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Anybody installed a mini-split airconditioner?

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Anonymous

Has anybody installed a mini-split airconditioner? We're considering one, but need to find an installer.

Thanks,
Gina Dimino

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Joined: Mar 22 2003

Hi Gina:

Where are you located?

We are in San Jose and have just made arrangements to install a Mitsubishi ductless split system AC. I am not sure of the difference between a mini-split and a split, if there is one. We are using an AC shop in Los Gatos and so far, I have been very impressed with the knowledge, reliability, and customer service emphasis..we have been working directly with the owner. Also, in his earlier days, he used to work on Eichler radiant heating systems, so he really knows Eichlers. It will go in sometime within the next 2 weeks or so. We are only having the master bedroom done for now (not wild about the roof penetrations that would be necessary to do the kitchen and LR), but have bought the unit that is expandible to include a total of 3 rooms. The contractor is taking care of everything -- including electrical.

If you are going to be buying the unit yourself and just need an installer, I did hear about at least one of the Network supporting companies that claim they can install these, so it might be worth a shot. Either way, you can send me an e-mail at cathyelynn@earthlink.net if you are interested in the details.

Cathye

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Joined: Mar 22 2003

Here is the latest: we have decided to go with a Samsung, using a different vendor. The one we had been working with is very good, but with only limited Eichler experience. We found another with extensive Eichler experience and he likes Samsung, due to their superior customer service. We will be doing two rooms/areas of the house: the master bedroom and the Livingroom/dining area. It will be installed at the end of June.

Cathye

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Joined: Apr 2 2003

One of our neighbours has just had slit duct Samsung installed in her home. However, I believe they used wall rather than roof penetrations. While it definitely does the job, the wall unit size is significant and visible, as a window unit would be. Cathye, does yours have a similar interior mounted unit (I'm guessing 16 x 24)?

I'm curious what these spllit duct systems are costing (product and installation). I only need airconditioning during the summer and am reluctant to do any permanent alterations. I was considering getting a portable room air conditioner--this is not a window or wall unit but the kind that is basically self-contained unit that sits on the floor and you can move from room to room (and into the garage during the months it's not needed). I had seen this at Fry's Electronics at one point. Anyone know more or have experience with these?

Jake

eichfan at rawbw dot com

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Joined: Mar 22 2003

Hi Jake:

I can answer both of your questions:

-The mini-split will be installed without any roof penetrations (a firm requirement of ours). I saw Loni's and liked it a lot, so we are doing something very similar - Same unit, different rooms. You need to have space for the 1" tubing to deliver the cool air into the room delivery unit, plus another 1" tubing to carry away the water. The latter has to have a negative slope, of course. We will be coming in along a beam from the outside of the master bedroom and going through the closet to an interior wall. This will drain into our drainpipe for the washer. The other unit will be in the LR/DR area and already has an exterior wall for the tubing, so it is not an issue. Depending on how many rooms you do, these will run you between $4,500 - $8,000, including installation. Ours will probably come in about $6,000. If you have to upgrade your electrical panel, this will add to the cost. For ours, the electrician will be just moving things around to open up a space and his charge is $382.

-I have one of those portable units currently. It is a Toyotomi and it cost $1,000 about 4 years ago from Sears. In my experience, these don't really cool a room as much as they act like a super fan - blowing cool air rather than hot, directly on you or directly into a defined area within a room. They also have to be vented somewhere, so I would just stick the hose (about 12" in diameter) outside the sliding glass door. It was pretty unsightly, as we had to rig up some cardboard to seal up the remaining open area of the door. This kind of unit would work best in one of the small bedrooms where you could vent it through a window and keep the door closed. While not a great solution, it was a godsend for me about 3 summers ago, when we had several weeks of 100+ degrees. It meant the difference between being awake all night and actually being able to sleep a few hours.

Cathye

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Joined: Mar 22 2003

Ours was installed this week and it is wonderful. The equipment is quiet and efficient. Also, with our walls already being white and the units being mounted just a few inches from the ceiling, you don't even notice them. We are extremely pleased with the quality of the installation and the product itself. Should have done this years ago. For us, and given the constraints involved in working on Eichlers, it was a perfect solution.

Cathye

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Joined: Jul 1 2003

Cathye: Loni also sold us our Eichler in May, and as a re-lo from NY, I found last week's heat wave unbearable without AC (so did our 2-year old). My wife is from CA. and tells me the heat wave is unusual; I think she's wrong since her No. CA. stay was in SF and not the Valley. I am also interested in a 3-4 BR setup to get some sleep. You mentioned a price tag of over $4,500? If that typical? Our Eichler was among the last built, in 1973 and is a coutyard model.
Thanks.

Kin

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Joined: Mar 22 2003

Hi Kin:

Welcome to the West Coast! SFO weather is considerably cooler than San Jose and other South Bay cities. As a native, I have lived here all my life and find the summers to have hot spells that make me very uncomfortable. While we don't have the humidity of NY, we do have heat waves that can continue into September and even October. When we do, we can have several weeks of 100+ degree weather - honest.

Couple that with the flat or low-slope Eichler roof (even worse if it is tar and gravel), and you have a hot house. Our split system is set up with one delivery unit in the master bedroom and the other in the livingroom/ dining room (this one also cools the kitchen). Loni chose to do her living room/entry/kitchen/dining area, plus the back hallway, to get the smaller bedrooms.

Yes, the 4500+ price tag is typical for the smallest, most basic set up. For what we did, it ran $6,300 and for us, was worth every penny to have the cooling without any roof penetrations. Also, after watching them install it - taking 2 guys, two full days - I would not dream of doing this with anyone but the most experienced Eichler installer. It was a lot of work!

Cathye

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Joined: Jul 6 2003

I had a Sanyo split system put in. I have the larger unit with the air sweep unit in the living room. I opened up the wall in our baby room and had the other two units installed with all the wiring, drainage in the wall. This allowed us to put a unit in the baby room and in the master bedroom (which shares a wall). The unit into the living room penetrates the roof, but it does so on the overhang and then goes into the wall.

The split systems need a drain so plan accordingly.

I had a company in Sunnyvale (e-mail for their name) do the work. After seeing how hard they worked for 2+ days, I gave them a nice bonus. Very nice work too.

Mark Hoy Sunnyvale Eichler Owner

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Joined: Jul 8 2003

Mark,

Can you send me the name of the installer of your split system? And who did you buy the system from?
I'm also in sunnyvale (on Sheraton Drive) and have a flat-roof altrium model Eichler. Would you mind if I come and take a look at your system?

Jiong

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Joined: Jul 1 2003

The heat wave from about 10 days ago caused me to think about A/C. Cathye's comments were a great help to me; I also had a quick look at Loni's installation (both are Samsung) - - Mark has the Sanyo setup which seems to have 3 indoor units.
Today, I researched the Mitsubishi Mr. Slim mini-split system and found the following. I suppose the hardware is very similar from manufacturer to manufacturer, but I think the key variable is how many indoor units and where you place them that determines how long & complex the tubing set will run.

(1) A single indoor AC unit costs $819-$1,125 (8,500-16,100 BTU); add $260 for a 49 ft. tube set, sales tax if any and installation. I have not researched installation, but did see Mitsubishi's tag of $2,200 MSRP for an installed system (probably simple installation).
(2) The Mitsubishi Mr. Slim has a 2-indoor unit set for $2,575; each indoor unit is only 8,400 BTU; add $260 each for 49 ft tube set, sales tax if any and installation, any you'll quickly get to $4,000. Prices quoted for A/C hardware are actual selling prices from an internet dealer.
(3) Loni's installation, I believe, is 2 x 13,500 BTU indoor units; I'm not certain but I believe that's what the spec plate said, although I believe the indoor units have variable cooling capacity because the same unit is used for a range of cooling capacity (9-14,000 BTU's).

Although my research is preliminary and my knowledge limited, it would seem that one can have a 1-unit installation, for example, for the BR side of the house or the LR/Family side of the house, for about $2,200+ (I'm not sure Eichler experience is necessary, just a careful contractor since split systems are intended for old or historic houses).
Once multi-indoor units are required, the cost increases 100%+ because the hardware and installation (and 2 sets of tube runs from 1 outdoor unit) costs & complexity increase.

It would be useful to continue a community dialog as other Eichler owners install these split-systems, particularly a dialogue on experience with contractors as they account for about 50% of the installed cost.

Kin

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Joined: Mar 20 2003

We have chosen to most likely go with a mini-split system after talking to our neighbors about it because it seems like the best choice in sound reduction (on the inside) as well as least visibility from the street (since the main part of the unit can sit on the floor as opposed to in the wall like wall units). However, I have not seen these and I fear that the wall portion is not exactly "low profile" or subtle in looks. I would appreciate any feedback regarding the actual appearance of these units. If anyone has pictures of their installation I would greatly appreciate seeing them, as I am in southern california and most of you are in northern...

thanks!!

p.s. sorry from a knucklehead's point of view, why no roof penetrations? for potential leak problems?

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Joined: Mar 22 2003

Hi Cindy:

Yes - we did not want penetrations to our $13,000 foam roof, due to worries about leaks and also it would most likely void the warranty. Loni, OTOH, chose an installation with roof penetrations to her new T&G roof. With flat roofed houses being so difficult in terms of getting a truely leak free roof, we were not taking any chances.

We also spoke to some AC contractors about the Mitsubishi mini-splits and the installed prices that Mitsubishi was putting on their website. All of them indicated that those prices were quite a bit lower than actual cost, though I am not sure of the reason. Perhaps the Mitsu prices are not in California dollars!

As far as asthetics, the Samsungs are not as low profile as we had hoped, however the sheer volume of air they put out and move is quite remarkable and our guess is that they chose to make the units slightly larger to accommodate this. If your walls are natural wood, these will really jump out, as they are white. However, if your walls are white, they actually look quite nice and do disappear into the background. Keep in mind that they are installed high, just a few inches below the ceiling.

I have photos of Loni's unit. If interested, send me an e-mail and I will provide them. (cathyelynn@earthlink.net). I will try and snap some of our units as well, so you can see how they look against white walls.

Cathye

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Joined: Jul 1 2003

Cindy:
I am researching this only while Cathye and others have actual installations. So I only have general impressions.
(1) 3 manufacturers have been identified so far: Samsung, Sanyo & Mitsubishi. From a brand preference standpoint, I would favor Sanyo & Mitsubishi over Samsung because Korean manufacturers seem to me to have a higher rate of product breakdown compared to their Japanese competitors, but it is only my perception. Ultimately, the contractor will persuade you that the brand it carries is better than the other, and product characteristics (dimensions, styling, etc.) will drive your decision.
(2) In the meantime, you should research Samsung on quiteside.com and Mitsubishi on mrslim.com and download spec sheets, etc; I also suggest acforsale.com for selling prices of Mitsubishi hardware; this site will provide a quote on Samsung on request only; this is to give you a sense of the contractor's markup and installation cost separate from the A/C hardware.
I found no web information on Sanyo, but it is probably located within a dealer or wholesaler web site; you can do a more diligent search than me.
(3) The typical setup is wall mounted in-door units. I saw Samsung floor mounted in-door units, but it may be only a single-zone (1 in-door unit) so if you will have to determine your needs & preferences against the product offerings. As an aside, the Samsung (and others) indoor units are amazing small for their functions: heat exchanger, de-humidifier & air circulator.
(4) Like Cathye, I would also want to avoid roof penetrations for leaks and damage to the roof during installation. However, I think Loni's installation has the tube run over the roof and not through the roof, but am not certain. When I look at where I would want to place the in-door units (in a multi-unit setup) in my house and where I have to place the outdoor (condenser) unit, I think there is no option but to run one of the tube set over the roof. In addition, you need to consider the noise level of the outside unit on your neighbors. In my location, one side faces my neighbor's kitchen and other side faces another neighbor's BR area so the least intrusive is to place it near one neighbor’s kitchen; another consideration I have is which side walkway to block off with the outdoor unit.

Please keep us posted on your progress.

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Joined: Mar 22 2003

Brookworld:

The outdoor condensor units on the Samsung are very quiet. You can barely hear them when standing next to them, unless you are running multiple delivery units at the same time. Even then, you'd be amazed.

We too were concerned about the potential to annoy neighbors, but after hearing these we were convinced that nobody would actually be able to tell when they were on, and this has proven to be true. We even had our next-door neighbors over to look at the system, once it was installed. The condensor sits on the side of the house faced by their kitchen, so we wanted them to know what it was and have the chance to ask questions. They were very impressed.

One other bit of information that may be helpful, is about where to drain the water. Each delivery unit needs to have a small hose to the outside to drain off the condensation. This is no problem for installations on an outer wall, but what about an inside wall? Well, for the MBR, this was a challenge at first, until the contractor (very experienced in working on Eichlers) suggested going through the closet and out to the hall drain pipe for the washing machine. It worked great and the tubing is hidden inside the closet and the wall.

Cathye

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Joined: Jul 1 2003

Cindy:
In case you are still researching, Sanyo's mini-split A/C's are on sanyohvac.com (they call them ductless rather than split or mini-split). Apparently, Mark H. had the triple-zone Sanyo installed recently.

By now, you'll have discovered the in-door units are sized about 31 x 10 x 6.5 deep. The Samsung units remain at 31" wide for large capacity (11,000+ BTU) while Mitsubishi & Sanyo are close to 40" wide for 11,000+ units, depending on 1- or 2-zone systems.

Rex
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Joined: Apr 29 2003

I've had a Mitsubishi Mr Slim MSH-15DN for about 10 years. I probably ought to have somebody look at it, but it's never done anything but heat and cool (and de-humidify), quietly and efficiently.
It has to be pretty darn hot or cold before I turn Mr Slim on. Sweaters in the winter, shade trees and cross-ventilation in the summer are very nice passive conditioners.
It's on the SW corner of the house on a south slope, and the room has major glass exposures south and west, so solar gain is huge. The room's about 15x15. It has all sorts of computer stuff heating it up from the inside and only the typical T&G roof, no insulation.
Split systems are the best of the worst solution.

Actually it's a Drogin, not an Eichler.

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Joined: Aug 14 2003

I live in a Eichler in Cupertino, Need to up date heating and cooling systems(gas wall heaters and window a/c)

Would like the names of any installers who work with the mini-split a/c s please e- mail me at dlgone @yahoo.com My wife runs a day care so we need to do something pretty soon thank you dennis

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Joined: Aug 14 2003

Mark

Would like the name and # of the installers who did your a/c work

Thanks Dennis

mhoy wrote:
I had a Sanyo split system put in. I have the larger unit with the air sweep unit in the living room. I opened up the wall in our baby room and had the other two units installed with all the wiring, drainage in the wall. This allowed us to put a unit in the baby room and in the master bedroom (which shares a wall). The unit into the living room penetrates the roof, but it does so on the overhang and then goes into the wall.

The split systems need a drain so plan accordingly.

I had a company in Sunnyvale (e-mail for their name) do the work. After seeing how hard they worked for 2+ days, I gave them a nice bonus. Very nice work too.

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