People who live in smaller buildings often don’t feel that they have suitable climate control options available to them. Sure, you might invest in a central heating and air conditioning system if you lived in a large house or operated a booming commercial facility — but owners of mobile homes and keepers of small shops may not think there are appropriately sized HVACs for their spaces. What’s the solution? Should you turn on all the fans you can find in the summer, or use space heaters during the coldest parts of the year? There’s a better, more energy-efficient way to stay comfortable and enjoy fresher air: just buy a small HVAC unit.
Lots of people don’t even realize that small HVAC units exist. They assume that HVACs are gigantic, far-reaching contraptions that cannot be scaled down to function in more compact areas. We don’t know where that assumption comes from; we only know it’s wrong. HVAC units come in all shapes and sizes because the buildings they’re installed in come in all kinds of shapes and sizes too.
How to Tell What Size of HVAC Your Building Needs
You might be familiar with the process of sizing an HVAC. If you’re not, no worries — here’s a quick primer for you. HVACs have to have a specific cooling and heating capacity for them to be energy-efficient and effective in a given space. Licensed HVAC professionals usually perform what is called the Manual J Load Calculation when they are determining the correct size of HVAC for a building. The Manual J Load Calculation accounts for numerous factors and uses them to determine how much heating or cooling capacity the space requires from an HVAC. The factors involved in performing this calculation include the following:
- The climate in which the building is located
- The orientation of the building relative to the horizon
- The latitude upon which the building rests since latitude has an impact on the angle of the sun at that location
- The width of any roof overhang on the building
- Whether the windows of the building have insect screens, which can have an impact on their ability to gain heat from the sun
- Whether the windows of the building are fitted with blinds or curtains
- The rate at which the building leaks air
- The rate at which any existing mechanical ventilation system vents air
- The number of occupants who are likely to be in the building on average
- The number of lights and appliances in the home that could produce heat
As such, the Manual J Load Calculation is not considered an easy procedure. It must consider numerous variables, and even slight discrepancies in one of the areas listed above can render the final result inaccurate. Instead of attempting to perform such calculations on your own, you’d be well advised to have a licensed professional HVAC contractor or technician take care of it on your behalf.
Buying a Smaller HVAC System for Your Building
Once you know that you need a small HVAC, it’s time to go shopping for one. You might read elsewhere that a ductless mini split system will be best for your needs, but it would hardly be fair to call such a system an HVAC at all. Ductless mini splits are compact, wall-mounted units that are popular with mobile homeowners and those in smaller spaces. Instead of requiring a network of ducts throughout the building, a ducted mini-split system houses merely the indoor unit on one side of a given wall and the outdoor unit on the other side.
The trouble with ductless mini split systems is that they aren’t hidden from view. While the only outward signs of central heating and air conditioning system are the vents that blow air into your home and collect it for recycling, ductless mini split systems need to be installed through an outdoor-facing wall in any room where you want to use them. Not only can that cause an eyesore, but it restricts the air conditioner’s ability to cool the whole space evenly. Central systems usually have vents throughout the buildings in which they are installed, allowing the cooling to be relatively even throughout the area. Conversely, the further you move away from a ductless mini split system, the hotter you’ll be.
You might not need to consider a different type of air conditioner entirely if you have a smaller-than-average area that requires cooling. Just contact a licensed HVAC company that can determine your sizing requirements accurately and find a central system that meets them appropriately. Make sure you choose qualified technicians who have experience in performing Manual J Load Calculations so that you can trust their input and purchase a system that will meet your cooling needs whenever the weather turns hot.