Owner Ken Rex (left) and installation technician Dylan Skursky (right) of Ken Rex Heating and Cooling level a concrete pad for a condensing unit at a summer camp.

HANCOCK, N.Y. - In mid-June, about 650 students poured in from all over the country to the French Woods Festival (FWF) summer camp in rural New York.

“Nearly every activity a young person could be excited about is found here,” said camp director Isaac Baumfeld. The 20-plus FWF programs teach everything from waterskiing to computer skills. The camp’s specialty, however, is the performing arts. Rock and roll, classical music, theater, film, dance, magic, and even circus performing are taught to students ages 7 to 17.

Many athletic fields dot the hillside that the 70-acre campus occupies. Red and white buildings of various sizes are elevated on stilts to compensate for the gradual slope down to the sandy beach and 80-acre lake.

In 2008, camp management decided it was time to add air conditioning to several of the buildings. Many areas received HVAC for the first time; others are getting high efficiency ductless systems to replace existing window units.


According to FWF camp managers, Ken Rex Heating & Cooling is the name to know. Based in Kingston, Pa., the eight-employee company specializes in ductless mini-split systems. “We did ductless before ductless was cool - pun intended,” said owner Ken Rex.

The company installed its first ductless mini-split in 1987 and has installed more than 3,000 systems since then. Rex said that they have the largest referral list for split systems in the state.

Rex got his start in the field by serving as a machinist mate for six years in the Navy while working on high pressure steam boilers. After his military service, he earned his bachelor’s degree and has taught and attended trade schools for more than 30 years.

“We enjoy a great business relationship with French Woods,” Rex said. “We offer our best counsel and skills on tap, and they offer several projects each year, typically at a time when we’d be slow.”

The camp routinely renovates buildings and makes venue improvements during the off-season. Some new buildings go up and some HVAC retrofits are initiated each year, all at a steady, sensible pace. The camp provides dependable work for the Rex crews each winter. And - with no variation - by the time the next batch of eager students hits the shores of French Woods in June, there’s no work crew in sight.

Dylan Skursky (left) and Ken Rex (right) confirm the layout of six multi-zone outdoor units with 24 air handlers.


A recent addition to the long list of FWF programs is a fitness curriculum. Last year, Rex crews installed a variety of ductless mini-split heat pump systems in the camp’s new, 7,260-square-foot fitness center. The facility is equipped with 40 state-of-the-art exercise machines and hosts several different training sessions. Campers who enroll in martial arts, fencing, even lifeguard training, now benefit from the new building and its state-of-the-art HVAC system.

While at work there during the off-season, Rex sends two or three of his Fujitsu-trained and certified technicians at a time. The crew makes the two-hour drive to the camp and goes right to work. Being away from home, they work long hours to get the job done. Camp managers permit Rex crews to stay on site overnight.

“It’s a great arrangement. We enjoy all the creature comforts. With wireless internet, we can check e-mails at night, even catch a movie before we crash,” said Bob Bellio, lead tech.

Foreman Bob Bellio completes the installation of a mounting bracket and wiring for an indoor air handler.


Among the many buildings on the campus is the centrally located magic studio. Here, campers practice magic and illusions. Until this year, the 3,400-square-foot, three-room building would reach sweltering temperatures while camp was in session. “Even with windows open wide, and fans blowing at full tilt, it was illusion of cooling ... all done with smoke and mirrors,” chuckled Rex.

But now, with new split systems installed by Rex crews in May, the young magicians and their audiences enjoy genuine comfort.

Earlier in the year, camp maintenance crews installed 3-inch rigid insulation on the ceiling to insulate the magic studio. Now, cool air is provided by three 42,000 Btu, 15 SEER Fujitsu ceiling cassette units. The magic studio’s 35-by-40-foot auditorium is located in the center of the building. An unusually high mid-summer cooling load requirement comes from the 150-plus people that are often packed inside, and also from the numerous spotlights and special-effect lamps mounted on the ceiling and throughout the room.

Practice rooms and prop manufacturing areas are located next to the auditorium, and also receive the benefit of ductless HVAC comfort. For these areas, Rex installed two dual-zone, 24,000 Btu systems, each with two 12,000 Btu air handlers.

“Camp managers love the Fujitsu units; they’re ideally suited for retrofit work and save a lot of energy,” Rex said. “The inverter technology used by Fujitsu converts energy from dc to ac power, making them up to 30 percent more efficient than non-inverter systems.”

In the “Magic Studio,” Ken Rex (foreground) checks a ceiling cassette’s discharge temperature with an electronic thermometer while Bob Bellio installs the grille on a ceiling cassette.


Last year’s swine flu outbreak triggered widespread concern by parents, students, and camp managers. The sickness was especially problematic for schools and other programs where high numbers of children were in close contact; FWF was no exception.

To dispel concerns, the camp built a new 5,500-square-foot health center. The building has 20 wellness rooms, office space, and a reception area. Each wellness room has a full bathroom and is equipped with its very own ductless air handler.

“Mini split heat pumps were just what the doctor ordered for this job - especially considering the need to limit the spread of germs in the event of a flu outbreak,” Rex said. “Camp managers wanted a facility - and HVAC systems - that would handle the challenge in stride.”

If campers are sick, they go to the health center and visit the doctor or one of seven full-time nurses on staff. If need be, they’re given their own room while their health care needs are met.

The specialty of the French Woods Festival summer camp is performing arts. Throughout the camp season, students ages 7 to 17 put on 77 full-production shows for fellow campers, parents, and local community members.

According to Rex, six 15.5 SEER, quad-zone, 36,000 Btu Fujitsu RLQ ductless systems were not only less expensive and simpler to install, but also eliminated the spread of germs from room-to-room. “It makes for a healthier environment, and this was a key selling facet for the camp.”

With the many Fujitsu RLQ units in place, there’s no air exchange between rooms in the health center - just R-410a refrigerant running through a small perforation in the outside wall.

Another advantage seen by camp managers is the Fujitsu air filtration and purification. The air handlers circulate, heat or cool, filter, and purify the air in each room. Electronic air purification comes from the built-in plasma filter, which is standard on the RLQ units installed in the health center.

With camp in session between June and August, the heating capability of the Fujitsu heat pumps will only be used on the occasional crisp morning.

Publication date:09/06/2010