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Can Historic Homes be Preserved Without Compromising Comfort?

Tony Anderson, Partner, discusses the Unico High-Pressure Mini-Duct System for heating and cooling older buildings where there is insufficient space for conventional ductwork. The Unico photos and diagrams were used with permission from Unico, Inc.  The winter home photos were taken in the Whitland area of historic homes in Nashville.

Nothing beats the charm of an older home in a historic neighborhood, and renovating office space in historic districts seems all the rage now, and gives your business a unique and distinctive look.  If you’re wondering how to retrofit central air-conditioning into a space that wasn’t originally constructed for it without sacrificing architectural integrity, then listen up!  High-velocity mini-duct systems can be added to almost any home or commercial space, even those without existing ductwork, with little or no remodeling required.

Called a mini-duct or even micro-duct, it is comprised of a central unit – usually placed in the attic – that forces air through flexible narrow tubes into each room.  The tubes are just 2-inches in diameter, so they fit comfortably inside the walls without damaging sheetrock or plaster, and avoid the expense and aesthetics of having bulky metal duct work.  Plus, instead of having large metal registers in the floor, the tubes terminate in each room into a 2-inch slit or nozzle in the ceiling, floor, or high on the wall, giving you more freedom of furniture placement within the room.  The registers can be painted or have decorative covers that easily blend with your room’s décor (see example of 3 nozzles in the ceiling in the photo).

The Unico Mini-Duct System has been featured on episodes of PBS' This Old House home improvement show, and Interstate AC Service has experience installing them.  It is a great solution for older, architecturally unique spaces that were previously impossible to heat and cool with conventional systems.  Plus, they have some distinct advantages:

  • High-velocity air conditioning removes 30% more humidity than conventional air conditioning systems, which means the air feels more comfortable, even at higher thermostat settings.
  • High-velocity systems are draft-free.  As the streams of cooled air enter the room, it creates an ideal circulation pattern which helps to maintain an even temperature from floor to ceiling.
  • High-velocity systems have high efficiencies.  There is 65% less surface area than traditional ductwork, so there is less chance for heat to escape.  The small ducts are air-tight, so you get more of the air you paid to heat or cool without the chance of leakage due to seams in the ductwork. Plus, the air moves through the ducts more quickly because of their narrow 2-inch diameter, so there is less time for the air to lose its heat energy.
  • The ducts in high-velocity systems are made of sound-absorbing material, so they’re quieter than traditional ductwork.  

High velocity systems also allow for flexibility in the types of heating and cooling units they use.  They can use standard outdoor condensing units for air conditioning and heat pump systems. Or, a water coil can be mounted in the air handling unit for boiler heating or chilled water cooling. Alternatively, adding a bank of electric heating elements to the air handler can provide heating capability to a high velocity air-conditioning system. 

A high-velocity mini-duct system could be the best solution for your home or commercial space for comfort without sacrificing architectural integrity.