Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Meet Mr. Slim!

Hello visitors, and welcome back to the Heritage House Blog! As we continue working on the Heritage House Program please continue to visit as there will be regular updates on several projects that are currently underway.

One of the goals of the Heritage House Program is to rehabilitate and restore underused houses in order to create financial sustainability for Strawbery Banke. However, financial sustainability is not the only important aspect of this project. Strawbery Banke is also working to make sure that these houses are environmentally sustainable and efficient so as to lower the cost of bills for renters, as well as contribute to the green movement that is important to the sustainability of the environment.

As rehabilitation and construction on the Rueben Shapley Townhouse is well underway, we thought we would give you a glimpse into the to installation of the several energy efficient and cost effective HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) systems that will be placed into the fourteen rental units and additional common areas that will be used. Chief Curator, Elizabeth Farish met with John Schnitzler, Preservation Carpenter, to get a more detailed look into the heating and cooling systems that will be installed in mid-July.

The Shapley Townhouse will be operating with a multi-split Mitsubishi "Mr. Slim" HVAC unit. This system was chosen for a number of reasons.  First and foremost because it is a minimally invasive way to introduce heating and air conditioning to sensitive historic building material.  Its multi-split capabilities allows each unit to be heated or cooled separately from one another, creating separate electric bills per unit and a higher energy efficiency for the entire building. Each heating and cooling unit is controlled individually by separate thermostats so each room creates its own zone for complete control of the renters. This HVAC unit is electric, however it is modulated to operate only to the degree that it needs to run. The heating or cooling systems will not run at full capacity per unit if it is not needed within a rental space. One of the great advantages to this system is its cost effectiveness. Each Mr. Slim heating and cooling unit have their own meters, which means that the electric bill will be monitored individually lessening the cost for the building as a whole. Individual remote control thermostats are also placed in each rental space. As opposed to the electric bill being split twelve ways, each renter will be in control of their own electricity usage. Furthermore, if a problem should ever arise with one of the HVAC units, it can be dealt with individually and will not affect the other units in the building.

Several Mr. Slim units that will be placed outside, connected to wiring, and covered by a fence so they are hidden from view.

These wires will be connected to the individual unit meters and its Mr. Slim counterpart, providing the energy for use and monitoring the individual units' energy usage.

A fantastic advantage to using this system is that it preserves building material and the overall aesthetic of the building. Installation requires that the system simply be screwed into the wall and is then connected to two copper pipes that run inside a wooden chase to be easily hidden from sight. This system is a simple, non-destructive was of creating not only heat, but especially air conditioning. There are no holes or floor grates involved with this HVAC system, only the unit itself as it is mounted on the wall. The size of each unit depends on the size of the room. The smaller the room, the smaller the unit will be. The only invasive aspect of this system is the wooden chase that was built in order to cover the piping, however as you can see from the photo below it is located discreetly in the corner of one of the office spaces and does not detract from the attractiveness of the room. The piping in the wooden chase runs straight up into closets and behind insulation on the second and third floors, making the intrusion on those levels non-existent.

John Schnitzler, Preservation Carpenter showing the minimally invasive wood chase that hides the unit's piping. The heating/cooling unit is mounted on the wall to John's right.


In the common areas of the Shapley Townhouse, there will be a traditional radiant heating system put in place. A series of hot water radiators are heated by a natural gas boiler, keeping in line with the sustainable mission we are embracing. This system will use Runtal Radiators which are minimally invasive, just like the Mitsubishi Mr. Slim HVAC systems that are installed individually within each office space. The Runtal Radiators are flat, small, and will be efficiently flush mounted on the walls of the hallways on the first, second, and third floors.

Unlike a regular radiator you are unable to see through the grates on the Runtal radiators and they do not collect dust on the inside so there is a minimal amount of cleaning that needs to be done in order to maintain these units. This system will also be connected to a modulating boiler system so that it is not always running at full capacity when it is not needed, but if for some reason the heating system needs to operate at a higher capacity it has the complete ability to do so. This heating system temperature will be managed by the museum, and not the individual tenants.

The bathrooms, which will be common areas, will be heated electrically as well. The bathrooms have been super-insulated--meaning less electricity will be needed to heat and cool those areas as needed. In addition to the super-insulation, a space heater and fan are installed in the wall, minimizing the visibility and size of the unit. Because of the location of the upstairs bathrooms, they receive ample amount of daylight in order to keep the room warm in colder months with help from the insulation. The actual heating system will probably only need to be used at night and will be controlled by the museum.

We see these HVAC systems as an exciting opportunity for the museum because not only are we helping to create an environmentally sustainable structure, but we are also dedicated to keeping the historic feel of the house in tact. Rehabilitation and preservation are important to us as we continue with this process and we strive to bring modern comforts to the houses without compromising the historic integrity that inspires us to do our work.

1 comment:

  1. Since everyone is working on to make sure that the houses they build are environmentally sustainable and efficient so as to lower the cost of bills for renters, as well as contribute to the green movement, I think builders should also consider other aspects of the home improvement. So aside from HVAC system or the cooling and heating system, the lighting system should also be considered in improving homes, such as taking advantage of the natural light. Taking the concept of skylights and daylighting system.