add central air to a radiator heat house? (Pittsburgh: 2014, how much)
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has anyone ever had this done? how did it work? how much did it cost? I have average 2 br house built in the 40s with radiator / boiler heat and i want to get AC. no exixting duct work in the house.
I have heard anywhere from 3-4k to 10k. and i really would not like to gut the whole house to do it
We've looked at it a couple times, although never did it, and the pricing varies a lot depending on the approach you want to take. The cheapest approach basically involves running ducts up the corners of your rooms in boxes and painting them to "blend in". A less intrusive approach is to use high-velocity ducts that are much smaller and can fit between studs, but that is also pretty expensive and still may involve some wall and trim work. Another thing you can do is use a system which has hoses running up the outside of your house to head units which are cut into your walls, usually right above windows (personally we really couldn't see the advantage of that over window units). Yet another thing you can do is install the compressor up top with vents into the spaces immediately below, and hope convection helps cool the lower floors.
Generally speaking, it's not worth it to install central air into old houses, as you need to either be okay with exposed duct work, or butcher your house. Many of the worst elements of Pittsburgh home "improvements" from the middle of the 20th century are from attempting central air. need to hide the ducts? Drop ceiling! Uh, oh, the drop ceiling is below the window level! Let's take out the windows and put in something smaller!
Mind you, your house is a bit newer than many in Pittsburgh, so you might have a bit more room to spare. Probably the least damaging way people send ducts through a house is in the closets, as these are pretty easily hidden.
You can get free estimates from a reputable hvac company, so bring a couple in and see what they have to say. 3k is about the cost of a good a/c unit alone, much less the installation and ductwork. I would go with the ductless mini split myself. You have to run a few pipes on the exterior which isn't a big deal for most applications. You end up with a small unit that somewhat resembles a window unit in how it looks (but smaller and quieter) in the rooms. That's what we will be doing when we eventually add a/c to our third floor (first two have traditional ductwork).
I have a 1500 sq foot house and was quoted $8000 for the whole job. It really depends on how easily they can fit ductwork into your existing structure (usually through closets) and how much you want to spend on the compressor. Haven't had it done yet though.
I installed A/C in my home and had no where to run ductwork much at all. On top of that my attic is finished, so I couldn't even break that all up for the air handler. I did this job with a friend of mine who has installed 100's of them.
1. Do you have an attic?
2. If no attic, do you have crawl spaces upstairs?
If you have an attic, you can usually run the ductwork up there and create runs to each room below. You can possibly only have the A/C in the upstairs, if you want to go cheap. If you want the first floor to have A/C you will have to run duct work down through existing closets, or behind them. Yes, that is sometimes possible. There are three choices of A/C to use for your home:
1. Conventional A/C. This is the cheapest and one of the best methods, but it takes up the most space. The smaller duct work on a conventional system is a 6" round. That is quite a big disruption. If you are in a ranch home and have an attic, then you are in great shape. If you have a two story home and you want to run the system all the way to the first floor, you will disrupt your closets quite a bit.
2. High Velocity A/C. This is the method I used because I really had NO room at all. I put the air handler in a closet on my third floor and ran a perimeter main trunk line and off that big trunk came the small 4" round ducts. This system has pros and cons. The pros are it removes humidity better than any other type of A/C, so you can have a 75 degree home and be very comfortable because the humidity is so low. A con would be they create more noise. It is an air sound from each vent. It doesn't bother me, but it might bother some really sensitive people. I am MORE than happy with my choice.
3. A split system. These are made by companies like Mitsubishi and some others. They are the ugliest systems because they look like something you would see in a hotel or whatever. The units are individually controlled and they hang on walls. They are NOT cheap either. Probably about the same price as a conventional system, but they don't disturb your home much. The lines running to them usually come from outside the home, so they also are ugly from the exterior views of your home.
If you have the room for ducts, you can go conventional. The air handlers are big and you need room for them. The duct work is big also, so you need room for them. If you have limited space, you can go high velocity. I did the job myself with a friend, but there are hvac guys that do this work. NOT MANY do high velocity, so some may talk you out of it. I can probably tell you how to find out who installs them, but that may require me to make a phone call, so if you have interest in estimates let me know. I am not for higher, sorry. My last choice would be a split system. I know This Old House did it, but YUCK! They aren't much of an option IMHO. They are the most efficient though.
Let me know if you have any more questions. I am not an armchair quarterback on this kind of work. I know the ins and outs of this subject very well. Took me 3 years to decide my system and plan it. It was money well spend. Oh and it cost me over $6K for materials alone, but my home is in the Borough, so it is larger than a 2 bedroom.
Most people chose the two air conditioning unit solution. One for the upstairs and the other for the downstairs. This eliminates the "where to put the ductwork" problem. The ductwork for the second floor is run through the attic and vents come out of the second floor ceiling. The ductwork for the first floor is run through the basement and the vents come out of first floor floors. If you chose this option, be mindful of where you place the unit in the attic. You don't want it directly over the master bedroom because it does make a slight vibrating noise.
Most people chose the two air conditioning unit solution.
Most? Not true. You do know you then need TWO of everything. Certainly not very cost effective and really that is what amateurs would do, IMHO. My A/C only disturbed a couple of closets and barely did that. 5 of my first floor runs are totally hidden. You just need to find someone that knows what they are doing. Sadly, there aren't many that do. Most are going to force a conventional system in your home no matter what, because they don't understand the other systems.
My house was built at least 100 years ago and we have central air which we got a year ago (that worked out considering how hot it got). My house however was modernized to be made liveable significantly in the mid 1980's so it wasn't too hard to add central air since we already had central heat.
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