Forum HomeCA-Modern ForumsGrab Bag Central › Is it possible to have room air conditioners installed?

Is it possible to have room air conditioners installed?

13 replies [Last post]
Joined: Jun 16 2003

We live in a 1957 four bedroom Eichler in San Rafael. We'd like to have the two main rooms in the house airconditioned without having to go through the roof. Any ideas?

Offline
Joined: Mar 22 2003

Yes. See my post on this subject over at the home maintenance hotline. Also, if you provide your e-mail address, I can give you the details of the Samsung mini-split system that we are having installed (they start tomorrow). We have a beautiful foam roof and this is being done w/o any roof penetrations. A neighbor had the same system put in a few weeks ago and we liked it so much, we are having the same thing done.

Cathye

Offline
Joined: Jun 23 2003

Hi Alan and Barbara,

My Eichler's prev onwer had installed a AC in one of the bedrooms and it works great.

see attached pic.. it's the room on the right..

[/img]

Rex
Offline
Joined: Apr 29 2003

Buying an air conditioner is a quick fix, but be sure you really need it. The eaves and openings in a well-designed modern home should handle all but the most extreme days of California coastal weather. I work at home and have found ways of opening the house for cross-ventilation and planting for shade.
In our neighborhood, many are actually security devices, a way of locking up the house and not having to deal with ventilation. As a sad commentary on history, the ecological and social values in Modernism haven't caught on, it seems.
I had to install an a/c in my studio because of the heat from computer systems. (Actually, now my current systems run so much cooler I almost never turn the a/c on.) It has a little compressor on a pad outside with the fan and heat exchanger critically located inside. It only takes a couple one inch diameter holes in the exterior wall. It's relatively quiet, thermostatic, de-humidifies, has needed no service, and isn't that ugly.
The window units as shown in a previous email make annoying noise and are too inefficient to run all day. Modern homes tend to have the wrong kind of windows.
The little wheel-around portables need to vented outside (since, on the whole, a/c produces heat) but provide spot relief. Neighbors have installed whole house units and the noise from their units (which they can't hear) cause people trying to maintain the original open-house style to counter-assault with music or a/c just to mask the noise, an escalating nuisance, not a fix.
All in all, an a/c is a brute force solution and really counter to the Modernist solution set.

Actually it's a Drogin, not an Eichler.

Offline
Joined: Mar 22 2003

Bryan:

I would find it pretty unlikely that given cost and asthetics, anyone today would go into the AC decision lightly. If hot weather does not bother you, that's great, but for many of us, myself included, it is a big quality of life problem. It makes me feel ill and I cannot get a thing done when trapped in a sweltering house. Then there is the security issue -- a MAJOR consideration today. Maybe you can open up your home at night and revel in the cool breezes, but many of us cannot.

I have lived in N CA all my life and my parent's first home was an Eichler. We have owned ours for 8 years now and after spending thousands on a foam roof, double pane windows and sliding glass doors, and replacing the dirt in our yard with lawns, we broke down and intalled a mini-split AC system. We are so glad we did! While all the other measures helped a great deal, they were not enough. Now, on the nights hubby works, I don't have to risk safety by opening all the doors and windows, but can just turn on the AC and get right back to work, or whatever.

Why in the world would anyone want to like in a $600K+ home that makes them uncomfortable? It is beyond me.

Cathye

Offline
Joined: Jul 1 2003

I re-lo to Sunnyvale from NY a month ago. and am amazed that few houses have A/C (I don't); thus, I've been investigating A/C over the past few weeks (see the long thread on mini-split systems in the Maintenance forum).
If you're like me, the toughest time is 4pm to 8pm; after 8pm, outside air is cool enough but the cross breeze can't cool my BR area as it has been cooked by the setting sun, and neighbor noises begin to intrude through open windows (and/or my 2-year old may be screaming out the open windows).
(1) Yes, you can install room A/C's, but window installation is really unsightly & un-Eichler, so through-the-wall (for example, under a window) is the better of 2 bad options. The smallest A/C (5,000 - 8,000 BTU) would be perfect, but that means cutting one or more large holes through the house (someone in Marin County still makes Eichler siding).
(2) The "brute force" solution is the mini-split or mini-duct A/C systems. However, it's expensive ($5,000+) for a 2-unit instllation and expensive to run. If more people do it, you'll hear the humming of A/C compressors and whisper of condensers throughout Silicon Valley like I've heard in suburbs along the east coast, and more brown-outs.
Since my goal is to get a good night sleep, I am considering a single unit that would cool off the BR hall/corridor which will indirectly cool off the BR's in the early evening until nature cools off the entire house after midnight. The A/C hardware for a single indoor-unit is $800-$1,100, but one gets killed by the installation cost and long copper tubing runs ($250+), totaling 100+% of the A/C hardware.

So there you have it; sure, room A/C is possible if you don't mind rectangular boxes extruding from the house, or pay 6 months of full-time childcare for a ductless or mini-duct A/C system.

Rex
Offline
Joined: Apr 29 2003

Again, there are small units (made by Mitsubishi and others) which have a small compressor/fan outside, about the size of a suitcase. You just need two small holes for the coolant and drain lines going into the house. On a nearby interior wall you mount the other heat exchanger and fan unit, about the size of the LCD TV you wish you had instead.
Unless you really need to cool the whole house, it works great: low impact, low cost.
http://www.mrslim.com/slim_residentialfeatures.html
But really, can't we chill natural style?

Actually it's a Drogin, not an Eichler.

Offline
Joined: Mar 22 2003

Brookworld:

I would hardly call a mini-split a "brute force" or expensive solution to the AC problem. Brute force, if there were such a thing, might be putting a $25,000 system up on the roof, with penetrations into every room. Mini-splits only require enough space to run 1" tubing inside 3" conduit through an outside wall. As far as the cost of operating one, I cannot say until the next PGE bill comes, but in the summer, I could care less what it costs. Honest. If I were on a shoestring budget, maybe I would consider turning it off at midnight. But since getting a full night's sleep and being productive at the office are more important to me than the utility bill, I will continue to run mine ALL NIGHT during hot weather.

C

Offline
Joined: Jul 1 2003

Cathye: I think I touched upon a sensitive nerve here; ironic, since I'm been made miserable by the past 3 weeks of 80+ temperatures and will elevate my quest for heat relief by installing 1 min-split A/C as soon as I can get a competent contrcator.
My reference to "brute force" was somewhat loose. Like a physical ailment, one attempts low level remedies because of side effects & cost(including avoiding the behavior causing the ailment) before selecting surgery. Cross breezes, perhaps an indoor fan, works well in most instances, but as I said before, I want relief from 4-8pm and perhaps some isolation from my neighbors who are enjoying (sometimes, loudly) their pool with our windows, doors open.
In any event, when a 2-unit split system costs $5,000, I think it is expensive. The A/C hardware cost 2-3 times the equivalent "window" A/C and installation must be professionally done (typically 2 full days). Nevertheless, I hope to join the ranks people sleeping soundly in the evening but with a lighter pocket.

Offline
Joined: Mar 20 2003

check out the "evaporative cooler" by Convair. The model is called millenia. it's at costco.

These run about $200 and are portable on wheels. You only need to plug it in and open a near-by window. They work great. When it's not hot, you put it in the garage or a closet. You don't need to cut a hole in your house or alter a window!

Some modernist solutions for cooling your home:
1. use a light color roofing material, reflects to sun and lowers interior temps by 10-15 degrees.
2. Proper landscaping: siting trees logically to cast shade on large glass areas and your roof during the hot times.
3. Use flooring materials like tile or concrete. A cool slab feels nice.
4. cross ventilation is key. Again, proper landscaping should allow you to open your windows and drapes. Let it flow!

Rex
Offline
Joined: Apr 29 2003

A/C seems to be a hot topic on two threads (Maintenance & general forums).
Relief from heat is making some people desperate enough to forego principle (don't pretend A/C isn't a "brute force" in aggregate use, with global implications), expense, and offense to the senses. A/C'ing America accelerates the downward spiral of social values, both on your block and our international relations.
If I lived in Willow Creek, as one of the A/C correspondents does, I'd want to go down to the creek in the evening and enjoy the natural cooling of the willows. What a nice place to meet neighbors! He'd go to work the next day refreshed by nature and friends, surely a good influence on whatever he does for a living, compared to most peoples' nightly dose of isolation, A/C noise, and stress from TV news and drama.
What a shame that Modern homes, so open, simple, efficient, and natural, are now sealed up with one-inch holes for cooling and quarter-inch holes for "entertainment" and "communications." Office buildings and the big ugly stucco boxes most people live in have, among their problems, no alternative but A/C. In contrast, isn't that why we admire Modern homes?

Actually it's a Drogin, not an Eichler.

Offline
Joined: Jul 24 2003

This used to be true in the Bay Area when Eichlers were originally
built, but in the years since the 1960's the areas around most Eichler
enclaves have been almost completely developed, and the result has
been an over 10 degree increase in the average summer daytime
temperature, with masses of asphalt and concrete reradiating heat
into the air at night where there were once acres of orchards. The
Bay Area no longer has a coastal climate, and now resembles the
San Fernando Valley, both in appearance and temperatures. Air
conditioning, once an oddity in the region, has become essential for
comfortable living even in an new, well-insulated home - which, of
course, Eichlers tend not to be.

Gene Kim-Eng

Rex wrote:
Buying an air conditioner is a quick fix, but be sure you really need it. The eaves and openings in a well-designed modern home should handle all but the most extreme days of California coastal weather. I work at home and have found ways of opening the house for cross-ventilation and planting for shade.

Offline
Joined: Mar 20 2003

Alas, I have no AC--but I DO HAVE a snowcone machine. It really helps, especially the grape flavor...

Offline
Joined: Sep 3 2003

My mother bought our Sunnyvale Eichler in 1962 and my husband and I bought it from her about 12 years ago. I've lived in Sunnyvale/San Jose for 40 years and the Eichler has been the most comfortable house we've lived in. We put in a new roof with the white vinyl manufactured to fit our flat roof (no company names, right?). It's GREAT! I open the doors and windows in the morning, and close them when it's hotter outside (or when I have to leave), thus preventing hot air from replacing the cool air. As a result, it's rarely over 82 inside, even if it gets into the upper 90s and low 100s outside! Closing the curtains and vertical blinds helps a lot, especially in our west-side family room. You can feel the reflected heat coming off the patio with the blinds open. A few fruit trees in the side yard shade the long, overhang-less western wall, making it cooler inside. The roof was the best investment we made, for both worry-free rainy winters and hot summers. Also, you can walk on it to wash off the dust/tree litter without worrying about punching through the tar & gravel and causing a leak: something we did with our old roofs. When the house "settled", proper drainage was a problem, so several drains had to be installed through the roof when we still had tar & gravel. The insulation put in under the vinyl helped drain the rainwater toward the drains. The only problem has been that we have to continue to moniter the leaves, so they don't clog the drains. Several neighbors put in the same roof after talking with us and our next door neighbor (who did the research and had it done first). Can't recommend this roof enough!!

Sunnyvale62

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.