It’s been very quiet around this blog for a few months. I had surgery and was unable to work for a while; my computer’s power supply died completely and so did the air conditioner for the main part of the house. In June. Bummer.
This brought us to a process of considering our options for addressing some long-standing issues including how to cool the upstairs which I addressed in a previous post, only at that time we were considering reducing the heat gain through the windows. Now we had a bigger problem to solve.
The old unit was a 4-ton American Standard two-phase heat pump. This is West Texas; summers are hot.
Because this is an old house that was not really constructed with air conditioning in mind, there was only one air return for approximately 1800 sf – in the floor of the main hallway downstairs. So air from upstairs had no way to get back to the HVAC unit and heat just built up. Summer or winter. In fact, you could easily feel the thermal barrier when going up or down the stairs. As a consequence the HVAC unit could never “catch up” with the temperature upstairs. It ran all the time, summer or winter, and ultimately it just worked itself to death, I think.
So our solution was to install two new 3-ton Trane HVAC units with refrigerated air and gas heat. We first installed a new unit in the attic to service the upstairs with the idea that between cool air migrating down from upstairs and a little cool air migrating from the den unit, we could keep the main part of the downstairs bearable, if not comfortable.
New Trane HVAC units in the back yard
We had an air return installed in the ceiling of the stairwell and all new ceiling ducts put in to distribute the air. That unit has been in for about a month now and it is working great. We also had 13″ of insulation blown into the attic to bring it to R-30. The difference has been huge.
We were blessed this year with a few cooler days and some rain, so once the upstairs unit was installed we could keep the downstairs (where my office is) below 85 degrees for the most part. Still too hot to work for very long, but if I turned on fans I could work for short periods or watch TV.
After the upstairs unit was installed, we turned our attention to the downstairs unit. We had hoped to just repair the old heat pump, but there were so many things wrong with it, and so many more that could go wrong, that we elected to replace the entire thing and use a condensing air conditioner with a gas furnace, just like the attic unit. So this turned into a really big project.
The downstairs HVAC unit really is downstairs. It is located in a cellar under the kitchen. Because it is not easily accessible, over the years conditions had arisen that we were not aware of:
- The ductwork was bad (different sizes and materials, rusted, leaking, etc.), so we had it removed and replaced.
- There were some beams and support posts that were so badly damaged by termites and water that we had to have someone come in and replace or reinforce a bunch of them. What a difference that has made in the floors! Much less squeaking.
- Then we had a plumber come in and replace a hot water supply line that was leaking. He put in new pipe all the way to the downstairs bathroom.
- Just for good measure, we had an electrician come inspect the wiring while everything was exposed to deal with any issues before they became problems. There were no issues, thank goodness.
After all the prep work was done, the HVAC installers came in last Wednesday and started running new ductwork and equipment. They turned the new unit on yesterday and put the finishing touches on today.
The new units are Trane XL 20i’s. They are delightfully quiet and very energy efficient. I was a bit concerned about the noise factor because having loud units running in the yard can be unpleasant. But even when these are running and you walk right by them, you barely hear them. My kind of machines.
We used Mike Tschaar Heating and Air Conditioning in Abilene for the project. Every person who worked here was courteous, professional, knowledgeable and a true joy to work with. Every day they cleaned up after themselves and left the work areas neat. Linda, Mike’s office manager, has her finger on the pulse of everything that is going on and Mike, himself, made several trips out to check on the progress of the work. I would recommend them to anyone without hesitation.
It has been so wonderful having the same temperature throughout the house. The kitchen is cool enough to cook in, my office is cool enough to work in, the bathroom is no longer a sweatbox, I can watch TV in comfort and I can sleep upstairs in my own room instead of camping out in Mom’s room. I’m a very happy camper.