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Whalen: The Efficient HVAC Choice for Apartments, Condominiums and Other Multi-Family Housing

Whalen systems are the perfect solution for heating and cooling multi-family structures, with thousands of installations in place. They are the perfect not only for new construction, but also for retrofitting or rehabbing older buildings.

Retrofitting Older Buildings: Efficient Air Conditioning Upgrades

Owners of apartment complexes often face challenges quite common with older buildings:

  • Is it time to bring these buildings up to modern standards?
  • How much renovation and modernization will be necessary to keep an acceptable rate of occupancy?
  • In particular, should air conditioning be installed?

Buildings of the 1950's were designed with then-contemporary equipment and features of the period. However, air conditioning was a rarity then. Also, since energy was cheap, there were few energy-conservation concerns; windows were single pane and most heating systems consisted of recessed hot-water convectors directly under the windows.

Through the years, energy costs have escalated and other major maintenance problems have worsened. Windows in older buildings are developing water leaks and exterior brick walls show the need for refurbishing.

In addition, as new air-conditioned buildings go up, competition for tenants becomes stiffer.

The Costs of Keeping Heating and Cooling Systems Current

An apartment complex in a prestigious location can command top rental rates if the owner can attract the kind of long-term, high-quality tenants who are able to pay those rates – thus maintaining the owner's return on investment.

But as the buildings age, decisions must be made as to the level of maintenance/upgrading needed to retain those tenants.

Questions arise:

  • Should the owner absorb those costs or pass them on to tenants in the form of higher rentals?
  • What do those decisions do to the return on investment?
  • What degree of renovation is necessary?

Another problem is disruption:  Often, tenants of older buildings are older people who are long-term residents. How quickly can a retrofit job be done? And how can interruption to tenants' daily routines be held to a minimum?

Thoughtful Decisions

The decision to carry out a major building renovation – complete with a new HVAC system – requires careful thought. Builders must be convinced such a step will prove affordable and ultimately profitable.

When a building's floor plan is repetitive, with all similar apartments stacked one above another, two-pipe vertical fan coil units designed and manufactured by The Whalen Company are a very good option.

Such units are relatively easy to install, with minimal inconvenience to the tenants: Core the floors, stack the units, and conceal them with drywall.

Getting Started with Whalen Fan Coils

A typical makeover involving Whalen units begins like this:  

  • Work moves upward from the first floor. A schedule is given to all tenants so they will know what to expect and when as the work progresses in their residences.
  • With effective coordination of necessary tradesmen, total work time in each apartment can be kept to just a few hours – helping to ensure that start-to-finish intervals are brief and completion dates are met on schedule.
  • An important first step is to establish the exact location for the Whalen units in each apartment. They are usually installed in the bedrooms on a bedroom/living room wall, with the return air, one cooling outlet, and thermostat located in the living area. Depending on the apartment layout, some units may be installed in the living room.

Cutting and Drilling of Interior Surfaces

The key steps are these:

  • To facilitate the location and cutting of necessary wall openings, the installing contractor may choose to develop some basic templates.
  • A water-cooled core drill is used to drill through concrete floors. The water also helps keep down dust and is picked up by a large shop vac.
  • A worker in the apartment below catches the plug and any water as the coring is finished.
  • The core hole, if large enough, will be used not only to connect the piping from one unit to another, but also to accommodate the electrical conduit and a master TV cable.

Placing, Piping and Connecting

The key steps are these:

  • After wall openings are cut and floors cored, a vertical fan-coil unit is lifted into position, and the three piping connections are made to the unit in the apartment directly underneath.
  • Each location is carefully plumbed so that drywall installers will have minimal cutting to do.
  • After the riser piping joints are sweated and the electrical connections made, the remaining space in the core hold is insulated to meet local fire code requirements.

Finishing Neatly and Efficiently

A little planning and forethought can mean the difference between a neat and efficient job versus one that is far more problematic. Here’s what contributes to a satisfying project completion for both the owners and tenants:

  • Whalen units are normally finished with just two pieces of drywall, cut to size in the hallways to keep dirt out of the apartments.
  • Next, painters move in to finish the job, matching individual apartment paint colors.
  • The highly effective 2-pipe heating/cooling unit offers simple operating characteristics, including an energy-efficient PSC motor, preferred fan cycle control, low maintenance, and no troublesome motorized valves.

Adding it All Up

In sum, the use of Whalen vertical fan-coil units enables the installation of a heating and cooling system at low cost, along with quick installation time and minimal disruption to the residents.

With our help, outdated buildings are brought up to standard and are able to sustain an improved occupancy rate in the years ahead.

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