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HVAC for Condos: Which System is Best?

hvac for condos

A Complete Guide to Installing and Maintaining HVAC for Condos

Do you own or manage a condominium? Do you want to know more about HVAC for condos? Are you interested in the best condo air conditioner and condo heat pump for your building? 

Today’s condo heating and air conditioning systems provide a comfortable living environment, improve indoor air quality and increase the quality of life of your residents.

If you’re a new property owner looking to buy a condominium, a member of the strata council, or a property manager, read on to learn more about condo HVAC systems. 

What is a Condo HVAC System? 

Condo HVAC systems generally work like residential or commercial HVAC, just on a larger scale. 

HVAC systems (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) offer heating, cooling and air filtering throughout the building. They also help maintain relative humidity, preventing condensation and mould growth.

Various HVAC systems are available for condos, from ones that work across the whole building to individual unit systems. We’ll explore these options more below.

Condo HVAC System Options 

When deciding which HVAC system is best for any condominium building, HVAC professionals will consider the following: 

  • How large is the area requiring heating and cooling? 
  • What is your budget? Including maintenance and condo HVAC replacement costs.
  • Is there an exterior aesthetic to maintain?

Typically, one of these three condo HVAC systems will be recommended by your HVAC tech:

  1. Centralized Systems – These are self-contained units usually located in basements or rooftops that use ductwork to circulate warmed or cooled air around the building. These sizeable central air handling units (AHU) may perform poorly when not operating at full capacity, e.g. after hours.
  • Maintenance: These systems require professional installation and may cost more initially but will have lower long-term maintenance costs.
  1. Decentralized Systems – The components of these systems are placed in various spots around a condo. They take up little room and require no ductwork, making them easier and cheaper to install than other systems. However, they may be more challenging to blend into your design aesthetic. Yet, they offer the flexibility to heat or cool parts of your building at different times and allow residents some control of their space.
  • Maintenance: The required system parts will increase the maintenance cost in large or high-rise condo buildings. Determining the source of a problem can be more difficult due to the greater number of compressors and heating components to maintain. Consolidating equipment that requires the most maintenance into one location is a good workaround.
  1. Packaged Systems – These systems combine heating and cooling in one unit and are often used where there are space constraints. They are designed for outdoor installation and are effective for mild climates and low-rise or single-story condos. Often referred to as rooftop units (RTU), they rely on external air for cooling, so in hot climates, you may need additional air conditioning to meet your building’s cooling needs.
  • Maintenance:  Regular professional maintenance is recommended. Trained HVAC technicians can check electrical connections and ductwork, remove debris, clean condensers, test motors and compressors, replace air filters, adjust temperature differentials and clear the air supply and returns.

Thus, choosing the best condo air conditioning unit for your building’s specifications can reduce operating costs, provide greener energy and improve air quality. A condo HVAC installation professional should ensure whatever system you decide on meets the British Columbia Building Code standards.

 Note: The next edition of the BC Codes is expected in mid-2023.

The Best Condo Heating and Cooling Systems

Condo and strata HVAC systems must be quiet, cost-effective, provide healthy air and meet multiple tenants’ temperature needs. 

The best condo HVAC system for your needs may combine some of the condo heating systems and air conditioning options below.

Heat Pump – A water source heat pump can be installed horizontally or vertically. Condo heat pumps are controlled with a thermostat that residents can adjust to heat or cool as they need.

These units are energy efficient and can transfer heat from a boiler and duct system by geothermal exchange, an upgrade from your current gas or electrical heating system.

Magic Pak – This system works the same way a residential furnace does, but the design includes heating and air conditioning in one compact unit. Electric or gas models are available.

Fan Coil Unit – These units have a life span of approximately twenty years, after which they require replacement. Maintenance is vital as these systems can be susceptible to mould build-up due to the high-humidity environment of the housing. Improperly maintained fan coil units may expose condo owners to particles in the air such as dust, dirt and mould. 

Single Split High-Rise HVAC System – This is an affordable option for small condos as they heat and cool individual rooms rather than the whole building. These systems are cheaper to install and allow tenants to control the temperature in their condos. However, they require both an indoor and outdoor space to house equipment.

Mini Split HVAC System – This ductless system contains separate “mini” units in each room connected to one outdoor unit. The key difference between mini-split and multi-split systems is that mini-splits maintain the same temperature throughout all the rooms. In contrast, multi-split systems allow adjustments for each room.

Multi Split High-Rise HVAC System – Multi splits require less outdoor space than a single split. They need more extensive pipework than single split systems because they connect multiple indoor units to one outdoor unit. They are energy efficient, detecting small temperature changes and adjusting as needed. The additional pipework makes them more expensive to install than a single split.

Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) High-Rise System – Primarily ductless, multiple indoor evaporator units are connected to a single outdoor condenser. While simple to install, the required refrigerant piping does increase costs. However, over the system’s life, they are cost-effective and energy-efficient because they only work when needed.

Whatever system you install, routine maintenance by qualified technicians, like those found at South Island Mechanical, ensures your system remains efficient and your building residents remain comfortable.

South Island Mechanical – There is No Job Too Big or Too Small

South Island Mechanical are experts in HVAC for condos, installations, maintenance, repair and replacement. We’re here to ensure smooth installation and long life through routine service. Let us tailor a maintenance package specific to your condo’s HVAC system.

Located in Victoria, BC, and serving Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, South Island Mechanical is your one-stop shop for all your heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration needs. Contact us anytime for more information about the commercial services we offer.