NORWICH, Conn. — The Norwich Free Academy (NFA) is a progressive educational institution devoted to teaching students the essential high school curriculum, as well as lessons that will be beneficial in their future careers. The academy is a privately endowed secondary school serving the Norwich region, and it has been doing so since 1854.

The old and sprawling campus is proof that the young students at the academy are receiving a unique education. The school boasts a planetarium, an art gallery, a museum, a library, and athletic facilities among its many edifices.

In fact, this one-of-a-kind school can even boast about the systems that heat and cool many of these facilities. Two years ago, the academy started installing ductless mini-splits as an answer to some of the heating and cooling needs in many of the buildings. At the start of the project, a few ductless systems were installed in key areas of a couple of buildings. But now, two years later, NFA has over 100 ductless mini-splits throughout its campus and is looking to install even more.

Pictured above are the outdoor units for Mitsubishi’s Mr. Slim mini-splits. The outdoor units can be installed on rooftops if desired.

Old Buildings, New Systems

The Norwich Free Academy has several historical buildings on its campus. Four of the main buildings on the campus used window air conditioning units for cooling. In 2001, the school’s board decided that a change was needed.

The plan was to restore the old buildings to their original exterior integrity. To do this, the unsightly window units had to go. The new systems for heating and cooling had to be quiet, could not conflict with the architecture, and had to be cost effective.

The search was on for a system that could do all these things. That search ended when Harry Hansen, facilities manager for NFA, attended a trade show in Woodstock, Conn. Tony Pellechia, president of DSM Inc., located in Dayville, Conn., was on hand at the show to demonstrate a variety of heating and cooling systems, including Mr. Slim® MSZ and MXZ inverter heat pumps from Mitsubishi Electric’s HVAC Advanced Products Division.

Pellechia has been running DSM Inc., a mechanical contracting and service business, for over 12 years. The company specializes in many different applications, but Pellechia has been installing ductless systems for quite some time and has found a great deal of success with them. Most of Pellechia’s ductless installations have been in the commercial market, but he has installed a number for residential customers.

After meeting Pellechia, Hansen enlisted DSM to install the spot cooling units on a trial basis.

Ductless Benefits

According to the contractor, ductless was the way to go at the academy for several reasons.

“Ductwork was going to be very hard to do,” Pellechia said.

He explained that the age and design of the buildings would have made the installation of ductwork very difficult. He also added that if ductwork were to be installed, much of it would be visible in several rooms.

The first locations on campus to get the ductless systems included the kitchen and cafeteria in the Brickview Inn, a basement computer room inside the Allis House, and a couple rooms within the Cranston Building, which houses the ninth-grade classrooms as well as administrative offices.

Pellechia said that the only challenge associated with the installation was the piping.

“We had to open up some walls to get the piping down,” he said. “Finding a path for the piping was the only real challenge.”

Other than that, Pellechia said that the project at the academy was like any other ductless installation — quick and easy. Only 3-inch openings were needed for the piping, which connected the indoor wall units with the outdoor units. Most of the outdoor units were installed either on rooftops or hidden patios. Low-profile indoor units were also installed on walls, surface-mounted ceilings, and some inside drop ceilings so that only the grille was exposed.

The refrigerant piping and control wiring was also hidden in chase walls and suspended ceilings.

Pellechia said that the reaction from faculty and staff at the school was overwhelmingly positive. Part of that positive reaction had to do with the individual control that is now offered from room to room. The Mr. Slim systems have allowed faculty to control the heating and cooling in individual offices.

Pellechia also explained that about 80 percent of the Mr. Slim units that were installed on the campus were heat pump-style mini-splits. The benefit of this, according to Pellechia, is increased energy savings.

He said that the buildings on campus use boilers for their heating needs. Faculty and staff can use the heat pump-style mini-splits for supplemental heating in the beginning of the cooler months when temperatures are a little more unpredictable. This allows the school to get a few more months of heating without having to fire up the boilers.

But according to Pellechia, one of the biggest benefits of the ductless systems is comfort and reliability.

“I’ve worked with many different types of ductless systems and the Mr. Slim is the best out there,” he said. “They are very quiet and you very seldom have callbacks.”

For more information, visit the company’s Web site,

Publication date: 06/16/2003