The temperature in the kitchen at Doc’s Place consistently hit triple digits, and it was becoming a real problem. It was tough to keep employees, and the ones that stayed had trouble working efficiently.
In this case study, we’ll look at how a ductless AC system can cool down one part of a building without affecting another.
We’ll also explore how these systems work and the benefits they offer. And, we’ll look at the specific challenges that come with working around the equipment – and people – in a commercial kitchen.
Problem: The heat in the kitchen at Doc’s Place in Somers Point, NJ topped 100 degrees in the summer. The excessive heat made it hard to retain employees and keep productivity up.
Solution: Installed a ductless AC mini split with three air handlers for the kitchen. The new system brought down the temperature in the kitchen.
Why ductless AC in a restaurant kitchen?
A ductless AC can treat an entire building or just focus on one or more problem spots. In the case of this restaurant, the owners could add a lot of extra cooling to the kitchen without affecting the dining area.
And, with ductless in what’s called a mini split system, it’s easy to install and customize.
As the name implies, it doesn’t require access to ducts and vents. This way, we can place an air handler in the best possible place in the room.
We don’t have to try and make it work based on existing ductwork. And, we don’t need to tack on hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars more by fabricating new ductwork and attaching it to what’s already there.
Instead, we just run a few lines from the air handler to a heat pump outside. That’s all we need to cool and dehumidify the room.
That makes a big difference in a situation like this. We create what’s called “zoned HVAC.” It’s when you break down a building into zones and treat each one separately.
It’s different from a central system, where one thermostat controls the entire place – or tries to, anyway.
That was part of the problem here: If management adjusted the thermostat to account for the sweltering kitchen, then the dining area would be freezing!
It’s because the system would then be trying to cool the 100-degree area the same way it was treating parts of the restaurant that were much cooler than that.
Now, let’s look at why this doesn’t happen with a ductless AC unit, or mini split.
Benefits of a mini split system
- Energy efficiency
- Quiet operation
- Easy installation
In this case, a whisper-quiet AC wasn’t a big deal. After all, a commercial kitchen is pretty noisy!
But, the others were pretty attractive.
Easy installation and flexibility
If you’ve even peeked behind the swinging doors in a restaurant, you know that there’s a lot of stuff in the kitchen: Appliances, supplies, and plenty of people.
Where would you find room for more HVAC equipment?
With a ductless AC, the answer is: High up on a wall, out of the way, and only taking up a few feet.
The air handlers – the components that circulate the air – don’t have to be in the middle of everything. They’ll reach the entire area from just about anywhere.
That makes it easy to squeeze it into a crowded space like this.
And, we mentioned, we run lines connecting to an outdoor heat pump. That’s now the air travels back and forth.
Those lines are narrow and flexible. The casing for them is only a few inches around. It’s easy to run them along walls – and through them – without a big footprint.
Another big benefit of ductless AC is energy efficiently. Pound for pound (or, more accurately, BTU for BTU), it costs less to cool an area with a mini split like this than with conventional air conditioning.
In this case, there was bound to be some increase in the restaurant’s energy bills. After all, they were adding more HVAC service.
But, with the mini split, that amount is less than it would have been if they’d amped up their existing system.
A big reason for this is that the air handlers have more than just “On” and “Off” modes. They don’t just cycle between the two like central air.
Instead, the units spend most of the time in a low power mode. They maintain the temperature instead of kicking on to correct it.
This saves energy and wear and tear on the system. Think of it like highway versus city miles on the car.
Now, Doc’s Place has way more cooling than before — and much lower electric bills than they could have gotten.
Restaurant Air Conditioning Installation in Somers Point, NJ
Installing ductless air conditioning in a restaurant kitchen poses more challenges than residential work or other commercial jobs. Fortunately, we were able to work around those obstacles and get this Somers Point, NJ business cooled down.
First, we coordinated around Doc’s Place’s busy times. This helped us stay out of the way. Since they do most of their business in the afternoon, we started as early as we could in the morning.
For this job, we installed three air handlers in the kitchen area. Each one provided three tons of cooling. Each one attached to an outdoor condenser.
Inside, we had to work around all the existing equipment. Finding places for the air handlers wasn’t too difficult. Running the lines was a different story.
Usually, we group the refrigerant line, power and condensate line together. Then, we run a line set from the handler outside to the condenser.
In this case, space was an issue. So, we ran the power and refrigerant lines from each unit across the ceiling.
We encased them in a slim duct system to keep them hidden. And, we planned carefully so each set traveled in a straight line. We didn’t want a bunch of zig-zagged casing all along the ceiling.
Placing the Condensate Lines in a Commercial Kitchen
That left the condensate lines. These capture the moisture from the air when it condenses from water vapor back into liquid inside the system.
The best way to handle condensation is with gravity draining. Simply put: Point the line so it slopes downward and the water flows out.
But, that wouldn’t work with the other lines running up to the ceiling. However, we found a unique advantage here.
We ran the condensate lines separately from each air handler. But, they didn’t drain outside like usual.
Instead, each one leads to one of the many floor drains you’d find in a commercial kitchen.
This way, we took up less space and made less of an impression on the building to run those lines outside.
Now, the kitchen is Doc’s Place is comfortable enough for employees to work hard – and keep coming back.
Is heat an issue in your commercial kitchen? It doesn’t have to be! Broadley’s has been installing the latest and greatest commercial air conditioning systems for nearly a century in Cape May, Atlantic County, and Jersey Shore points. Contact us today for a free consultation.