Even though the Cobourg area doesn’t get all that hot in the summer months, having a working air conditioning system can still greatly improve your home’s comfort. The only issue is that many people are unsure as to whether it’s possible to upgrade an old home with a central air conditioning system and whether it’s actually worth the cost. This largely depends on the layout of your home and what type of existing HVAC system you have as central air is not always compatible with all older homes. The good news is that you still have another option for cooling your home if central air won’t work, and here is a full overview of the factors that will determine whether an old home can be upgraded with central air and alternative options if an upgrade isn’t possible.

Ductwork Considerations

The biggest factor in determining if you should or even can upgrade an old home with central air conditioning is whether or not the house has an existing ductwork system. If your home does have any type of ducted heating, then you can easily upgrade to a central air conditioning system without much issue.

Most newer homes have a ducted heating system. Installing a complete ductwork system in an old home can be extremely expensive and time-consuming and will almost always require major construction and renovations. There are also many times when installing ductwork just isn’t possible simply because there isn’t sufficient room for all of the ducts.

If there is sufficient room for all of the ductwork in your home, you can definitely install central air conditioning if you’re willing to go through the hassle and expense. If you decide to go this route, keep in mind that the central AC unit or heat pump and all of the ductwork can be costly.

You may also need to upgrade your electrical panel as well, depending on how many amps it provides. Many older homes have 60-amp service, which simply isn’t powerful enough to run a new AC unit or heat pump and will result in your electrical system struggling to power everything you need. In this case, you will usually need to upgrade to an electrical panel that provides at least 100-amp service to ensure your central air system works properly.

While installing a central air system in an old home that doesn’t have existing ductwork can be expensive, many people still find it well worth the cost simply because of the improved efficiency and effectiveness. This can especially be true if you choose to go with a central heat pump. It will keep your home cool all summer and potentially allow you to lower your winter heating costs by 40% or more.

Keep in mind that heat pumps aren’t efficient and can even stop working in extremely cold temperatures. Whenever the weather is too cold, you will still need to have some type of backup heating such as baseboard heaters or your existing furnace. Nonetheless, even if you were to only use your heat pump to heat your home some of the time, you’ll still end up saving quite a bit compared to your existing heating source.

Ductless Mini-Split Air Conditioning

If it’s not feasible to install ductwork in your home or you don’t want to deal with all of the construction and added expense, the other option is to have a ductless mini-split system installed. Mini-splits are a special type of heat pump system that works without needing any ductwork. Instead of relying on a central blower and ductwork to circulate air, mini-split systems have individual air handler units installed in each room of the home. All of the air handlers are connected to the mini-split heat pump outside the building, which works to supply the cold refrigerant needed for the system to remove heat from the air and cool down every room. Since a mini-split system is a heat pump, it can also switch so that it uses cold refrigerant to capture heat energy from outside to provide heating in the winter.

Most mini-split systems come with three or four air handler units. If you have a two-bedroom home, you could install an air handler in each bedroom as well as one in the kitchen and one in the living room and easily keep your entire house cool.

Some more powerful systems allow you to create anywhere from six to eight zones, each with its own air handler. This type of system could conceivably cool a larger home, but there are limits as each air handler needs to be within a certain distance of the outdoor heat pump unit. In most cases, the air handlers can be no more than 20 to 45 meters from the outdoor unit, which means it’s sometimes necessary to install two separate systems.

One of the major advantages of a mini-split system is that they don’t require any major construction work to install. In fact, most systems can be installed in as little as a day or two.

The first step is to choose the best location for the outdoor heat pump and then mount it on a pad. Each air handler is usually mounted on an exterior wall simply because this is easiest. Before mounting the unit, the technician first needs to cut a hole all the way through the wall in order to run the electrical wiring and refrigerant lines between the outdoor unit and the air handler. This hole is also used to run the condensate drain line so that all of the condensation that forms in the air handler can drain outside.

One issue some people have with mini-splits is that the air handlers are somewhat bulky and stick out from the wall. If you don’t want to have to look at the air handlers hanging on your walls, you can usually choose to mount them within the ceiling so that they are recessed and all you will see is a vent where the air is drawn in and blown back out. While this can be a better option for aesthetic reasons, it will add more to the total cost of the installation. In this case, a hole will be cut in the exterior of the building, and then, the refrigerant lines will usually run directly above the ceiling.

Despite the relative ease of installation, mini-splits still tend to be somewhat expensive and will usually cost around 20%-30% more than a central heat pump or central AC unit of the same size. Nonetheless, a mini-split system will still be quite a bit cheaper compared to having to install an entire ductwork system and a central AC or heat pump.

At Comfort Zone Heating & Air Conditioning, we specialize in HVAC installation, and our team can help if you need a new central AC unit, heat pump, ductless mini-split, furnace, or ductwork system. If you need HVAC repairs, maintenance, or any plumbing service in Cobourg or the surrounding areas, we can assist with that as well. For more information or to schedule a consultation to see if central air is right for your home, contact us today.

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