Best Heating and Cooling Options for a Victorian House
LESLIE: Diane in North Carolina’s got an old home that needs some new heat. What can we help you with?
DIANE: Yes, hi. My husband and I are restoring a 1904 Victorian …
TOM: Ooh, sounds nice.
DIANE: … that’s never had a central heating or air conditioning system of any type. They relied on fireplaces for their heat. We have 11-foot-high ceilings and we also have a very deep crawl space where we’re thinking of probably the best place to install a system. The problem is we really are in a quandary as to whether to go with gas forced air or electric, based on which would be more efficient and cost effective.
TOM: Gas. (chuckling) Yeah. Electric’s going to be more expensive than gas. If I had the option – if I had the option to go gas or electric I’m always going to go gas; high efficiency gas, that is.
Now, you’re definitely committed to forced air as opposed to hot water, which would be more traditional for that house.
DIANE: Yes. Since it was never there before it would probably be a little difficult to do the boiler (INAUDIBLE).
TOM: Well, it’s going to be hard to do it regardless because if you’re going to try to do air conditioning you’re going to have to get those ducts up to the top of those 11-foot ceilings as well so that you get enough air flow out of there to cool that house. So …
DIANE: So you wouldn’t suggest putting them in the floor?
TOM: Not if you have an 11-foot ceiling. You’re going to have to get some ducts up higher on the wall …
DIANE: Oh, I see.
TOM: … because you’re not going to be able to blow up enough cold air off that floor …
TOM: … so that when you walk around, you know, with your head at the five-foot mark or six-foot mark you’re not going to be feeling that temperature. When the air conditioning’s coming up from the floor the heat will work fine but the air conditioning won’t. So you’re going to have to get ducts up higher.
You know, one of the things you might want to consider is a system called SpacePak. It’s a high-velocity system which uses smaller ducts specifically designed for retrofit homes. The ducts can get up inside the walls and come out near the ceiling. And you may be able to do a combination of that and traditional forced air for the heat. So …
DIANE: Oh, I didn’t know you could do a combination.
TOM: Yes, I believe you can. It would be a separate system. It’s going to be more expensive than a standard system but I think it’s possible.
LESLIE: But if you go with a standard system you might find in some rooms that your other – you might have either unsightly ductwork in your ceiling or you might have to lower your ceiling to hide the ductwork. Because you …
DIANE: No, we wouldn’t want to do that.
LESLIE: Exactly. Because you’re dealing with an older home. So the SpacePak is really going to be the best solution because it’s space efficient, if you will. It finds a way to fit in.
DIANE: Now, I’ve heard some people say that they’re noisy; that there can be a whistling sound with those. Do you have any information on that?
TOM: I’ve seen it installed. I’ve seen it functioning in many houses. Never noticed the noise. I, on the other hand, had a condominium once with a traditional system that was really loud. So …
TOM: … you know, I think you can be noisy in any case. In the situation that you have with 100-year-old house you’re trying to restore, the workmanship here is going to be critical. The workmanship in terms of being able to hide the duct system …
TOM: … and the workmanship in terms of being able to design a system that’s going to work properly in the heating and the cooling mode is really what you want to look for. So make sure that when you search for a contractor you’ve got somebody that truly has the skills to take care of the aesthetics as well as the functionality.
DIANE: That’s – yes, that’s very important. The house has protective covenants because it’s very historical. So that would be very important. So I really appreciate the advice. I think that’s what we’ll do.
TOM: You’re very welcome, Diane. Thanks for calling The Money Pit.