Adding a/c to a home with boiler heat

metromomDecember 11, 2008

Has anyone added a/c to a house that didn't have ductwork? I have gotten several estimates and each of the HVAC companies has had a completely different approach - I have no idea how to determine which will be most effective. Anyone have any experience or words of wisdom?

I have a 2600 sf center entrance colonial style home with a full attic and basement. It was built in the late 60s and has boiler heat which we are happy with, but we would like to add a/c.

Guy #1 is a family friend who owns the local Trane franchise. He did not come inside but told us to expect to do two completely separate systems, one in the basement for the first floor and one in the attic for the second floor.

Guy #2 says guy #1 is right but that if we put an air handler in the attic and use it to cool the second floor, it will do a good enough job for the whole house (because it will suck enough humidity out of the air to make the whole house comfortable). We could always add a second system later, but he feels confident we won't want to.

Guy #3 wants to put one air handler in the basement, run ductwork in the basement for the first floor and then shoot up through closets to the attic and branch out from there and down into the second floor bedrooms. The whole house would be on one thermastat.

Guy #4 says a new furnace wouldn't be much more expensive than the air handler, so he wants to rip out the boiler system and replace it with zoned gas-forced heat and air.

I have no idea how to evaluate the pros and cons of each of these methods. My main concern is that we get a system that can effectively cool the house. HAving done this once before (in a previous home, we ripped out a boiler and replaced with gas-forced air - we hired Sears to do it and were not happy with the results - ducts got placed where it was expedient and not necessarily where they would heat and cool well, and as a result, we had an inefficient and ineffective system for both heating and cooling - long story short, I don't want to make that mistake again - but how do I evaluate which of these guys has the best solution?

Thanks in advance for any advice

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I would stay away from guy 3. That's a LOT of ductwork to try to get air to the second floor from a unit in the basement. I wouldn't attempt it like that. I've seen far too many systems like that that are failures from the get go.

Stay WAY the hell away from Guy 4. If you're happy with your boiler, if you're comfortable in winter, leave it alone. Don't try to fix what isn't broken.

I've seen multiple applications as proposed by Guy 1 and Guy 2. As for which is ultimately better, I don't know.

Where are you located? What are your summers like? That could make a big difference on how you approach this.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2008 at 4:25PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I agree that 1 and 2 are the ways to go. Of course, if Guy 2 is wrong, the worst you do is call him back to install a second system on the first floor. Since the two are totally separate, it won't save you much to do it all at once.

FWIW, we did what guy 1 said, although we also have the "attic" as a living area with A/C.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2008 at 4:31PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thank you both - I appreciate the input. As far as our summers, we are in Buffalo NY - summers are fairly temperate with about 10 or so days where it's 90 degrees and muggy and you're dying for a/c, and much of the rest of the year you're fine without it. But I don't want to spend several thousand dollars to install a system and then have it not be effective on those 10 days.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2008 at 5:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I agree that 3 and 4, especially 4 should not be considered, since hot water heating is vastly superior and more efficient than hot air heating.
However, since you are talking only about 10 days and assuming you spend most days and evenings downstairs, it would make the most sense to do that first with the basement ducting and consider a few window units upstairs, if needed.Or opt later for the second unit if you are still not satisfied.Dropping cold air down using #2 in my view is problematical and if it doesn't do a good job, you are stuck with an oversized unit for the upstairs. which will make the total job more costly and will not be very good.
BTW,I had a similar house in Connecticut where it is a lot warmer than Buffalo and used an attic fan at night ( most nights are cool)to comfortably cool the sleeping area.2 large sleeve units (which we inherited) noisily cooled our downstairs area. I was thinking of changing to central air for the downstairs, when my wife decided it was time to move.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2008 at 10:56PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Actually, I'm thinking that for a Buffalo application, a minisplit system with individual room air handlers might be the way to go.

Far less disruption to the envelope of the house.

No, not quite as good as far as terms of coverage, but overall not bad.

And, given that you're in Buffalo, NEVER get rid of your baseboard hot water! NEVER!

    Bookmark   December 12, 2008 at 12:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Do not go with the mini split systems, not because they won't work well, but because each air handler sticks out about 8" off the wall.
The best way to go would be the seperate systems for the upstairs and downstairs. You will be able to condition the spaces seperately, and you will be much happier with the outcome.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2008 at 5:12PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I agree with tlewis hvac and if you don't listen then by all means stay away from the Mitsubishi line, especially the multi evap models. To complicated and exotic and way overcontrolled for a residential system. It may cause you aggrivation or loss of spare finances.
For my money I'd pick door number one. In order to remove moisture from the air you have to pass that moist air across the evap coil of the air conditioner. So unless he plans on installing adequate returns to your lower floor there is no way that cool air trickling down your stairway is going to feel comfortable on a hot humid day. And returns are useless without supply registers. I think door number two isn't much sharper then 3 or 4 when it comes to A/C!

    Bookmark   December 17, 2008 at 7:49PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I live mid-CT and have set up #3 single zone for a 2 story colonial around 2400sqft with air handler in the basement. i was very worried but it works w/o any problems during the summer. the system gets my home down to 69-70 when i want to be freezing. im no expert but given the short summers do you really need 2 zones.

have they done a manual J to determine cooling needs?
ignore #4. i think hot water heat is the best and wouldnt trade it.

good luck.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2008 at 2:39PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Re: metromom

WeÂve just completed a retrofit in a home that had/has radiant heating, no duct work, that now has with one compact geothermal unit, radiant (water) central heating, central cooling (with the same water), AND domestic hot water at a tremendous energy savings. Each new heat exchanger is individually controlled creating multiple zones throughout the entire home.

This no doubt is a high-end system. However, youÂre looking at spending a lot of money anyway for what you want to do. So forget Guys # 1 ~ 4, forget ducts and forced air and think geothermal (the most efficient & greatest added value and comfort to your home) and think water which you already have!



    Bookmark   December 19, 2008 at 10:51AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
advice about replacing furnace
I have a 1000 square foot rental house with a 40 year...
Ann Weaver
Maytag/Nordyne/Nortek HVAC
Wanted to share my HVAC experience. Hopefully save...
Central Air OR Mini-Split
Hello everyone, We bought our house 2 years ago (1938...
New HVAC install in So Cal
Hi Everyone, I just got a quote from Home Depot contractor....
Does Air Duct Cleaning really help?
We live in a 40 year old home with a forced air gas...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™