Many older homes were built pre-central heat and air. This is a luxury that many of us have to enjoy and when moving into an older we find that this luxury is also a necessity. We tend to lose tolerance for heat as we grow older and those old window air conditioning units just look tacky. However, the whole idea of having to add ducts to a home can sound difficult and expensive, but it is easier than you might think.
Central heat and air uses a primary heating appliance such as a furnace that is often located in an area such as a small closet, basement or garage. These systems deliver heat throughout the house through pumped warm air through a system of air ducts or by sending hot water or steam through pipes to room radiators. In newer homes, the system is usually built in with the home. The duct system may be set up with an air conditioner, heat pump, or furnace. There are also two types of systems including a forced air system and a gravity system. Gravity systems, however, do not provide air conditioning and can only provide heat. If your system includes an air conditioner, then the system is a forced-air system.
Air conditioners and heat pumps are forced air systems that share ductwork. The air conditioner runs on electricity and removes heat from air through refrigeration. The heat pump is capable of providing both heating and cooling. In the winter, the heat pump extracts the heat from outside air and delivers it into the home. In the summer it does the opposite. It extracts the cool air and pumps it into the home. These systems tend to be very economical and use only one duct system.
Many central air conditioners are split systems with a condenser outside and the fan and coil unit mounted in the attic. This means that the ducts will originate in the attics. The challenge here is if the home is two stories. It can be difficult to get the supply and return ducts to the first floor. The second floor will generally have ducts that run through the attic floor, while the first floor will need to have ducts run through closets. This takes up less space than some may think and the mess can be minimal. The contractor will need to cut holes in the first and second floor ceilings and some second floor closets will need to be used for running ducts.
This work will be well worth it in the long run when your home is kept cool in the summer and warm in the winter. If you have an older home, especially one with two stories, it can be difficult to spend anytime upstairs during the summer. The upstairs rooms will hold a large amount of heat and will definitely benefit from central heat and air. In the winter it is often difficult to keep first floors warm because the heat rises. Central heat will make your first floor rooms much more comfortable.
By Christopher Brown
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