In operation for more than a hundred years, Friedrich is still a privately held company run under the founder’s name. Ed Friedrich began operations in San Antonio, Texas in the late 1800’s, moving from cabinetry to ice-fueled refrigeration and then finally took the company into the modern era with a variety of condenser-based refrigeration units1. They are currently most known for the Kuhl line of residential air conditioners and manufacture a variety of window based units.
Friedrich touts the fact that they are one of the last air conditioner manufacturers in North America, but this is a bit misleading – they moved manufacturing operations from San Antonio, TX, to Monterrey, Mexico in 2008, keeping their company headquarters in the U.S. but taking advantage of lower labor costs south of the border2. This parallels all other residential air conditioners sold in the U.S. market – none of which are made in this country, with most made in China.
Friedrich In-window units
The niche market for Friedrich has been medium to high-end, in-window installation for apartment dwellers. For example, the brand is popular in Manhattan and the New York area3 in older buildings without a central air system. Window units can be purchased in up to 36,000 BTU ($1,700) which means a single installation can cool an entire 2,000 sq ft apartment. This is a great advantage when available windows (for additional units) might be at a premium. One downside of such an installation (besides the price) is the requirement for a 230 volt power supply and special mounting on the external surface4.
Features of Friedrich in-window air conditioners are:
- The option of wall mounted thermostat control or programmable 7-day control.
- Battery backup that saves settings in case of power loss
- A directed, rotating fan to spread cool air around larger areas
- Some (not all) units are Energy Star rated and many come with rebates because of this
- Humidity removal is exceptional with the Kuhl line
- Anti-microbial, washable filters
- Insect barriers
Consumer complaints generally revolve around cost and noise issues. Although Friedrich advertises excellent noise reduction insulation, and their products are noted for being low noise, if a home installation isn’t properly done – the unit isn’t fitted correctly and anchored into the right size opening – vibration between the air conditioner and the wall/window will generate noise5. A further issue is the inability to safely use extension cords because of power draw and the need to get professional wiring to run the higher BTU units.
For the residential market, Friedrich sells the lines of in-window air conditioners based on features and sizes. Most are also offered as through-the-wall type installations as well. The Kuhl line offers the most features, the XStar models use a small footprint (50% less than Kuhl), and the CP line is offered for the price conscious6.
Portable air conditioners
These are stand-alone units that operate without installation in a window. They exhaust through a vent hose that can be run through any opening to the outside. The ZoneAire unit is a two-hose setup. One hose exhausts heated air and the other draws outside air in. This is an advantage over single hose units and allows, according to their specs, “40% faster cooling.” The unit is portable, but requires outside venting. Condensation is handled without a drain hose – the unit uses water that builds up to add evaporative cooling. There is a tank for overflow as well and the unit will shut down if this fills up to avoid overflow and possible water damage to the floor/carpet. The ZoneAire can be run as a fan or dehumidifier without venting. The cooling function requires venting and a window adapter kit is included.
Anti-microbial filters are installed in Friedrich portable air conditioners and these are washable. These are also (like most of Friedrich’s product line) certified by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers.
Criticisms of the portable units are usually due to attempting to use them to cool an area larger than what they were designed for. Since the smallest of the Friedrich line is 9,300 BTU (a 20ft by 20ft room) this is less of an issue than with other, smaller portable units. However, consumers who expect a portable unit to cool a large area (especially with high ceilings and high air exchange with other areas) will be disappointed. Like most issues, this can and should be resolved by consulting a licensed HVAC technician prior to purchase and installation. A size guide can be found here.
While the product lines above can be adapted to commercial use, Friedrich also offers a line of split systems that feature extremely small interior footprints and zoning. The interior units are fed with refrigerant from an outside condenser and require no ductwork. Each interior cassette has a separate thermostat and temperature control, increasing efficiency and reducing operating costs significantly. These units are also available as heat pumps – they can cool in the summer and heat in the winter.
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