Owning a historic commercial building can provide you with a number of distinct advantages in the business world. These charming buildings can give customers and clients a glimpse into a simpler time when business was conducted with a handshake agreement rather than pages of notarized documents.

Unfortunately, this simplicity can also extend to your building's heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, making it more challenging for you to modernize your systems and improve your comfort (or lower your energy bills) without a complete remodel.

Fortunately, there are several workable options that can allow you to update your HVAC without closing down your business or cutting into your bottom line. Read on to learn more about two of the HVAC options best-suited to historic commercial buildings.

Ductless Mini-Split

For commercial buildings with radiant heat rather than integrated ductwork, installing this ductwork can be an expensive process that may require you to shut your business operations down for a week or two (or even longer) while construction takes place. However, certain types of HVAC systems can be installed without the need for additional ductwork, making it a much simpler process that can be performed after-hours without closing your business in the interim.

One of these options, the ductless mini-split, can provide your building with both heated and cooled air year-round. This mini-split operates through the use of a relatively small outdoor compressor, which is connected to several vents that can be installed directly on your building's walls. Depending on your building's layout, you may opt to have several mini-splits installed for a type of zone heating and cooling system or instead operating with a single mini-split with ducts evenly distributed throughout the building.

These HVAC systems are termed "mini-split" because they serve a dual role: heating in the winter and cooling in the summer. By adjusting the interior thermostat to whatever temperature you desire, you'll be able to seamlessly move from winter to spring to summer without removing bulky window air conditioning units or refilling oil or kerosene space heaters.

Because the compressor used for a ductless mini-split is so much smaller than those used for traditional central air conditioning units, this can also be an energy-efficient and cost-effective option. This is true even if your building's size will require more than one compressor to maintain a constant interior temperature.

High-Velocity Miniature Ducts (HVMD)

If your historic building has some space for ductwork, but you're certain it won't be able to accommodate the large ducts used for most commercial HVAC units, you may instead want to consider a high-velocity miniature duct system. As the name implies, an HVMD uses much smaller ducts than normal HVAC units, allowing for much easier installation in historic buildings that tend to have a very limited amount of room between the drywall and the outer building walls.

Even with much smaller ducts, an HVMD system can achieve the same level of heating and cooling as much larger systems by forcing the heated or chilled air through these vents at a much higher velocity. This can be a great option for buildings that enjoy a lot of foot traffic during especially hot and cold times of year, as you'll be able to maintain a constant comfortable temperature even when the doors are opening and closing all day long.

If you're torn whether to install a ductless mini-split or an HVMD system, the deciding factor may be your building's size. Because an HVMD system can allow ductwork to be installed throughout the entire building, it can operate on a single compressor. However, using a ductless mini-split in a large building may require multiple compressors. For larger buildings, an HVMD system is likely to be more cost-effective in the long run, while smaller buildings can thrive with a single mini-split system.

If you have questions about your building’s HVAC system, reach out to Knight Heating & Air Conditioning. We’re ready to help you find the best system for your needs.