LESLIE: Luke in Kansas, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
LUKE: We recently just bought a limestone house. And the previous owners had completely remodeled everything and with new plumbing, new electrical, new windows, new – pretty much new everything. The only thing that they didn’t do to this house was the heating-and-air-conditioning unit.
And the unique thing about this house is the upstairs and the downstairs are both heated and cooled with two different units. The upstairs unit is an ‘84 model and the downstairs unit is a ‘93 model. And what I’m wanting to do is I’m wanting to take those completely out and kind of make it more efficient. But I don’t know, really, what to do or where to go or how. What should I do?
TOM: OK. So first of all, when you say more efficient, you want to remove these heating systems now and make it a single zone? Is that what you want to do?
LUKE: Yes. Since each of the floors are individually heated and cooled, I didn’t know whether I should take those completely out and put two brand-new heating-and-cooling units in or if I should try to make the whole house just one unit.
TOM: Yeah. No, you should definitely leave the two zone because this actually is a much more desirable way and frankly, a more efficient way. Because, typically, when you have one heating system, it’s always like the upstairs is a little warmer than you want it to be or the downstairs is a little colder than you want it to be. It may never – even if it’s reasonably well-balanced, you still get these inconsistencies based on weather conditions and wind. Having two zones – having two separate pieces of equipment running this – is definitely the way to go.
Now, I’m sorry, did you say this was forced-air? Gas-fired? Is that what it is? Or what kind of …?
LUKE: No, this is central heat and air. Central heat and air for both.
TOM: No, I understand that but what’s your fuel? Is it electric heat? Is it gas heat?
LUKE: Natural gas.
TOM: Natural gas. OK. Yeah. Perfect. So you have two compressors, you have two furnaces. If you want to update those, certainly go ahead and do that. Make sure you’re putting in high-efficiency ENERGY STAR-qualified units. And you don’t have to do them both at the same time. You might want to do that ‘84 unit first – from 1984 first, OK?
LUKE: OK. The other question is: do I need to change any of the ductwork for that?
TOM: Nope. Probably not. No, what you have to change is you have to change the outside compressor and the inside furnace and the evaporator coil, which is attached to it, at the same time. Because when it comes to air conditioning, the evaporator coil has to match the compressor outside.
TOM: So if it doesn’t match, then it’s not going to be as efficient.
LUKE: Well, what kind of efficient – should I go like a 90 percent, 95 percent?
TOM: I would say to get as – get the most efficiency you can afford. But remember that if you’re going to be there short-term, you may never get the payback on it. If you’re going to be there long-term, chances are you might. So, you have to really identify what the most important outcome of this is.
If you’re in a house that’s – you’re going to be there for five years because you’re expecting to move or to transfer to whatever, I’d probably, frankly, wouldn’t put in the very most expensive unit because I’m never going to get the payback on that. But if it’s something where this is the house that I’m going to be in for the next 20-plus years, then maybe I would. So, make the determination but just keep those numbers in mind.
LUKE: OK. And what about thermostats? There’s digital thermostats right now but should I just – since I’m replacing everything, should I just go ahead and replace the thermostats, too, just to …
TOM: I would. Not that you have to replace that as a control mechanism but there’s so many advantages to new thermostats today. You know, they’re Wi-Fi-enabled and so you could operate them kind of as a remote control, whether you’re sitting on the couch or you’re away driving home from work.
You can have thermostats that are geo-fenced today, which means you choose the perfect temperature setting for when you get in that house. And as you’re approaching your house, because you’re out on an errand or coming home from work – and you could set it so that, hey, when I get 10 miles from my house, I want the heat to be this or I want the air conditioning to be that so that when you walk in the door, it’s perfect. I mean it’s pretty cool what you can do with thermostats today.
So I think if you’re going to go for it and replace these heating systems, I would definitely replace my thermostats at the same time.
LUKE: OK. Alright, alright. Hey, thank you very much. Appreciate that.