A rooftop unit with a notable dehumidification system; a boiler with strong features, including a small footprint; and a split ductless A/C and heat pump were the respective first-, second-, and third-place vote-getters among the HVAC Commercial Equipment entries inThe News'first-ever Dealer Design Awards.

Leading the way was Lennox (Richardson, Texas), with its L Series® rooftop unit and Humiditrol® dehumidification system. The contractor-judges were impressed with the benefits the equipment offers the contractor.

One judge pointed out that the unit is "a very innovative product for situations that require higher-than-normal humidity removal. For this specific condition, it's a cost-effective solution."

The battle for second was as close as you can get, with the Benchmark 2.0 boiler from Aerco International Inc. (Northvale, N.J.) just edging out the Mr. Slim split ductless A/C and heat pump from Mitsubishi Electric and Electronics USA Inc. (Lawrenceville, Ga.).

One contractor-judge said the Benchmark 2.0 boiler's doorway size, 20:1 turndown, and rear access to all piping make it "a nice product." The comments regarding the Mr. Slim ranged from "looks contractor friendly" to "longer tubing from inside to out."

The Lennox L Series rooftop units with Humiditrol dehumidification are 3- to 25-ton gas-electric and electric-electric rooftop units.

Gold Winner

The Lennox L Series rooftop unit with Humiditrol dehumidification earned high marks from the contractor-judges due to its overall installation and service benefits.

The company explained that contractors can save time and money with this commercial product, because the units can be delivered to any jobsite in days with a wide range of factory-installed options. Lennox said the units can be quickly configured to order to provide the contractor with the largest selection of choices.

Most of the contractor-judges appreciated that each unit is designed for simple installation, reducing the need for extensive training. Lennox indicated troubleshooting is simple, thanks to its Integrated Modular Controller. It also said maintenance can be performed quickly thanks to an easy-access design.

"The products were engineered to perform virtually trouble-free for years and now include an R-410A refrigerant option, so contractors are free to concentrate on future projects, not on maintaining past ones," said John Whinery, director of commercial marketing, Lennox International Inc. "This is why so many national accounts such as Bed, Bath and Beyond, Circuit City, Lowes, and many more choose this unit to keep their construction and operational costs in line."

For more information, visit www.lennoxcommercial.com.

Aerco said its Benchmark 2.0 boiler has features that make it easy for contractors to install and maintain.

Silver Winner

According to the contractor-judges, the Benchmark 2.0 boiler has plenty going for it. For instance, its condensing design eliminates the need to install protective equipment, three-way valves, heat exchangers, etc., "to streamline the overall heating loop, simplify installation, and reduce initial project costs," said Aerco.

The product has a "doorway-friendly size," small footprint, side-by-side unit-placement option, lack of auxiliary piping, and versatile venting configurations, all designed to help contractors reduce first costs and simplify installations. In addition, Aerco said its product's venting options (individual or breach through ceiling or sidewall) and shorter runs of generally smaller venting materials (typically 8 inches in diameter) help minimize material and labor expenses.

"Likewise, the patented air-fuel valve design, which combines the air-fuel delivery system, simplifies calibration work at startup and during annual maintenance," said Georgann Russo, marketing manager, Aerco.

"Annual maintenance for the unit consists only of calibration check, along with replacement of the spark igniter and spark plug. Each unit's enclosure features removable, lightweight, screwless side panels to minimize the length of service calls," Russo said. "The design also features easy rear access to all piping."

There was one cautionary note from a contractor-judge: "Excellent product with high turndown capability. However, high tech also means more training needed."

Aerco addressed the comment. "The controls system features step-by-step diagnostic menus and status displays in English and Spanish with more than 40 messages, written in easy-to-understand language (not cryptic codes) to convey subsystem status through distinct phases of the start-up sequence and during operation," said Russo. "The flash-upgradeable platform can be remotely monitored, controlled, and upgraded using the RS-232 or RS-485 connections. The system provides failsafe and independent operation in the event of external building control system failures."

For more information, visit www.aerco.com.

Mitsubishi Electric and Electronics USA Inc. said its Mr. Slim systems are designed “to make any space inviting.”

Bronze Winner

The Mr. Slim split A/C or heat pump unit requires no ductwork, so the installer can place the indoor unit within the required zone using basic tools, said Mike Smith, marketing manager, Mitsubishi Electric and Electronics USA Inc.

According to Smith, the short steps include the installer finding the best location for airflow circulation, which can be in areas of space that are less visible; drilling a 3-inch-diameter hole to the outside; mounting the wall bracket (provided); feeding the utilities through the wall to the outside; and hanging the unit securely onto the bracket.

"He locates an area for the outdoor unit and sets the unit on a concrete pad for stability," said Smith. "He then connects the indoor unit to the outdoor unit with refrigerant piping and control wiring. He has to find a power supply for both indoor and outdoor units. Because this system is wireless, he does not have to worry with control wiring from the outdoor unit to a wall-mounted thermostat, which saves additional time. After four to six hours, he can complete the installation, which means minimal disruption to the home or business."

Model PKGH36FL, a "wall-mounted, 3-ton model, is typically offered in a commercial category and is perfect for retrofit or remodeling applications such as schools, colleges, and universities; hospitals and nursing homes; offices; churches; computer network rooms; and more," said Smith.

Many of The News' contractor-judges did not at first consider a ductless unit fit for a commercial application. However, after reviewing the material supplied by Mitsubishi Electric and Electronics USA, many came away with a different outlook concerning commercial ductless A/C and/or heating.

"Because this system is ductless, the installer and service technician do not have to sweat in attics dealing with a central air handler or crawl under buildings to deal with ductwork," said Smith.

For more information, visit www.mitsubishielectric.com/hvac.

Honorable Mention

Two products merited honorable mention from the judges in this category: the KN-10 gas-fired, direct-vent cast iron boiler from HydroTherm, a Mestek Company (Westfield, Mass.); and the Steril-Aire Unit Ventilator UVC kit (Model UVK 161) from Steril-Aire Inc. (Cerritos, Calif.).

Publication date: 07/19/2004