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  1. #1

    Furdown? Furrdown? Fur-down? - Apt building AC advice

    I have a 16 unit apartment complex and by far the biggest headace comes from the AC system. I have a large compressor that works with a rooftop tower/condensor. It pumps cold water to all the units. Each unit has a air handler ("furdown" style?) that takes the cold water through coiles, blows air over it, and makes the cold air.

    At least that's how I think it works.

    The system is from 1965 (uses R22 I believe?). I don't know what parts were replaced when (the tower on the roof might be newish?). The compressor might be original. All I know is while it makes Houston summers acceptable inside (high 70s) it doesn't work all that great anymore.

    Anyway, I'm going to make a post asking some suggestions about what to buy to replace (I'd like to get individual units for everyone) but I'd like to understand what type of split system I need. From what I understand I have a 'furdown' system for the insides (the air handler sits in a space above the bathrooms) so if I get a split system for all the units I'd have to get a 'furdown' system for the inside.

    So my question: How the heck is the inside unit said/spelled. When I google or wikipedia it, I get nothing confirming. And forums that come up seem to spell it differently. Is it furrdown? Furdown? etc?

    Any help for this newguy apartment owner would be great (and if you want to suggest what I should get in the way of new individual units that would be awesome, or if you think I should replace the main condenser/compressor instead, I'd welcome that discussion as well).

    Cody

  2. #2
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    Theres alot of Houston people on here.........Classical, Jason , Mr Bill to name a few...

  3. #3
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    The bathroom ceiling is furred down to accommodate the airhandler in the ceiling space.

    It is still just an airhandler with chilled water coil.


    Have the system inspected and repaired, it might be something simple.

    You can have split systems installed in each apartment.
    Karst means cave. So, I search for caves.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by karsthuntr View Post
    The bathroom ceiling is furred down to accommodate the airhandler in the ceiling space.

    It is still just an airhandler with chilled water coil.


    Have the system inspected and repaired, it might be something simple.

    You can have split systems installed in each apartment.
    Thanks for the info. I guess when looking for split systems, I have to look for the inside unit to be of the type to fit in that furred down space rather than one that's made to go into a purpose built closet. So what should I be asking/serach for?

    Any ~2ton units you recommend where the inside half can go into that furred area?

    Cody

  5. #5
    Join Date
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    Fort Worth, TX
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    First Company possibly made the fan coils that are in your apartment units now, and still make direct expansion (DX) fan coils that use an air cooled condenser outdoors (a split system), that will fit in the drop ceiling (spares you the confusion over furrdown vs. furdown), which is likely over a bathroom in the apartment, or in the hallway going to the bedrooms. Your biggest installation concerns will be each apartment requiring 240 volt service to run the condensers and fan coils, and if you go with a heat pump or straight electric heat. You'll also need to determine where the refrigerant line set can go for each unit, along with electrical service required where the condensers are set.

    Your existing system is a chilled water system, using a chiller that circulates chilled water to each apartment for cooling, and a cooling tower on the roof to reject heat from the chiller, heat that was picked up by each apartment. Smaller chilled water apartment complexes used to be pretty common, but are much more rare now, having either been bulldozed or replaced by split systems. These chilled water properties, many of them, were notorious for following the FOF maintenance method, meaning Fix On Failure. No thought ever given to having tubes punched annually on the chiller and condenser barrels, no thought toward water treatment for the chilled water loop, no thought for chemical treatment for the cooling tower. Just run the damn thing until it craters...usually during a horrible heatwave, leaving tenants with little recourse but to put the complex on the ten o'clock news.

    You might find if you give your present system some TLC, it might perform a bit better than it has been. Chances are high with a system that old it hasn't seen the greatest of care over the years. And I'm sure it spins the meter pretty well...do you fold the charge of running the plant into the rent? Are your individual apartment units submetered? If you go to split systems you'll either need to get each apartment submetered, or figure out some way for them to cover added electrical charges for having 16 one to two ton compressor humming away all over your property.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by shophound View Post
    First Company possibly made the fan coils that are in your apartment units now, and still make direct expansion (DX) fan coils that use an air cooled condenser outdoors (a split system), that will fit in the drop ceiling (spares you the confusion over furrdown vs. furdown), which is likely over a bathroom in the apartment, or in the hallway going to the bedrooms. Your biggest installation concerns will be each apartment requiring 240 volt service to run the condensers and fan coils, and if you go with a heat pump or straight electric heat. You'll also need to determine where the refrigerant line set can go for each unit, along with electrical service required where the condensers are set.

    Your existing system is a chilled water system, using a chiller that circulates chilled water to each apartment for cooling, and a cooling tower on the roof to reject heat from the chiller, heat that was picked up by each apartment. Smaller chilled water apartment complexes used to be pretty common, but are much more rare now, having either been bulldozed or replaced by split systems. These chilled water properties, many of them, were notorious for following the FOF maintenance method, meaning Fix On Failure. No thought ever given to having tubes punched annually on the chiller and condenser barrels, no thought toward water treatment for the chilled water loop, no thought for chemical treatment for the cooling tower. Just run the damn thing until it craters...usually during a horrible heatwave, leaving tenants with little recourse but to put the complex on the ten o'clock news.

    You might find if you give your present system some TLC, it might perform a bit better than it has been. Chances are high with a system that old it hasn't seen the greatest of care over the years. And I'm sure it spins the meter pretty well...do you fold the charge of running the plant into the rent? Are your individual apartment units submetered? If you go to split systems you'll either need to get each apartment submetered, or figure out some way for them to cover added electrical charges for having 16 one to two ton compressor humming away all over your property.
    Whoa, your post was amazing. You are 100% right about the "FOF" and what *wasn't* done to keep the current system running well. You're right about the issue of my needing to run 240v as the current ones are 115. Any way you live in Houston and want some work

    Sadly I get a single electric bill. While this old junker I'm sure uses more electricity than a brand new system of it's time, I would assume it still uses less than 16 individual units no matter how efficient (am I right?)

    What split systems would you recommend I get to replace what I have? If I buy "over tonnage" from what I need, will I be wasting electricity? I mean, lets say a 1.5t will do the job and I get a 2t... the tenant sets it to 75 degrees all the time. Would the 2t be using more just because it's bigger?

    Thanks in advance..

  7. #7
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    Do your tenats also complain that a room or 2 doesn't get as cool as the other rooms.
    If so, you have some air flow problems also. So putting a 2 ton unit in on a 1.5 ton duct system will be nothing but headaches.

    Your between a rock and a hard place.

    A new chiller.
    Or.
    Or pay for line sets, electrical, 16 new OD units, drywall refinnishing, etc.
    This is not a side job project.
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  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by beenthere View Post
    Do your tenats also complain that a room or 2 doesn't get as cool as the other rooms.
    If so, you have some air flow problems also. So putting a 2 ton unit in on a 1.5 ton duct system will be nothing but headaches.

    Your between a rock and a hard place.

    A new chiller.
    Or.
    Or pay for line sets, electrical, 16 new OD units, drywall refinnishing, etc.
    This is not a side job project.
    Na, no one complains that a room or 2 are too hot as the cental air ducting is good. The real problem comes when the main system breaks or the fact taht even when it's running, it doesn't cool *well*. And some units do run hotter than others, which is something I contribute to their air handlers being old/dirty/etc.

    I know it's not a side project, but rather a serious deal. The cost to replace that compressor/condenser tower/chiller barrel, is huge and my thoughts are if I'm going to do that I might as well drop that money into individual units.

    I just don't know what units to get. When I look at units most don't seem to have their inside part made for a furred down above bathroom space - and I don't know what to ask/search for to find what I need.

    Obviously I'm going to have an AC company do this work but I'd like to be somewhat knowledgeable about what options are out there.

    Thanks again

  9. #9
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    Get 2 or 3 contractors to come out and give proposals. And then come back here to ask questions.

    Its going to cost about the same to replace your current chiler, as to do 16 individual units.

    The difference is, that with individual units, they can pay for their own cooling, and heating.
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  10. #10
    Right now I pay all the electric bills, and the current leases were priced with the fact that electric is included. For new tenants I guess I could lower the rent but then have them pay their own electric.

    Thoughts on energy usage from 16x new individual units vs. my single large old junker?

    I think while individual units are miles ahead of efficiency, its like an old beat up buss... an old beat up buss is till going to get 16 people somewhere with less gas then 16 small efficient civics.

    (I could be wrong though...)

    Also, I was told that the split systems that would work in the furred down space won't be available in as high of SEER rating? Is that true?

  11. #11
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    Yea. Your not going to get high SEER from them.
    Probably better efficiency then your old chiller, but may not be a whole lot.
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  12. #12
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    I don't think I would do what you are suggesting

    Of course I don't know the layout of your building and so forth.

    Is it tall? Or all one story?

    Can you put the individual outdoor units directly above the bathroom air handlers?

    How much space is there in the bathroom ceilings?

    Unico makes some pretty short air handlers. But you would then need to fish new 2" diameter air ducts.

    Unless the chilled water piping leaks all over the building I personally would square away the central system.
    PHM
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  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Poodle Head Mikey View Post
    Of course I don't know the layout of your building and so forth.

    Is it tall? Or all one story?

    Can you put the individual outdoor units directly above the bathroom air handlers?

    How much space is there in the bathroom ceilings?

    Unico makes some pretty short air handlers. But you would then need to fish new 2" diameter air ducts.

    Unless the chilled water piping leaks all over the building I personally would square away the central system.
    Two story building. So do the air handlers that go into that bathroom space have a particular name? So I take it for the most part the indoor and outdoor parts are bought independent of each other?

    The water system isn't leaking (though the drip pan for the condensation always seems to leak or get clogged. The problem with the current system is it just doesn't work well, leaks freon, and when it goes down I have 16 people screaming at me.

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