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Alright, I am finally fed up with the current state of heating cooling our 1943 home. Don't get me wrong, we love our house (mostly) and it is a DIY'ers dream - if you get into all that stuff like me. However, it can get expensive and we have quite a few major upgrades that need to be done.

Problem is that until about 2 years ago, I wasn't really making enough money to do a lot of these things. I now have the best and highest paying job I have ever had. That being said though, we are still making up for all the years spent struggling (old car repairs, debt, etc.).

Sob story over...here is the lowdown.

As I mentioned it is a "cozy" (that's a nice way of saying small, right?) 1943 built home. It is a single finishing living area with an unfinished basement, exposed joists, etc. that is underground in the front and fully above ground in the back (built into a hill). 1800 sq. ft. total, ~900 living space. We have a living room, dining room kitchen area, bathroom and 3 bedrooms - the latter of which are all accessed by a single hallway.

We need new windows badly - currently have single pane low quality wooden windows. This will be the quickest and cheapest way to increase some level of temperature control and we are looking into it now. While I can install them myself, I don't like to so will not be DIY'ing this one.

We have no HVAC whatsoever in the home except for window units in the dining room area (for kitchen, dining, and living room) and in each of the bedrooms. These work well (especially in the bedrooms) until it is about 90s and above outside. We live in SW Virginia, btw for some reference on climate.

And for heat...we have radiant ceiling heat. For a time, it worked OK. However, there are now some dead spots in certain areas and, even though I thought I had it right, when I installed a ceiling fan in the living room last year, I cut through one of the heating wires. Haven't used it since in the living room, breaker is off and stays off. Its a 220 in the LR bc it is a larger room. Since then, we have been using an infrared space heater in the LR which works OK, except between now and say end of February when it starts getting below 32 F. I am tire of my family being cold in the house and want to figure out a better solution.

I suppose I could install baseboard but not sure I want to do all that. Our house is so small that there are not very many areas that even have exposed baseboard to be honest.

If you have made it this far, I thank you...here are the questions.

I feel like retrofitting forced air system won't be terrible because we have an unfinished basement with exposed joists. No ductwork will have to be run into walls as we are a single level living space so they can just be cut into the hardwood flooring.

That being said, I am not sure I have the time or what it takes to make this a fully DIY project. Sure, there are some things I could do, if I had the proper understanding of what I need to be aware of. I do plan on finishing the basement at some point, but I figure adding to an existing system to heat/cool basement won't be difficult once everything is in place for the upper level.

So, what do you think I am looking at here? What are my good/best options? Should I do any/all of this myself? For this size and what I described can anyone give me a potential range of what I can be expecting as far as cost is concerned?

I appreciate any advice! Thanks!
 

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Providing you have a torch, sheet metal tools, nitrogen, a micron gauge, vacuum pump, piping tools, nitrogen regulator, and gauges, plus a source for the equipment you can DIY.
You'll have to do your own load calculation to calculate system size, and required air flow in each room.
If natural gas is not available then a heat pump, or maybe an LP hybrid, would be your best bet. A multi head mini would work out well too.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Yeah, I get it. I really wasn't planning on this being a DIY thing anyway. It's sort of not really one of those things a person does often enough to justify all the tools and knowledge etc.

Although, I think I have found the solution that meets part way in the middle. Being an avid DIYer who has done plenty of work on this house of the past decade, I knew the exact dimensions and talked with the HVAC team lead where I work. He said if I helped him complete the job, which is no problem at all, he is licensed and insured and estimates the cost to be around $3000 since it is so straight-forward and a smaller area. I can live with this, though will probably do the windows first. No sense in putting this into a house that is horribly inefficient at the moment.

Thanks for the response.

Mike
 

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Not sure about pricing where you live, but here, that's an awesome price for forced air. We use all metal here though, usually no flexible ducts.

With only 2 people (well 1.5 actually) we have installed whole house ductwork and equipment in a weekend or 2 for house twice that size. (same state of basement, and single floor like yours)

What your guy might ask you to do, is cut out the holes for the vent boots in the floor. Might ask to run the wire/drain etc. He'll probably do the hookup, but running wires and refrigeration lines more then a few feet is challenging by yourself. He'll probably ask for a hand holding things, like ductwork up too, while he secures it. That kind of stuff. It's pure grunt work, but it's half the price of most jobs.

The windows are a good idea. You can usually rent insulation blowing machines if you live near a city. I'd make sure the attic is well insulated too. It's cheap when it's DIY'd and not overly difficult. Batts of insulation will work too. I'd move forward with the hvac plan after that covering those. Of course there's more after that, but most will wait till you're totally renovating. (Eg, vapor barrier) The only thing to be careful of though, is if you wait too long, and your guy won't want to do that kind of stuff anymore, upping the price considerably.

Keep us posted, and ask any questions along the way.

Cheers!
 

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First off, you must complete all energy efficiency upgrades before putting in an hvac system for sizing proposes.

Windows are an easy a visible target, but may not save as much as you think. You can temporarily bring old windows up to a reasonable level with shrink wrap and put the money elsewhere. Windows I don't think aren't cheap.

In a 1940s house should start with air sealing, insulation wherever possible.

The unfinished basement is a good starting point. Sill plates and headers leak like crazy and should be spray foamed with something like "great stuff" foam.

Headers can be insulated with rigid foam. (the foam is far superior to vapour barrier + fiberglass in this application. You can't properly vapour barrier a header)

Foundation you can do for far less than windows provided that it's in good shape and not leaking water, not crumbling.

Attic same thing -> air sealing around light fixtures, getting it insulated up to R30 or better. (with r50 be recommended where i am)

Sealing attic hatch is important, same with open fireplaces.

Exterior walls, likely the single greatest source of heat loss if uninsulated. If double brick, nothing you can economically do; likely would have to insulate on the outside and stucco, likely lots of $$$$$.

Framed walls and you can get insulation blown in but if it's not done right will cause moisture issues.

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About the actual job, you say you have someone who will do it for $3000. Be skeptical, very skeptical.

A room by room load calculation MUST be done to design the system right. No exceptions, no rules of thumb, if the duct design or sizing isn't done right you won't be happy at all.

Bungalow will need more heat than two story of the same square footage.

That takes hours to do right; every component of the house must be put into the software. Ideally blower door test would be done to measure leakage.

Based on the load calc air duct system has to be designed correctly, takes hours too.

Equipment itself will cost a few grand even at cost, same thing for sheetmetal (likely custom done, all the transitions, etc).

Lots of work too, a guy payed little may or may not do it right, may take a very long time.

I would think this would be a $10k minimum job with excellent pricing, likely closer to $15k.

Overall it is a very good idea to put in a proper system. The heating bills with the electric heaters in the ceiling must be through the roof, much of it escaping into the attic.

When energy was dirt cheap, people did very stupid things.
 

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A few articles for your reading pleasure. Please note that buying an HVAC system is unlike a tv, toaster or even a vehicle. It's a puzzle peice that must be put together for your home. The capacity ratings, efficiency percentages and all those other fancy ratings are under ideal circumstances. Install it improperly and you'll get a unit that performs nowhere near what it's supposed to. Bigger is not better! Rules of thumb are an extremely poor design tool.

http://www.angieslist.com/articles/difference-between-best-hvac-brands.htm

http://efficientcomfort.net/documents/Understanding_HVAC_System_Design_Issues.pdf

http://efficientcomfort.net/documents/Sizing_&_Selecting_for_Proper_Humidity_Control.pdf

http://efficientcomfort.net/documents/Bigger_is_Not_Better-Sizing_Air_Conditioners_Properly.pdf

www.loadcalc.net

Your looking for proper sizing, equipment selection, full load calc to assist in duct design and CFM requirements, proper install per manufacturers instructions, and a full startup/commissioning.
 

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Yup, it's literally an engineered system. Only the variable capacity mini-splits are more adaptable, zoned by default, but even with those they have to be charged right, installed right.
 

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Guy you know doing the job with your help? It can be done for 3 Grand ... Since it looks like you won't be paying for labor. And I can tell you, it's a great learning experience.

Years ago, I use to help a neighbor, as his grunt, when he did side work. I didn't pay much attention then even when he was telling me about manual J/wiring/SH-SC/etc, but I did pick up the basics. With that in hand, the internet, and a few friends in the business, I recently swapped out my AC with a heat pump and now have a dual fuel setup. Now let me say, it cost me a bundle because I bought all the tools so I could do it on my time (I think it took like 2+ years to get everything needed). I even got my EPA 608. When I say I bought all the tools, I already had some things like a vacuum pump and gauges, but the I ended up buying all kinds of stuff like recovery system, micron gauge, nitro tank, clamp meter, leak detector, etc... basically everything one would need to be in the business.

Now you might think I'm crazy to buy so much stuff but there's a couple reasons I did. 1st is I like tools ... I have all kinds of tools I use once in a blue moon, but when they're needed, they're invaluable. 2nd goes with the 1st ... I don't trust someone I don't know to do many things, so I end up doing a lot of DIY. Because of this, I seem to always needs some odd tool.

BTW, I recently had my shower door replaced and the guy that did the work was sloppy. All the screws are in crooked or not in all the way. I'm now looking for replacement stainless screws to fix his work... Every time something like this happens, it really turns me off from hiring someone. I don't understand why so many don't take pride in their work, especially given how much they charge.
 

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Yeah, I get it. I really wasn't planning on this being a DIY thing anyway. It's sort of not really one of those things a person does often enough to justify all the tools and knowledge etc.

Although, I think I have found the solution that meets part way in the middle. Being an avid DIYer who has done plenty of work on this house of the past decade, I knew the exact dimensions and talked with the HVAC team lead where I work. He said if I helped him complete the job, which is no problem at all, he is licensed and insured and estimates the cost to be around $3000 since it is so straight-forward and a smaller area. I can live with this, though will probably do the windows first. No sense in putting this into a house that is horribly inefficient at the moment.

Thanks for the response.

Mike
Does that 3 grand include air conditioning, or just heat.

Probably using duct board, and flex duct. Nothing wrong with that, but just pointing it out.
 
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