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Cooling an Add-on Space
In our last post, we talked about some of the things to consider when calculating the peak cooling capacity for an add-on space. In this post, we'll discuss some options for providing cooling to your add-on space.
Window air conditioner
This option is usually the first one homeowners dismiss, and with good reason. Although it may be cheap to install, it is very costly to run, unsightly especially if you can easily see it from the front of your house - and noisy. If you are cooling a basement space, you might not even have a window you can use! Assuming your add-on space is conducive to using a window air-conditioner, you're still left with a heating dilemma, and more than likely will need to use either a portable room heater or add-on baseboard heat (see our post "5 Ways to Heat Local Spaces").
Tying into your existing central HVAC system
Often, adding ductwork to your add-on space in order to connect it to your existing central HVAC system can be difficult or impossible, but this can be a great solution for providing both heat and air-conditioning. But, even if you can do it, doesn't mean you should. Here are some things to consider:
- Is your current HVAC system rated to carry the additional load or will adding the additional space mean your existing system will now be under-sized, making your whole house uncomfortable?
- Will the add-on space need to be a separate zone, so you can control the thermostat independently of the rest of the house? This is often the case when your add-on space is in an area with vastly different needs from the rest of the house: a room that is only used occasionally, a room that is underground, or has lots of windows (a sunroom), or a room with special equipment or machinery.
To see if tying into your current HVAC system is a viable option, you'll need to consult an HVAC professional.
Ductless Mini-Split an Ideal Solution
A ductless mini-split is often an ideal solution for most homeowners because it by-passes the expense of ductwork and is extremely efficient to install and operate. Mini-splits are available as air-conditioning only units, or as a heat pump offering both heating and cooling. Here are just some of the reasons why a mini-split might be a solution for your add-on space:
- Ease of Installation: It only requires access to an electrical outlet and a single small hole in the wall (about 3" diameter, to accommodate refrigerant lines) for the indoor wall-mounted unit. The majority of the system sits outdoors.
- Energy Efficiency: Because there is no loss of energy through ductwork (which accounts for up to 20% of the energy cost), these systems are exceedingly efficient. While your typical central HVAC systems may have SEER ratings of 13 or 14, a ductless mini-split offers SEER ratings of 20 or more (see our post What's Your SEER?).
- Zoning: A mini-split is ideal for a room that is only used occasionally or is closed off part of the time: if no one is in the room, there is no reason to pay to heat or cool the space. It is also ideal for a room that will have vastly different heating or cooling requirements from the rest of your house, such as a sunroom or attic bonus room. A ductless mini-split can even be added to a room currently fed by your central HVAC system, but is hard to heat and cool compared with the rest of your house.
- Features: Many of the latest crop of mini-split systems offer a multi-speed compressor, wireless remote control, programmable timer, and many other innovations.
- Easy to Maintain: Most have washable, re-usable filters. Plus, it is much quieter than even the quietest window air-conditioner, and there are health benefits by not having ducts, which can gather dust, debris, and mold.