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Question DetailsAsked on 4/21/2014

Installing Air Conditioning in an older house

This is a two level townhouse, 1400sq ft with no basement. It has a gas boiler based heating system but no air conditioning/ no ducts. What kind of AC system should I look into? Does it make sense to keep the boiler for heating? I am looking at different options but if anyone has experience I'd really appreciate your input.

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Voted Best Answer

By boiler, I presume you mean either steam heat, or hydronic (baseboard/infloor loop) heating.

If boiler is in good shape and not real old, no reason to not keep it - however, that rules out a central air installation, where you have forced air heating with integral A/C. However, going with a central heat/AC system also means putting in larger ducts, which can be tough in a retrofit without basement or fair clearance crawlspace.

For stand-alone A/C you can have a central AC unit with ducting (usually round, flexible air vent or conduit for a retrofit) running cooled air to the different rooms, use a mini-split system with in-room evaporators running off a central (outside) compressor unit with flexible compressed gas tubing running from the outdoor unit to the individual wall-mounted evaporator/fan units in each room desired (typically up to 4 rooms per outside unit), or use distributed individual room units which are basically independent units like window air conditioners, but can be installed in the wall instead, with minimal in-room space taken up - commonly just a few inches sticking out of the upper portion of an outside wall in each room so served. You say no basement - if no crawlspace either, then an outdoors or attic mounted mini-split would probably be the first thought, though for only 1400SF if you need only light air conditioning because you are not in a really hot area, just an individual unit in one room on each floor might do the job for you.

Search the List for HVAC contractors and have a few come give you their opinion on options - I would talk options first and have them take the necessary measurements needed to size the system, but tell them to hold off on bids till you talk to several about WHAT type of system you need. Then ask for bids from all you are going to get bids from (typically 3) for that specific type and size of system you want - and brandname too, if picky about that. That way you will not be comparing apples and oranges, with one maybe quoting central ducted air, one mini-split, one individual room units.

Hard to generically compare the different types of units, but generally for a retrofit like yours central costs more but has longest life, mini-split in the middle cost and life wise, and individual room units are like window air conditioners - generally shortest life, and like a reefer - don't justify putting in a lot of maintenance cost before you just replace them if they go bad.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD

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