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HVAC Options for Old Homes in Denver

by Ultimate Heating & Cooling / April 4, 2022

Looking into HVAC systems for an older home? You're not alone. Denver has plenty of historic brick buildings in neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, Cheesman Park, and Highlands. Although good-looking, some older homes made of brick or wood struggle with temperature regulation and lack room for HVAC ducts. The good news is that several HVAC options for older homes exist that are easily installed without any damage to your walls or ceiling. Learn about these friendly methods of heating and cooling your older Denver house below.

High Velocity Mini Ducts

Instead of using bulky metal ducts, a high velocity mini duct setup uses small diameter flexible tubing, which is easily run inside wall cavities or around corners. The vents used are circular and are half the size of a rectangular HVAC vent.

Benefits of Using High Velocity Mini Ducts in Older Homes

The high velocity mini duct works like other heating and cooling systems, using either a heat pump or condenser, but the operating pressure is twice as high. The main advantage of the higher pressure is that it quickly and evenly distributes indoor air from floor to ceiling height throughout the room. Older homes are more susceptible to troublesome cold spots, so the high-pressure distribution is an advantage. Other benefits of high velocity mini ducts in older Denver homes include:

  • Ease of installation. The small diameter, flexible tubing means it will fit in virtually any type of space.
  • Low duct leakage. Conventional HVAC ducts lose up to 30% of airflow to leaks, whereas high velocity HVAC systems won’t leak more than 5%. The major difference is the total amount of surface area through which air would be lost (ducts in conventional HVAC are 75% larger in surface area.)
  • Efficient ducts. The shorter duct length and smaller duct diameter in high velocity HVAC, coupled with tight connections and high pressure, leads to highly efficient energy use. The high pressure increases airflow and reduces the amount of time that air is held within the system compared to conventional HVAC systems.

Ductless Mini Splits

Ductless mini split systems are comprised of an indoor wall or ceiling-mounted air handler connected to an outdoor compressor and condenser coil. Unlike a conventional setup, which distributes air around the home from a central unit, a mini split supports multiple thermostat-controlled indoor air handlers. The multiple units mean that you can control the temperature precisely in each room. 

Benefits of Using Mini Splits in Older Homes

Older homes are well-suited for ductless mini splits. Here’s why:

  • Compactness. A study by Zebra insurance analyzed U.S. Census Bureau data and found that the average size of American homes has grown by 150% between 1980 and 2018. Considering that older homes are smaller with significantly less space for ductwork, mini splits are a great solution since they’re very compact. A mini split indoor wall or ceiling-mounted unit measures approximately 9 inches (depth) x 32 inches (width) x 12 inches (height). The outdoor units are similar in depth and width, but twice as high. This means you can fit them easily in areas with limited space, like a converted attic, as they’re about the size of a small suitcase.
  • Ease of installation. The only piping a mini split needs is a three to four-inch wide conduit, which contains the refrigerant tube, drain line, and electrical cables. On the other hand, ducted heating and cooling systems use rectangular or round ductwork that’s several times wider. With the space saved using a ductless mini split, you have extra room for shelving, lights, or other stylistic touches.
  • Cheap to run. Maintaining older properties can be more costly. However, ductless HVAC consumes at least 30% fewer watts per hour compared to a ducted setup. When you consider the average cost of electricity in Denver is 11¢/kWh, this amounts to hundreds of dollars saved per year. No energy is lost through ductwork which makes ductless mini split systems very energy efficient in addition to other benefits.

Heat Pumps

A heat pump is a device that can heat and cool your home. Unlike traditional HVAC setups, heat pumps don’t burn fossil fuels. Instead, they use a compressor and refrigerant to transfer thermal energy.

In heating mode, the refrigerant absorbs thermal energy from the outside air. To do this, the fluid is super-cooled by pushing it through an expansion valve, causing any thermal energy in the air to be drawn to it. The captured energy is then drawn to the indoor heat pump system, which then warms it up more. In cooling mode, the refrigerant captures the thermal energy indoors and a built-in reversing valve draws it outside.

Regardless of how old your home is, as long as it’s adequately insulated, you can install a heat pump. If you have a home that suffers from significant heat loss, which is a common issue in older homes, you’ll need to install a larger heat pump.

Benefits of Using Heat Pumps in Older Homes

  • Compactness. Heat pumps don’t require ductwork, so your home will not require invasive or damaging installation. Air source heat pumps can be mounted onto a wall or set on the ground, only requiring a 3 inch hole for the outdoor and indoor units to connect via the refrigerant line and piping.

You don’t need to suffer through freezing winters and sweltering summers in the Denver metro area just because you have an older home. After all, Denver can reach into the negative degrees to over 100 degrees! We know how variable the weather is within just a single day. As they like to say around here — all you need to do is wait five minutes for the weather to change.

If you think your Denver metro area home HVAC system needs improving, contact our team or call us at 720-647-5099. We’re here to answer any questions about making your home comfortable with high velocity mini ducts, ductless mini splits, or heat pumps.

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