Installing an air condenser on ICF foundation

ontariomomFebruary 16, 2013

Hi all,

We are in the process of finishing a large addition to our home. The basement of the addition has ICF for the foundation. The HVAC guys were asked to install the air condenser on the ICF part of the foundation. We were shocked when we came home to see that they had instead installed the air condenser with metal supports through the old part of our standard foundationn (3 feet away from where we had asked). This places the air condenser right under our kitchen window and blocks the light partly from the basement bathroom window. Their explanation for why they had not installed it in our chosen location on the ICF part of the foundation, was the ICF styrofoam would have not allowed a strong contact point for the metal braces to meet the wall, and that this connection would have become loose over time as the condenser unit vibrated.

Have you any suggestions for how we could get it re-installed in the ICF part of the foundation. Should we be looking at a concrete support pad to mount it on rather than the metal brackets?

TIA!

Carol

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audiomixer

They just didn't do their homework...or didn't want to. There are several systems designed to mount into ICF. For instance: http://www.strongtie.com/products/connectors/icfvl.asp

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 5:15PM
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ontariomom

Thanks audiomixer for you idea. Should this kind of system have been installed before we poured the concrete into the ICF forms, or can we still use it at this stage?

Our framer, suggested cutting into the ICF and putting in pressure treated lumber in the areas where the brackets will go. He said if we cover the pressure treated with cement board, when parged, we would not see the pressure treated lumber. Would this work?

Carol

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 5:29PM
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audiomixer

The connectors are designed for use before the pour. Sorry about that since it doesn't do you much good now. The PT wood might be an alternative and that could be mounted to the concrete, but then again so could the brackets themselves.

Now about the pad. Why not just place the condensing unit on a pad away from the house ? I see several advantages to this: 1. Eliminate all vibration noise into the structure. 2. No need to cut into the foam casing. 3. Isolate the noise better. 4. Ease of maintenance. 5. More options for location.

Usually the "pad" is a preformed composite pad (concrete/fiber) that sits on top of a gravel base. The whole condenser and base should be about 12"+ away from the house or bushes, etc. (depends on the manufacturer specs.).

Whether or not you can do this and how, depends on the type of AC condenser and residential, local or Provincial building codes. You or someone needs to check those.

Pad example: http://www.diversitech.com/Product-Line?id=a0jC0000005QcwnIAC

If you can use a pad, then I think that is the best alternative.

Here is a link that might be useful: US Gov energy website

This post was edited by audiomixer on Sat, Feb 16, 13 at 23:52

    Bookmark   February 16, 2013 at 11:37PM
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ontariomom

Thanks audiomixer for the clarification about the Strongtie system. I like the idea of a pad, but wondered if they work with bigger condensers. Our framer thought pads were normally used for smaller condensers, but he was not sure. Our unit is the Goodman SSX14 2.5 ton air conditioning. What do you think?

Carol

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 10:34AM
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ryanhughes

No problem at all setting an SSX14 on a pad, reinforced plastic or concrete. I don't know of any residential outdoor split unit that couldn't be. The pads are designed to handle the weight of the unit (obviously some pads are better suited for larger units than others).

This post was edited by ryanhughes on Sun, Feb 17, 13 at 10:45

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 10:38AM
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ontariomom

Thanks ryanhughes for your comments. We will look into the pad. If we use a pad, is there any issue with snow, as I am from southern Ontario, Canada (weather like Baffalo, NY).

Carol

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 10:55AM
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ryanhughes

Carol,

If this was a heat pump (it isn't -- the SSX14 is an air conditioner), then the heat pump would be raised off the pad 3-6" by using "pump ups." Sometimes the units can be raised even higher for extreme climates. Contrary to some misconception, the primary purpose these "legs" serve is to allow the heat pump to have proper drainage during its defrost cycle, not so much to raise the unit above the snow, although that is one purpose and is important for heat pumps in the winter time. In your case, since the air conditioner obviously won't be running in the wintertime, you could simply shovel the snow around it, as there would be no performance issues with the snow as there would be with a heat pump. I have seen air conditioners also set on pump-ups -- it really is a matter of preference. If you wanted the unit raised a bit off the ground, then your dealer should have no problems doing that for you.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 11:12AM
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ontariomom

Thanks for the extra info ryanhughes!

We have also been told that the ground will settle around the house over time. We had re-grading/sodding done after the cladding material was put on (this occured in early Dec). If we use a pad now, will it continue to sink into the ground. Our soil is very sandy. I'm assuming these pads are used all the time for new builds with the same settling situation right?

Carol

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 6:59PM
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fsq4cw

OntarioMom:

The ground is likely to settle or shift over time - especially in Canada with our severe weather. Wall mounting is preferred.

Ryanhughes:

The primary purpose of a wall mounted or pad mounted stand is to keep the HP out of the snow as well as for drainage. You may not live in a climate like Canada; no one wants to shovel out their HP, thatâÂÂs absurd!

SR

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 8:16PM
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ontariomom

Hi fsq4cw,

Thanks for your comments. Just to clarify it is an condenser unit from an air conditioner that I want to put on a pad if suitable to the situation. It is not a heat pump. Our previous condenser sat on a pad (just a pre-cast walkway piece on some gravel) and we never once shoveled. However, this was a much smaller unit as our house at the time was only 1100 square feet. fsq4cw, do you feel we should avoid putting this condenser on a pad?

Carol

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 8:40PM
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ryanhughes

fsq4cw: You are right, except the OP stated she has an air conditioner, not a heat pump.

I still see no issue with setting the air conditioner on a pad.

This post was edited by ryanhughes on Tue, Feb 19, 13 at 14:20

    Bookmark   February 18, 2013 at 11:36PM
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fsq4cw

ryanhughes:

YouâÂÂre also right. The OP did mention A/C not HP.

OntarioMom:

I have seen properly built pads that have not shifted in our climate even after many years. As with the rest of the system, proper installation is the key whether pad or wall mounted. I would prefer wall mount.

SR

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 12:45AM
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ontariomom

Thanks to both of you.

Yes, I see the advantages of wall mount due to ground shifting. It is just that wall mount will require cutting into our ICF and patching with pressure treated to mount brackets. Cutting into the ICF is a bit of a con as well. We will see what the contractor prefers. Sounds like if we do pad, we will need to wait until spring.

Carol

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 6:54AM
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fsq4cw

I think in your case any choice will be a compromise of some sort. You just have to weigh the pros and cons to see whatâÂÂs best for you. Another pro for wall mounting is a neater lawn and easier maintenance of the edge of the lawn near the foundation.

SR

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 10:19AM
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fsq4cw

How are you heating your home? I would presume gas forced air if youâÂÂre in a large urban centre. How old is the rest of your system? How did you arrive at choosing an air-conditioner instead of a heat pump, particularly with Smart Meters becoming more prevalent? Does your home have any zoning? Had you considered geothermal or any type of solar? WhatâÂÂs your electrical/gas rate? How much energy do you use on an annual basis? What are your projected energy usages (cubic metres of gas & kWhr) and costs? How many square feet total, on how many levels is your home?

Just askingâ¦

SR

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 10:47AM
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weedmeister

I think the pad should be fine. I prefer concrete over plastic, but its not that big a deal. I would however suggest elevating the unit a bit for drainage.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 6:13PM
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ontariomom

Hi fsq4cw,

Here are some answers to your questions. We will be heating through hydronic in-floor heat. We also will have access to a hydronic coil on our air condenser to supplement the heat if necessary. We are not sure if we will do the in-floor on our bedroom level, so may need the hydronic coil on the air handler (natural gas forced air) to supplement the in-floor. Our house will be 3000 square feet when done, with full basement, main floor and upper floor. We also have a small section of conditioned attic that the kids will use due to low ceiling. I don't know how much the gas will cost to heat the boiler as the system is not yet done. We are currently living in a shelled in house, that we are relying on a gas fireplace and two electric construction heaters for warmth. So, we are essentially living like pioneers.

Thanks for your help.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 6:16PM
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ontariomom

Thank you weedmeister for your opinion!

Carol

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 8:34PM
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