by Charles Romano
When planning for a multi-residential project, choosing the right mechanical systems can depend on a host of factors. Whether its upfront costs, cost savings down the road, or your sustainability philosophy driving your decision, each variety of systems has its pros and cons. From Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) heat pumps to individual heat pumps to packaged gas fired heating, Windover Construction has worked with each of these systems in different multi-residential projects and we evaluate the benefits of each.
A VRF system with Dedicated Outdoors Air System (DOAS) paired with an electric heat pump for water is geared toward sustainability and is highly energy efficient. It offers simultaneous heating and cooling and premium indoor air quality. With fewer heat pumps and relatively small duct and piping systems, it requires minimal space for installation. However, it comes with high initial equipment costs and the inability to bill tenants for individual electric consumption or hot water. This system is ideal for academic dormitories and can also work well in assisted living facilities and affordable housing projects.
Individual Heat Pumps
Individual heat pumps with fan coils, Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERV), and a central domestic hot water system is like the VRF system in its ability to be adaptable for sustainable goals. By avoiding gas fired boilers and opting for electric heat pump water heaters, this option is still energy efficient while maintaining the ability to bill each tenant individually for water and electricity. This system requires higher upfront costs and more pieces of equipment to maintain, but the non-fossil fuel option is well-suited for some important sustainability goals.
Packaged Gas Fired Heating
The least sustainable of these options, packaged gas fired heating/DX cooling units and instantaneous gas water heaters with Rooftop Units (RTU) for common area heating and cooling, is also the quickest and least expensive to implement. With each unit having an independent system for heating and cooling, this system offers the ability to bill tenants individually for electric and gas usage. This also means there is more equipment to maintain, and each unit will need space for the equipment. This system is most often found in large-scale apartment communities.
Charles Romano is manager of MEP services at Windover Construction.