The brand name Fujitsu is unfamiliar to Americans, but the company is global in scope and maintains a high level of service and quality. Like many other Japanese conglomerates, the air conditioner arm is but one of several divisions of Fujitsu. Their interest in AC stems from a history in electronics and IT. One of the critical areas of computer technology is keeping large server farms cool – overheating is death for high-end electronics. As a worldwide player, they have established a manufacturing facility in India for air conditioners, leveraging the lower labor costs to remain competitive in other markets.1
The Fujitsu heat pump line focuses on mini split systems. These have a compressor and heat exchanger outside the building which is connected to a smaller unit inside. The inside unit has a fan, filter and coils used either for heating or cooling.
Fujitsu leverages several of the advantages of mini-split systems. The first is the high SEER rating possible when an inside unit is completely insulated from the outside. Ratings can run as high as 25 or 26 SEER2 reducing operation costs considerably. The trade-off comes with a higher initial cost3 for the equipment. Fujitsu’s Halcyon brand (offered in the US) does cost more than competitors, including Sanyo.
Pricing and availability
Fujitsu sells heat pumps under the Halcyon brand name, but doesn’t offer retail sales – all sales are done through authorized dealerships. On their site, Fujitsu includes this text:4
Fujitsu doesn’t recommend buying our units online. The warranty becomes null and void for online purchases. Fujitsu General America has enforced a non-retail Internet Sales policy. Fujitsu’s full line of Halcyon ductless mini-split heating and cooling products specifically excludes products purchased through on-line retailers and resellers. Fujitsu does not authorize online retail sales of any of its products.
This policy makes it difficult to do price comparisons, but it allows Fujitsu direct control over installation and warranty of their systems. Because of the restriction on sales and only letting certified HVAC professionals install their equipment, Fujitsu offers one of the best warranties in the business. On 2011 models, they give a 5 year warranty on parts and 7 years for the compressor.5
The halcyon line of heat pumps comes in several sizes, ranging from the smallest wall mounted units designed for single rooms up to large capacity units appropriate for warehouses.6
For residential use, the mini-split systems have up to four inside units that can operate in either heating or cooling mode. Units are sized at 18,000; 22,000; and 30,000 BTU. They are designed to operate in an outside temperature range (for maximum efficiency) between 95 degrees and 43 degrees Farenheit.7 Outside of this range, performance suffers.
Systems that have more than four inside units need an additional outside compressor.
- Inverter technology – This is a way to convert AC electrical power supply into DC at the point of use. The advantages are: quieter operation, smoother start-up and shut down, and less overall energy use.
- Inverter control technology -- The outdoor unit can vary its speed and output to match the required capacity of the indoor unit. This trick allows up to a 30% increase in efficiency over conventional models.
- Air cleaning and filtration – Two filters are built in to indoor cassettes. The first catches gross particulates as well as microscopic spores and airborne bacteria. It does this with an electrostatics and a special membrane. Filtration is combined with purification. Second, an ion deodorizing filter decomposes odors chemically, eliminating unwanted smells.8
- Humidity control – This feature can run independent of cooling cycles to reduce the moisture content of the air.
- Wireless remote – Because wall units can be mounted high up (aiding their cooling function) to take advantage of otherwise wasted wall space, access with a remote is a necessary convenience.
- Auto smart mode – Indoor units have the capacity to warm or cool quickly with higher fan speeds when a sudden change in temperature increases demand – as when a unit is first turned on. As temperatures normalize, the fan speed goes back to normal.
Comments from the industry and owners
Reviews are generally very good for the Halcyon line of heat pumps.9 They mention the high efficiency and the ability to do “zone control.”
Zone control is when different indoor units (all running from the same outdoor unit) are set to different temperatures, or have different demands. For example, a unit mounted in a kitchen will work much harder to cool the area than one mounted in a living room. Since each unit can be operated independently (unlike a central air system), savings can be had when some units are off while others are on.
Criticisms come in three areas. The inability to shop and purchase online (or install yourself) makes comparison shopping difficult and tends to keep prices high. Price was the second criticism, but this was offset by the quality on offer. Finally, customers looking for the maximum efficiency had to get single units – efficiency goes down when multiple indoor units were connected to the same outdoor unit.
Some complaints came when units were mismatched to usage. With professional installation, this shouldn’t be an issue, HVAC technicians should be aware of the system’s limitations. However, when local weather conditions went beyond the expected norms, the heating and cooling capacity of the units was not up to the task.
For the reasons above, most Fujitsu heat pumps are part of an overall heating and cooling plan, rather than a standalone solution. They work best in smaller apartments or living spaces instead of whole-house applications. They also work very well in office spaces that can be closed off from the rest of a larger building (single offices or conference rooms).
The most mentioned benefit of these systems was the extremely quiet operation and unobtrusiveness. Unlike wall units that are loud and visible, the indoor cassette of a Halcyon system is a very small profile, clean and tasteful looking design. They actually enhance, rather than detract, from interior décor.