branch ducts that can provide cooling to smaller nearby rooms, and an optional fresh air intake that can add fresh outside air to the indoor environment.
Cleaner Air, More EfficiencyBesides added comfort, homeowners are looking for better indoor air quality. According to Fujitsu, the Halcyon mini-splits can do just that.
The units, which are available in 18,000- and 24,000-Btu capacities, as well as cooling and heat pump models, come with a plasma ionization and electrostatic filtration system. The filtering device is capable of eliminating small dust particles such as house dust, mold spores, and pet dander. The company noted that the Halcyon mini-split has the ability to absorb common household odors, including cigarette smoke.
"Mini-splits are becoming more efficient as SEER ratings increase with government mandates, placing mini-splits on an equal footing with central air and allowing mini-splits to shine," he said.
"The mini-split market has grown at a rate of 32 percent per year over the past three years, and we don't see any slowdown in the near future. This proves that contractors are catching on and getting the mini-split message."
Publication date: 06/21/2004