Centralized vs. Decentralized: Which is best for your commercial building?

When managing or constructing an apartment building or office, the happiness of your occupants is critical. A good system can increase worker productivity and tenant satisfaction. Considering the options when choosing your air conditioning can affect them just as much as it can affect you. There are two different types of HVAC systems: centralized and decentralized. So how do you know which is best for you and your building?

A centralized air conditioning system has a single base location with a chilled water-cooling system that is responsible for distributing cool air to multiple spaces. This happens via air-handling units or fan-coil units throughout the building and distribution ducts. The base is usually hidden inside the mechanical room of the building, not visible to the public eye. These units tend to have higher energy efficiency, greater load-management control, better comfort conditions, and are easier to maintain because all units are in a central location. However, they tend to have a higher installation cost and more complex operational and maintenance requirements.

A decentralized unit typically serves a single room or smaller area rather than the entire building. These units exchange heat with a cooling coil instead of using a chilled water medium. They include fans, filters, refrigerant coils, controls and more. That means all cooling and heat rejection happens inside the unit itself, eliminating any need for special duct work or pipes. These units tend to be easier to adjust, but can lead to higher energy consumption and operational costs. This correlates to a decentralized unit’s shorter life span and more routine maintenance. However, decentralized systems tend to have a lower upfront cost and minimum space requirements.

Before choosing your next air conditioning solution, evaluate which system bests fits you and your building’s time and energy needs. And as always, contact one of our trained HVAC experts to help you in understanding the best option and installation process.

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