While becoming rarer, there are still many older, occupied, or for-sale homes that do not have central heating and air conditioning. These homes were typically built a half-century or more ago when centralized HVAC systems were either not commonly available or prohibitively expensive.
The oldest among these homes often used radiant heat of some type, such as wood stoves and fireplaces, or gas heaters, oil wall heaters, or free-standing heaters that included the ability to circulate the warmed air via an attached fan system. Homes built in the decades immediately before HVAC systems became standard equipment often have electric baseboard heat or a series of radiators connected to a boiler system.
Those who are buying or currently own one of these homes often want to install central heating and air conditioning but feel that the process might be very difficult or expensive to do. If you are one of these homeowners, here are some tips for more frugally and easily converting your home to a central HVAC system.
Finding a spot for the furnace
In today's modern homes, the placement of the central heating and air conditioning system is almost always part of the building plan, usually as part of a dedicated systems room or area. In addition to heating and air components, water heaters, softeners, and other mechanical systems of the home may be housed in this area.
Finding a suitable space in an older home for furnace installation can require a more creative approach. Some possible interior locations include a closet or storage room, the attic, the basement, the crawlspace, or a section of an attached garage.
Installing ducts without damaging the home
Once you have selected a workable location for the installation of a furnace, the next consideration is to determine how the ducts can be installed without damaging or changing the architecture of the home. Some options for this include:
- extending ducts through unused attics and then venting through the ceilings
- hanging ducts on basement ceilings and extending vents upward through the floors of the living areas
- placing flexible, small diameter ducts through vacant spaces between walls or through the backs of closets
It can also be attractive and relatively inexpensive to use decorative trim or drywall to box in and conceal ducts at ceiling level around the perimeter of the room, instead of removing and replacing drywall in several rooms of the home.
The good news is that almost any home can be successfully converted to a centralized heating and air conditioning system. To learn how and get additional advice, consult with a furnace installation service or HVAC contractor in your area.