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Hooch 08-27-2008 06:10 PM

Best HVAC Option For Rental Property
I think this question is going to require a very high level of knowledge but I see there are some highly qualified individuals in this forum.

I bought a duplex that I am rehabbing and have been made aware by code enforcement that the heating system does not work. There is no air conditioning either. I would like for my tenants to have air as well. The inoperable heating system that is presently in each unit is a big natural gas heater in the living room vented out a chimney.

I am basically at ground zero at this point and need some highly experienced advice. As a landlord in order for me to recoup my cost of buying the property and fixing it up, I have to do everything relatively inexpensively but I don't want to hammer the tenants with insane utility costs either.

Each unit is 1,100 square feet and I am in the Virginia climate.

I have quite a bit of general construction experience and don't have a problem picking up new things but have no present experience with repairing 1970 or 60 natural gas heaters. I am also a little worried with the dramatic increase in natural gas costs expected this winter.

My choices I see are:
**Repair the heater or get someone to do it and buy 3 window ac units per floor. I have heard these types of heaters don't really heat a house very evenly which would probably mean the tenants will need to have those oil electric heaters in their rooms.
**Buy some other type of natural gas heater and get the window units. ( I heard code enforcement has a problem here with anything unvented )
**Get rid of the gas heater and put electric baseboards in every room and buy all the window ac units. Will these baseboards give them an astronomical I'm moving out type of electric bill?
**Install a forced heat and air system in a full basement below the bottom floor and another one in the attic. ( I will not be paying the utilities and will need 2 completely separate HVAC units so they pay their own bills )

I know tenants are willing to pay $50 dollars more in rent per month for central heat and air.

Which of these do you see as being my best bet considering that I will be doing the work myself? If you have other ideas on what to do I would be more than happy to hear them.


Termite 08-27-2008 09:27 PM

Although it isn't really a DIY project, I think your best bet is to install new forced air furnaces and air conditioners. It will add value to the properties, and the updated HVAC equipment will run much more efficiently than the old unit.

I'll put it this way. I took out an old 1985 furnace and installed a 93% efficient one, and my winter heating bill was cut nearly in half instantly. There's a lot of variables, but there will definately be cost savings. A smart winter will weigh their potential utility costs, and an efficient forced air system will be a real attractive feature they'll be willing to pay a little for.

geo fan 08-28-2008 06:49 PM

heat pump
2 birds 1 stone central air that reverses to use the airconditioner to heat as well not diy but perfect in that mild virginia climate

jcalvin 08-29-2008 08:51 AM

I grew up in a family that owned several rental units and I have only recently convinced them to switch to electric heat pumps. Tenants always steal whatever they can get ahold of including window units. Haven't seen one yet to steal a heat pump. They never could plan ahead and buy oil for the winter so they would bring in oil 5 gallons at a time, just enough to stir up the trash in the bottom of the tank and clog the filter/line. They would always buy the wrong kind of oil and screw up the monitor heaters. Lets not forget about what happens to your water line when your tenants choose to buy beer instead of oil. How about the lazier neighbors that steals the oil from your tenants. Clogged nozzles, leaking oil lines, air locks, black smoke, ...

Yes electric baseboard will give them that move out type of heating bill.

Just think about the resale value that you will have if you add 2 seperate units.

8 Ball 08-31-2008 05:22 AM

Are those sixteens in the X-ray?! You seem kinda negative about renters. I rented once, about 20 yrs ago, and I still have the doors, mini blinds, fixtures, carpet, cupboards, window A/C and the medicine cabinet. I take care of my stuff. Had to move out cause my minature horse developed renal failure.

Heat pumps are the way to go.

jcalvin 09-03-2008 04:54 PM

ya 8 Ball, I think I remember you. Those are in fact 16's in my xray but they are actually tucked away just under the skin, that is the only place I can hide them and keep the renters from stealing them. By the way, keep the goods from the house...the guy that moved in after you burned the house up when he stuck the iron under the carpet to keep his feet warm.

dac122 09-05-2008 12:31 PM

Price out a forced air system Heat pump with furnace electrical strips versus a forced air moderate efficiecy furnace with A/C. I bet the HP with strips will be cheaper.

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