With no room for ductwork, contractor Vince Sweeney of Pacific Mechanical turned to the Unico System to supply heating and cooling to this home in Laguna Beach, Calif. Pictured above and below are photos of the system, which needs very little space.
SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif. - With a lot of square footage, vaulted ceilings, and no room for ductwork, Pacific Mechanical contractor Vince Sweeney had to get creative with a home in Laguna Beach, Calif. The largest problem Sweeney and his San Juan Capistrano firm encountered involved 10-foot ceilings with no drops.

"Due to the home's unique design, we were very limited on space," said Sweeney, who has worked in the industry for more than 20 years. "It took a lot of thinking."

After careful consideration, Sweeney choose to install a system from Unico, a St. Louis-based manufacturer of flexible mini-duct central heating and cooling systems. This system is best described as an indoor handler and flexible mini-duct system designed to offer more options than other high velocity systems. In this case, Sweeney installed a total of four air handlers: one 3.5-ton, two 1.5-tons, and one 2.5-ton. In addition, he installed nine outlets for every unit, with one return.

According to Sweeney, the Unico system offered a solution to a tough HVAC challenge, plus it gave the end user "the best comfort available on the market today."

The system works on the principle of "aspiration." Hot and cold streams of high-velocity air enter a room, creating gentle circulation without drafts. This provides for even temperatures from floor to ceiling. In cooling mode, the company said its system removes up to 30 percent more moisture than conventional central air conditioning systems, making even higher temperature settings more comfortable, efficient, and economical.

Unlike conventional systems, the Unico system is also unobtrusive. The system's flexible mini-ducts can wind through existing construction, ensuring an installation that requires little or no remodeling, said the manufacturer. Outlets are small and subtle, blend into any decor, and avoid stains once caused by metal registers. The system's air supply duct has sound-absorbing tubing, designed to provide quiet airflow from each outlet.

Another Example

Guy Cox, owner of GLC Services, Inc., Canton, N.C., experienced the same heating and cooling dilemma in a project involving a 12,000-square-foot log home situated near the Smokey Mountains in Asheville, N.C. The home allowed zero space for ductwork and boasted ceiling heights of 30 feet.

To make a complicated situation even more complicated, the 80 percent to 90 percent Smokey Mountain humidity encouraged mold and mildew growth on the logs in the interior of the home. Cox quickly came to the conclusion that only one system could fit this job: the Unico system.

"My intention was to have the system run a lot to control the humidity, which would get the moisture out," said Cox. "I calculated that we'd need eight to nine tons. But I undersized it and used a five-ton chiller, so it would run a lot to keep the humidity down."

In addition to the chiller, Cox installed several 1.5-ton air handlers throughout the home. The handlers were placed above one of the bathrooms, behind knee wall ceilings, and in the basement mechanical room.

"The [Unico] system afforded us a lot of creativity," said Cox, who also installed over 52 system outlets in the home. "This installation was everything but normal."

Both contractors agreed that the system is quieter than most conventional systems and provides superior airflow and air quality.

"It provides a lot of flexibility, and allows you to really use your imagination," said Cox.

For more information, go to Unico's Web site, www.unicosystem.com.

Publication date: 11/17/2003