I live in Sacramento and notice many of the Eichlers here have what looks like very obtrusive HVAC ductwork mounted on the roofs running throughout the house. Is this indeed what I'm seeing? Were the houses originally built like this?
It's unsightly but I understand the need for AC, esp. in Sacramento. I can also see why people may have added pitched roofs to conceal the ductwork. I know that most Eichlers do not have drop ceilings so I guess it would be hard to conceal it in the interior. It's just that it looks so bad sitting up there on the roof for all to see. Is there any other way to place the ductwork otherwise out of view?
I haven't seen the roof ductwork that you see in Sacramento, but we have to play the hand we're dealth with. With Eichlers, maintenance and upgrading are challenges - - Eichlers are unforgiving in that they are so different from mainstream in critical areas that it is easy to venture off.
Here are some possibilies for the ductwork.
(1) The radiant heating system failed and they replaced it with conventional forced hot air (with or w/o AC) -- it's cheaper and most contractors can handle it. With Eichlers, the preferred replacements are baseboard heating and/or mini-split for AC -- these are moderately specialized and many contractors are not familiar with them.
(2) The best "cover up" is the Unico system, and at an estimated price of $30K (new roof included), not something you do easily and no one on this site reported doing it - - you won't see the flat ductwork since a roof is also installed.
(3) More likely, the owners chose the least expensive way to get what they want -- I haven't seen the stats lately, but a high percentage of homeowners move in a period of years so there is no incentive to "do it the Eichler way." Basically, economic optimization is the rule so paying for the Eichler way has uncerain ROI.
My house in Terra Linda has central Air and Heat. The previous owner did a clever thing by enclosing ductwork across the Atrium to look like a beam. It then routes up onto the roof, but stays low enough that it is invisible from anywhere. I agree, the elevated ducts are very unsightly.
Other than the Unico system, mini-split ductless systems are probably the best eichler A/C solution. LG's Artcool are even modern looking.
Although Sacramento may be dry enough to go with a more affordable swamp cooler system.