Before I started working for The NEWS in January, I was blissfully unaware of how very old, inefficient, and bizarre my own home’s HVAC system is. When I bought the place two years ago, I only saw an open, ranch-style, four-bedroom home with a big backyard in a great neighborhood. It also had an unbelievable price tag. I still don’t know how I got so lucky.
Looking back, the home inspector did mention the HVAC system after he looked through the house just before closing, using words like “old” and “replace” repeatedly. But I didn’t think much of it as I stared through him, trying to figure out where I wanted to stick the sectional couch. I probably should’ve been listening.
So, here’s the deal. The home was built in 1956 as a two-bedroom ranch with a living room, two bathrooms, kitchen, mud/laundry room, and garage, all on a concrete slab. That’s all it was for at least a few decades — a cute little two-bedroom ranch in an up-and-coming neighborhood. Something your grandparents might live in. Then someone decided to expand.
In the 1980s, they added two bedrooms and a partial basement onto the front of the house. Then, maybe in the 1990s, the homeowner added a dining/sun room, man cave, and work room to the back of the structure, punching doorways out of the brick that runs halfway up the exterior of the home.
Here’s the problem. Each time a new piece of house was added on, so was another separate HVAC system. So the two bedrooms in the front have a 30-year-old furnace that is much too large to heat 550 square feet of children’s bedrooms. The ancient machine sounds like a jet engine taking off when it kicks on, not only startling kids and animals who might be occupying said rooms at the time, but also blowing things off the walls and shelves.
Meanwhile, in the back of the house, there’s no ductwork at all for the dining/sun room, man cave, and workroom. There are, however, these weird gas heater things — one in the sun room and another smaller version shoved in the wall between the man cave and the workroom. None of those rooms, obviously, have air conditioning. Nor do the two front bedrooms.
The main, original part of the home includes a 20-year old furnace in the closet that heats, for all intents and purposes, the majority of my home, since I usually leave the jet engine off unless my son says his room is too cold. But this time of year, even set at 65 degrees, the main furnace is on more than it’s off. And it’s loud (though not nearly as loud as the monstrosity that bakes the front bedrooms). And, of course, the air conditioner outside has already had its fan motor replaced once since we moved in, and it seems like it’s on its last legs, for sure.
So, needless to say, my home could use some upgrading, but I’m not sure where to start and how much I should expect to invest. I’ve already been told by one local HVACR contractor connecting the ductwork and heating the whole home off one furnace is next to impossible, but that replacing them both with high-efficiency furnaces that are properly sized is an option. He gave me a quote for those upgrades (along with a new air conditioning unit outside). I promptly had a coronary.
So now I’m at the point where I have to decide what to do, but I’m stuck. Should I bite the bullet, take out a home equity loan, and re-do it all at once? Or should I start smaller, one project at a time?
I suppose the first step is to gather a few more estimates and have my options presented to me. But I want to be prepared. Help!