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Old 01-13-2014, 09:36 AM
 
15 posts, read 67,694 times
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I'm looking at a house that has radiators for heat and no central air. If I were to buy it, I would likely want to install ductwork and A/C. House is about 2000 sq ft. Has anyone done this? Anyone have some idea of what it might cost to have this done?
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Old 01-13-2014, 11:57 AM
 
Location: Sneads Ferry, NC
13,371 posts, read 27,034,756 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LauraMM View Post
I'm looking at a house that has radiators for heat and no central air. If I were to buy it, I would likely want to install ductwork and A/C. House is about 2000 sq ft. Has anyone done this? Anyone have some idea of what it might cost to have this done?
Is this a ranch with an accessible attic? If you could install the unit in the attic, it will be cheaper than doing a 2-story house.

You should investigate the "ductless" units made by Mitsubishi. They are very efficient and one does not have to install the huge ducts needed for a traditional system. My ballpark guess is $4000-10,000, based on the design of the house, where they have to punch through the studs, etc.

We added one of the mini-split systems to the space over our garage, and it works very well.
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Old 01-13-2014, 12:19 PM
 
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Thank you! The ductless systems look great, but it seems that they are usually only used for smaller areas, add-ons, etc. Do you know if an entire house can be done with one of the ductless systems?

It's not a ranch, unfortunately. It's two levels, plus attic and basement. The basement and attic are both unfinished, so I supposed we could run ducts through those?
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Old 01-13-2014, 04:38 PM
 
Location: Sneads Ferry, NC
13,371 posts, read 27,034,756 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LauraMM View Post
Thank you! The ductless systems look great, but it seems that they are usually only used for smaller areas, add-ons, etc. Do you know if an entire house can be done with one of the ductless systems?
I believe I had seen pictures of a 2-store 1930's house in Baltimore County. It was retro-fitted with one of the ductless systems. I believe the cooling tubes ran through the external sidewalls and there had to be drilling and patching done.

If the house is in a very desirable location, I think it could be worth the money to retrofit it.
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Old 01-13-2014, 10:37 PM
 
Location: annandale, va & slidell, la
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It's done all the time, and cost can vary greatly depending on how difficult your job is. Assuming there will be an air-handler in your attic, there will be ceiling supplies in the the upstairs rooms fed by flex ducts from the main supply plenum.

Getting supplies down to the first floor rooms gets a little more tricky, often having to box-in ducts with soffits, or hiding ducts inside closets, etc. At least you already have a heat source--adding that as well would change everything.
It's a lot of labor, but every HVAC contractor does this type of retrofit. There will be a lot of dust and disruption as it's a very dirty job. If the house is old, it may have lath & plaster walls--more cost and mess.

Does the house have an up to date electric panel? Is there capacity in the panel for an additional two 2-pole breakers?
You may need a service increase if not. (Another $1,500-2,000)

$8-12,000 wouldn't surprise me. Also, expect bids to differ by many thousands of dollars, because of how each contractor chooses to tackle the job.

Regardless, the house needs the upgrade. We can't live without A/C, and nobody likes to see or hear window units.
Good luck.
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Old 01-13-2014, 10:48 PM
 
Location: annandale, va & slidell, la
9,267 posts, read 5,117,757 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by goldenage1 View Post
I believe I had seen pictures of a 2-store 1930's house in Baltimore County. It was retro-fitted with one of the ductless systems. I believe the cooling tubes ran through the external sidewalls and there had to be drilling and patching done.

If the house is in a very desirable location, I think it could be worth the money to retrofit it.
I think you are describing the UNICO or SPACEPAC systems using the specialized 3-inch ducting. They do work, but are more expensive because of the materials. No less disruptive in my opinion. Only benefit is small, less visible outlets. However, you need more of them per room.
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Old 01-14-2014, 01:45 AM
 
Location: Sneads Ferry, NC
13,371 posts, read 27,034,756 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by finalmove View Post
I think you are describing the UNICO or SPACEPAC systems using the specialized 3-inch ducting. They do work, but are more expensive because of the materials. No less disruptive in my opinion. Only benefit is small, less visible outlets. However, you need more of them per room.
Thank you. I think it was UNICO. The other benefit is that don't disturb the beauty of a historic house (if you have one).
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Old 01-14-2014, 09:01 AM
 
15 posts, read 67,694 times
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Thanks, all! I'll look into both UNICO and conventional.
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Old 01-14-2014, 11:46 AM
 
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Go with window units. I grew up in a 2 story colonial and we cooled the whole thing with 2 sometimes three units. But the units and mount them in the windows. You could hit the store at 9 am and have it all done by 2 pm if not sooner.
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Old 01-14-2014, 02:13 PM
 
429 posts, read 1,162,282 times
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LauraMM,

We were in the same situation as you. We bought an older house that had steam radiators and no central air. We had window units, but definitely wanted to get rid of them. They were noisy, inefficient, and blocked our views. They are also a great entry point for burglars. We have two floors of living space and a finished basement as well as a very small attic space. Last year, we decided to upgrade our air conditioning and had to make a choice between conventional, "ductless" (also known as ductless mini split), and high pressure (Unico or Spacepac). All three options were going to be expensive.

We decided against conventional because of the lost space and the disruption and mess of ductwork construction. Although the cost of the equipment would have been relatively low, the construction costs would have been very high. Also, the unit would not have been very efficient in our not-very-well-insulated old house.

We had been in a B &B with the high pressure system and the owners were very pleased with it. The costs of the equipment are fairly high. Installation costs will vary depending on your house construction, but the end result generally looks very good. We saw mixed reviews from other people, though, and understand that good system design and installation is really critical. Not many local companies have a lot of experience with high pressure.

In the end, we chose to go with ductless split units for the whole house. We ended up with six air handlers connected to two outside units. There are some downsides to ductless split units. In my view, the biggest are that the equipment costs are relatively high, there aren't many installers with good experience in the area, and the air handlers are visually obtrusive. On the positive side, ductless installation was the least disruptive, is extremely efficient, and you can turn it on and off like lights when you're not using a room. This was a big advantage for us since our house isn't very energy efficient. The units can also be reversed and used as heaters. We like our steam radiators, but the units were useful to give a boost to the heat for an hour or two before going to sleep during the recent polar vortex...

I wouldn't let lack of central air deter me from buying a house I otherwise love (we didn't). But, if the cost of installation is going to be a big issue for you (keep in mind that you probably won't be able to put it into your mortgage), you might want to get some estimates for the specific property before making your offer. Installing ductless cost us much more than the $8 - 12,000 estimated above, and high pressure would have cost even more than ductless. We did not get estimates for conventional because we didn't want the disruption, but I doubt we would have gotten away much cheaper given the large amount of construction that installing ductwork would have involved. We had three estimates from well-established, highly rated local companies with good experience with high pressure and ductless and their estimates ranged from expensive to stratospheric. Despite the high cost, we've been happy with our choice of ductless, but I wouldn't want you to be badly shocked if your actual cost comes in much higher than you might think.
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