Retrofitting an Older Home with Air Conditioning: Things to Know When You're Ready to Update your Older Home

Families with older homes may not realize that their home can accommodate a whole-house central air system. Today there several choices that don't have to break the bank.

As the weather turns warmer, people inevitably think about when to turn on their air conditioning. Those with older homes, however, may not have a central air system and may not even realize that their home can accommodate a whole-house central air system. Fortunately there are several choices for older homes—choices that are "ductless" and don't have to break the bank.

Installing traditional ducts and tubing for central air conditioning in an older home can be a big job as well as prohibitive for many budgets. Often the ducts must be hidden in closets taking up precious space in homes where closets can already be at a premium.

Window units however can be inefficient, super cooling one part of a room while leaving other areas warm. They can also be quite noisy and unsightly, taking up window space, and putting several units in a home will likely run your electric bill through the roof.

Fortunately, homeowners have choices: ductless split air conditioning and high velocity air conditioning. Ductless Split Air Conditioners offer better temperature control than either stand-alone window units or central air. And they can be more economical in the long run. High velocity systems offer smaller duct options opening up myriad options. Some homes even combine the two depending upon the house's structure and the homeowner's needs.

What is Ductless Split A/C?

A ductless split air conditioner consists of two units as the name implies: a small indoor unit that usually sits high on a wall in a room and a second, larger compressor unit that typically sits on a concrete slab outside the home. Small holes of approximately 3 inches in diameter are made in the wall so that refrigerant lines may be fed between the units.

How It Works

When the system is turned on, the compressor and refrigerant stored in the outdoor unit work together to produce cool air. Cool air and electricity are then pumped along a series of refrigerant lines to the indoor unit. The electricity powers a fan in the indoor unit to distribute the cooler air and the indoor unit also pumps hot air back along the lines to the outside along with any condensation.


Ductless air conditioners have many advantages over stand-alone units and central air. The first of these is efficiency and that means money-savings. While they are more expensive initially than window units, they save money in the long run. As many as four indoor units may be connected to the outdoor compressor. With a hand-held remote control you can set different temperatures and times for cooling for each unit and therefore each room, resulting in a savings on your electric bill.

Like the name implies, ductless air conditioning has no ducts, and in fact, this is where central air can lose 25 percent of its efficiency if it wasn't installed correctly or is an older system. Also, when conventional size ducts are added and hidden in closets, a loss of storage space becomes inevitable.

High Velocity System Offers Additional Options

For homes that have a bit more flexibility in terms of space, the homeowner could opt for high velocity air conditioning. This type of system uses 4-inch duct work which can fit neatly inside closets and behind walls and inside ceiling joists if necessary. A high velocity system offers more consistent cooling throughout the entire home at one time when compared to a ductless split system which will cool specific rooms as necessary. While the duct work is smaller than conventional systems it still offers efficient cooling for larger homes.

For homes where one type of system is good for the first floor but not for the second or third, a combination of these systems can be used to maximize the cooling needs of the homeowner.

Homeowners without central air currently installed have choices and don't have to spend another summer wishing they could cool off inside. Consider a ductless split unit or high velocity system if you have an older home.

Important Information for Homeowners with Existing A/C Systems

Your A/C system should get a maintenance visit every year to check the existing system's refrigerant, filters and outdoor unit to ensure that it is running at optimal level. Very often the cost of the annual visit is made up in the first month from savings through greater efficiency. Systems that leak refrigerant for one reason or another can be subject to wasting electricity and even reducing the overall life of the system.

It is important to note that traditional refrigerant called R-22 has been banned by the federal government and systems using that chemical will no longer be able to obtain it after 2013. According to the EPA, "Another important thing a homeowner can do for the environment is to purchase a highly energy-efficient system. Energy-efficient systems result in cost savings for the homeowner. Today's best air conditioners use much less energy to produce the same amount of cooling as air conditioners made in the mid-1970s. Even if your air conditioner is only 10 years old, you may save significantly on your cooling energy costs by replacing it with a newer, more efficient model. Products with EPA's Energy Star® label can save homeowners 10 percent to 40 percent on their heating and cooling bills every year. Equipment that displays the Energy Star® label must have a minimum seasonal energy efficiency ratio (SEER). The higher the SEER specification, the more efficient the equipment. You should consider energy efficiency, along with performance, reliability and cost, in making your decision."

More information can be found at www.yostandcampbell.com.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Steve Dune February 08, 2013 at 09:22 AM
Choosing best air conditioner for home air conditioning system is a big task. I wonder people consume a lot of money and repent afterward about the branding issues. I suggest to my friends about two Lennox and Amana air conditioners from Clean Air Heat.
alena mauer July 10, 2014 at 12:57 PM
This has some great tips in it. Even if you didn't need them now, you could probably use it down the line. It is always better to be prepared for things before they happen. Alena | http://www.climatecontrol.net.au/products


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