Air conditioning system

Summer is in full swing, with 90°F days hinting at a long, warm season. It’s at these times that we often are very grateful, or completely distraught about whether or not we have air conditioning in our home. Participants in the Multifamily Energy Program that select the Smart Apartment Bundle, will find that not only do ductless heat pumps (DHPs) have an excellent incentive, the durable, low-maintenance cooling is a large benefit and attraction to tenants. In fact, cooling is no longer seen as a luxury in the Northwest, but instead is often a preferred amenity of residents. The Multifamily Energy Program’s Existing Buildings Smart Apartment Bundle promotes the installation of the following two measures:

  • Ductless Heat Pumps are small in size and allow flexibility for heating and cooling individual rooms. Many models allow for multiple indoor units to be connected to one outdoor unit. In retrofit applications, DHPs are easy to install and generally only require a three-inch hole through a wall for conduit. Since DHPs have no ducts, energy loss associated with ductwork or other distribution systems is avoided.
  • Smart Thermostats can help maximize the full potential of a DHP to reduce energy costs and maintain better comfort when they are coupled with compatible ductless heat pumps. The thermostats can be programmed to suit a resident’s schedule, and have sensors that can identify occupancy and “learn” comfort preferences and settings.

The cost effectiveness of DHPs (also referred to as mini-split heat pumps) is a key area of focus in the construction industry. In 2014, the Department of Energy’s Building America Program evaluated the case for DHPs in retrofits of buildings in several regions of the country. Highlights from this study include:

  • DHPs are a viable retrofit opportunity for certain low- to mid-rise multifamily buildings and can be cost effective under many conditions.
  • Buildings most suitable for DHPs are those with high-cost heating fuel, especially electric resistance.
  • Buildings with poor thermal envelopes, but limited resources to invest in envelope upgrades, have the most savings opportunity. However, efficient envelopes coupled with DHPs are even more cost effective.
  • It is easier to install DHPs on low- to mid-rise buildings with sufficient ground and/or roof space to mount compressor units in relatively close proximity to indoor units.

Check out the complete Building America Program findings here.

Learn more about this program bundle in the Program Manual.