Modernized Old-World Hotel Goes Green, Provides Comfort With Ductless HVAC

Feb. 1, 2010
Multizone heat pumps meet needs of entire building

In 1929, construction of the 35,000-sq-ft Hotel Seville in Harrison, Ark., was completed. With a price tag, including furniture, of $170,000, a tremendous amount at the time, the building became the ornate centerpiece of Harrison.

“On the first floor is a spacious lobby, its ceiling reaching in the center to the third floor, circled on the second floor with the balconies of the mezzanine lounge,” an article dated Sept. 24, 1929, says. “Here are found the wonderful arches and pillars so characteristic of the architecture of Old Spain, with decorations of parallel lines of opposing colors … with Arabic inscriptions on wall decorations in gold and rich tints.”

The hotel was the first establishment in Boone County to serve “ice-cold water.” Among its most notable guests were President Harry S. Truman and Grand Ole Opry comedienne Minnie Pearl.

Despite serving as the hub of business and social activity in Harrison in its early days, the hotel suffered years of neglect. When Don Alberson and equal investment partner Jack Moyer took over, they sought to return the hotel to the fullness of its elegance and grandeur.

“We knew that eventually we could overcome the many challenges of bringing the hotel back, even making many contemporary improvements,” Alberson, who, along with Moyer, invested about $3.2 million in the hotel's restoration, said. “What we have now, after many months of renovation, is a four-star hotel with one of the finest eateries in the state. It's become an oasis for business travelers, the community, and for special events.”

Today, the 56-room hotel, which is registered as a landmark with the National Historical Society, offers many modern amenities, including liquid-crystal-display televisions and high-speed Internet access. The “crowning accomplishment,” however, Alberson said, is something hotel guests wanted for decades and have had in abundance since 2008: year-round comfort, which is provided by 30 Fujitsu mini-split HVAC systems.

The multizone heat pumps with condensing units that serve two to four evaporator units, including seven ceiling-mounted cassette units, meet the indoor comfort needs of the entire building.

“The key challenge and what led to our initial research into split-system technology was the great difficulty and expense of installing a central HVAC system,” Alberson, a commercial electrician and partner in Alberson Construction Management, said. “The old structure had many spaces that just weren't suitable to duct runs and trunk lines. Then we looked at overall system efficiency, and at that point, the mini-splits, which offered not only super-high efficiency, but the greatest level of control and zone-ability, sold themselves.”

Bobby Deaton, owner of Island Airco, who subbed out much of the installation work to Philip Curtis of Curtis Heating & Cooling, said: “The only challenge, if you could call it that, was the need to get all of the refrigerant lines between the air handlers and roof-mounted condensing units within the maximum allowable distance and rise. But Chad Ellis and Cash Curtis, the key installers, could work with the 82-ft line-set allowance we had between units and made all the connections successfully.”

The Fujitsu systems were sourced through manufacturer's representative Bill Riddell and Robert Crow, branch manager of Sanders Supply.

“The Halcyon multizone heat-pump line gave us 110 component combinations to achieve mix-and-match flexibility,” Philip Curtis said. “We wanted the R-410A inverter units, but also the highest-efficiency systems we could get. The multizones we installed offered efficiency ratings of up to 16.5 SEER and 9 HSPF. We could select either 24,000- or 36,000-Btu outdoor units combined with 9,000-, 12,000-, or 18,000-Btu wall-mounted or concealed ceiling indoor units, a variety that worked well for every need within the hotel.”

Information and photographs courtesy of Fujitsu.
Circle 101

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About the Author

Scott Arnold | Executive Editor

Described by a colleague as "a cyborg ... requir(ing) virtually no sleep, no time off, and bland nourishment that can be consumed while at his desk" who was sent "back from the future not to terminate anyone, but with the prime directive 'to edit dry technical copy' in order to save the world at a later date," Scott Arnold joined the editorial staff of HPAC Engineering in 1999. Prior to that, he worked as an editor for daily newspapers and a specialty-publications company. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Kent State University.