Going up on the Hill
In the heart of south St. Louis is a neighborhood known as “The Hill.” Characterized by locally owned Italian-American restaurants, bakeries, grocery stores, and bocce gardens, the quaint neighborhood, originally populated by Italian immigrants, boasts the childhood homes of baseball greats Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola.
Most of the homes on The Hill are small, single-family homes built in the early 1900s. In particular, one 1,400-square-foot bungalow had an outdated and inefficient air comfort system. The system included an old sheet metal furnace and a 2.5-ton condensing unit with antiquated ductwork.
Thanks to the home’s nearly obsolete heating and cooling system, this St. Louis homeowner paid high electric and gas bills to keep the house at a comfortable temperature. In August of 2005, despite the fact that the unfinished second floor of the house was kept 25 degrees hotter than the first floor, the bungalow’s electric bill was $281.24. In December, the gas bill was more than $300.
The homeowner, who asked not to be identified, knew he had to make an HVAC change.
NEW SYSTEM INSTALLEDTo update the home and reduce energy use and costs, the homeowner turned to Unico Inc., headquartered in St. Louis. After meeting with the representative for the local manufacturer, the home-owner opted to install the Unico System, a five-ton UniChiller RC, an 83 percent efficiency boiler, and a 120,000-Btuh input boiler.
According to Unico, its UniChiller RC is a completely self-contained outdoor chiller that uses water to cool and heat a house. Using water as a cooling and heating source eliminates using Freon in the interior of a structure. In this home installation on The Hill, the UniChiller connected seamlessly to the indoor air handler through insulated PVC copper and PEX tubing.
The company said its sealed ducting, combined with the indoor coils, resulted in an economic and environmentally friendly system for the St. Louis homeowner. The company said its system removes 30 percent more moisture than an ordinary unit.
The Unico System is a small duct, high-velocity product. The ducts are one-quarter the size of conventional ducts, allowing the ducts to be placed in the house through original ductwork, said the company. The system has flexible ductwork that can be tailored to any engineer’s specifications, it added.
Another benefit of the UniChiller is its capability to establish zoned cooling areas, using one UniChiller RC, said the manufacturer. The UniChiller is designed to generate chilled water only to the extent of satisfying the need of a specific zone, it said. Individual zones are designed to turn on and off as needed throughout the day, as opposed to the entire system running all day, explained Unico. As a result, in this home application, less energy was wasted to cool tricky areas, such as the upstairs in the bungalow, it said.
HAPPY WITH RESULTSIn this St. Louis home, the bungalow’s energy usage was reduced, much to the owner’s satisfaction. According to utility records provided by the homeowner, in August 2005, before the renovation, the electricity usage was 3,439 kilowatt-hour (kWh). In August of last year, after the UniChiller was installed, the electricity usage decreased to 1,964 kWh.
As to be expected, the drop in electric usage produced positive financial results. In August of 2005, the homeowner said his electric bill was $281.24. A year later, with the installation of the new system, the bill was reduced to $163.85. Better yet, the home-owner said his winter heating bill was reduced by 75 percent. At the same time, the homeowner now also appreciates the renewed comfort inside his home.
Publication Date: 09/10/2007