For many, buying and renovating a historic home is a lifelong dream. There’s no denying it; older homes have some truly beautiful features that simply aren’t easily replicated, no matter how good your contractor is. Nevertheless, if you’re used to living in a more modern building, there are some drawbacks to purchasing a fixer-upper-namely regulating its inside temperature. Alas, air conditioning units were not available for non-commercial use until 1931, and central air wasn’t popularized until the 1970s. If you’re looking to bring your HVAC up-to-date, here are some handy tips to avoid spoiling the timeless look of your new abode.
1. Make Use of Existing Features
Before the discovery of evaporative cooling and the advent of Freon, our ancestors had to employ architectural elements to help insulate their homes. When working on your project, take note of these attributes. Does the house have window shutters? Porches? Awnings? Is it shaded from the sun by overhanging trees? While these things won’t render HVAC unnecessary, it will help conserve energy once your new unit is installed.
2. It’s Great to Insulate
Older buildings frequently lack decent insulation. Something as simple as installing a fiberglass or cellulose coating in your attic or basement can cut down your heating bill by up to 50 percent. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you might also want to investigate insulating the walls of your house with rolls of batting. Not only will this help keep you comfy, but it also cuts down on noise, which can be a problem in older homes with drywall or traditional lathe and plaster.
3. Use Space Wisely
Due to the unique architectural features of historic buildings, you may find you don’t have as much room to fit bulky external units or internal ductwork. One way to navigate this potential problem is to ask an expert to make use of areas in the home you may not have thought of: closets, cupboards beneath stairwells, any existing vertical shafts, or subterranean vaults where possible. Multi-zoned HVAC units work well in compact places, so consult a specialist to see what can be done with the available space.
4. Maximum Control With Mini-ducts
Concerned about disrupting the aesthetics of your home with large, obtrusive vents and/or huge unsightly window units? Worry no longer! Advancements in technology have given us the mini-duct system. Easily installed in even the smallest of attic spaces, these types of products work by circulating the air more rapidly through pre-insulated two-inch tubing, which can be easily concealed behind wall structures. Since the air cycles very quickly, a vacuum is formed that more effectively mixes the air in the room, avoiding the stratification effect that can occur with slower moving traditional HVAC systems. Mini-ducts also remove up to 30 percent more humidity from the room, leaving you cooler while keeping costs down.
While it’s tempting to complete these renovations solo, remember that heritage households come with many peculiarities not found in modern homes. Having a qualified technician check it over before you start hammering holes in walls or poking around in crawlspaces is probably a good idea.