1:34 PM 05/09/2012
Hello, Just purchased a townhome in cobble hill and we are about to begin the process of adding AC (currently there is none). We received bids on both ducted and ductless, and surprisingly the ducted was less expensive.
Has anyone done a ducted system in a brownstone, and what was the experience like? The contractor makes it sound fairly straight forward, but others have expressed concerns.
Ducted systems are often less expensive than ductless. But remember, the ducted system is going to require ceiling modifications to accommodate the ducts -- that's why people often choose ductless in a brownstone. All said and done, with all the ancillary work you will need to do, they will likely be competitive in price. But who wants to drop ceilings in a brownstone and compromise its historic integrity?
Or do a ducted system on the ground floor with the duct distribution can go in the ceiling of the cellar and do ductless for the three or so stries above.
Ed Kopel Architects
4:39 PM 05/09/2012 | 0 Votes
We often do ducted on upper floors, distributed through the closets and mini-split on the parlor and garden floors.
Also, people often forget that there is a minor box that needs to be crated to run the refrigerant and electrical lines through the room when using mini-split wall hungs that aren't mounted on the rear wall.
I'm giving away all my trade tricks ;P
4:52 PM 05/09/2012 | 0 Votes
remember that there is a third, albeit more expensive option... high velocity systems...the trunk lines are way smaller than standard ducted systems, and are far less aestetically offensive than the big plastic box in the corner that typifies the ductless system..look up spacepak and unico for more information
6:27 PM 05/09/2012 | 0 Votes
I installed a ducted ac system in the top two floors of a 3 story brownstone and there are NO dropped ceilings and NO soffits. The unit is on the roof. The job went to the guy (who I would not recommend) who was able to come up with a plan that used rectagular ducts that were dropped down through the backs of cabinets between studs. I stood there with a shotgun. It was not cheap but the cost was almost exclusively for the ac. There was only minor plaster work that needed to be done around the wall registers. If I ever want to ac the first floor (rental) I will come up through the cellar.
7:54 PM 05/09/2012 | 0 Votes
I'm going to weigh in on the side that ductless is more efficient.
Not necessarily higher SEER, although Fujitsu claims that soem of their singles (not multis) are 25SEER. In fact getting a high SEER condenser for a ducted install might be cheaper.
I believe that the greater efficiency (and reduced operating costs) comes from the "zoning" effect of only cooling certain spaces at certain times.
In my own home I do have a Unico high velocity system, and like all ducted systems it cools everywhere in the house, which is neat when it's hot outside. Because of the recirculation of air, it is levelling the normal disparities of temp due to more glazing or southern exposure etc.
But I assume that I am using more electricity for that small luxury. Yes we are HVAC contractors and it should be possible to better balance the output, but to cool certain rooms on certain hot days, other rooms are too cool with the Unico (or any ducted but not zoned system).
Brownstoner commenters detest wall hung evaporators, like they dislike recessed lighting. Technically there are ceiling mount air handlers from Fujitsu that can be ducted to a few conventional registers. Getting rid of the condensate is the part I don't like from that solution, I never trust the condensate pumps. Bear in mind, line sets ( the refrigerant tubing sets that connect an outdoor condenser with the indoor evaporator) can go up, down, all around the town. But condensate is gravity.
I hope you gain insight from my valuable comments above, but I truly have evaded your real question.
The real disadvantage of retrofit ducted cooling is the dual nature of the requirements for the techs who do the install.
Most HVAC techs (at least in NJ where we are) are pretty good with ducts and installs. With brownstone fit and finishs, not so much. A skilled tradesman in terms of brownstone sensibilities, does not know anything about HVAC.
Very little of what I am saying applies if you will have walls and ceilings open anyway. The HVAC tech sees you standing there with a shotgun and doesn't understand why he must die.But basically it's shoot him, or shoot yourself.
1:37 AM 05/10/2012 | 0 Votes
Wow, who knew HVAC and shotguns would be a developing thread? Use an architect to oversee your renovation and let them lose sleep about the duct runs.
I hate split systems and would always go for a dropped closet or hallway ceiling to avoid seeing those ugly nail salon units marring a nice parlor wall. We've also successfully run insulated ducts behind millwork when we need to reach the lower floors and there's no other route.
As Bruce brings up, the key to sucess with HVAC is zoning, which should at the very least be happening on a floor by floor basis. This way you aren't icing the kitchen when the kids bedrooms get warm on the top floor. It goes without saying that a fully programmable thermostat is also critical if you want to have any kind of environmental conscience.
11:51 AM 05/10/2012 | 0 Votes
I thought that the ductless units now can come disguised as a standard a/c vent (and not necessarily the nail salon units -- very funny image BTW). I realize that each of those units need a water drain, but other than that why would anyone not use them over ducted systems? They allow you to zone cool (or heat, I suppose, although that can't be cheap), must save on installation costs thanks to avoiding ductwork, and seem efficient. What am I missing here?
5:17 PM 05/10/2012 | 0 Votes
What you are missing is the cost. Ductwork (tin) isn't expensive, just large in cross section.
Every evaporator requires an additional line set routed from outdoor condenser to air handler. That is two pressure lines plus various electrical lines, varying with manufacturer. Line sets and air handlers add up in cost, plus each must be carefully rolled out (they come coiled). So the installation must be performed by a skilled tech, whereas duxctwork is more forgiving and often is run by "helpers".
A duct that leaks is unfortunate, but a line set that is kinked or leaking requires the evacuation of the entire system, pressure check with nitrogen, repair, pressure check again, and re-loading of new 410A. Ruins your whole day.
Just imagine the ticking bombs of condensate overflowing in your ceilings due to moths in drain? or some stupid clog two years from now. I am much more comfortable with gravity condensate drains, preferably down an exterior wall (outside).
5:40 PM 05/10/2012 | 0 Votes
can anyone recommend an hvac contractor?
1:21 PM 05/11/2012 | 0 Votes
We went high velocity (mini duct) and we're not as happy as I expected to be. We don't like the noise (and our HVAC contradctor was skilled to introduce the right number of bends in the ducts to avoid the dreaded whistling). Still, you are blowing air really fast through small openings, so you will hear it as constant wind. Also, while the individual ducts can go almost anywhere without a soffet, there are some big trunk ducts necessary, and we lsot more space than we were led to believe.
1:35 PM 05/11/2012 | 0 Votes
Just curious - can anyone share the respective costs of the individual choices? We are similarly considering the high velocity versus standard ducted air/heating system. We'll be doing a gut to a 3 story brownstone, and there aren't details on the walls to worry about salvaging. We just received a quote from one architect that indicated the cost would be anywhere from $55,000-$85,000 depending on the choice of system, but that was a great deal higher than what our contractor estimated.
2:22 PM 05/11/2012 | 0 Votes
Unico (high velocity) is pricey, and in your case wasted. Because conventional units (air handlers, not the condensers) are available in many different grades, from "builders" grade on up, they can cost less. Unico is OEM, and their only grade is excellent quality. Besides, with your walls open, the main reason to use Unico is absent.
Depending on your heat load (square footage, insulation, ceiling height, sun exposure) and guessing that this will be single family, between the ductwork, equipment , and labor, but not permits or other imperial entanglements, I can see 25-40K.
Conversely, assuming two multi mini splits, you would see 15K in parts, 10K in labor, 5K in electric, 6K in markup.
So I think 55-85 is inflated. Your mileage may vary.
12:33 AM 05/12/2012 | 0 Votes