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HVAC Retrofitting for Older Homes


Air Conditioning, Heating

American Vintage Home HVAC technician discussing options with a homeowner

Older Chicago-area homes typically use boilers, steam heating systems, or radiators to stay comfortable in the winter. But what about hot, humid Illinois summers? Central air conditioning requires ductwork, which most homes built over 60 or 70 years ago lack. With no space behind the ceilings and floors for ductwork, many owners of vintage homes resort to window AC units.

The problem with window air conditioners is that they block the view and make the window inoperable when the weather is nice. These units are also leaky, noisy, and ineffective at keeping the entire house cool.

What if there was a better air conditioning solution that didn’t require traditional ductwork? The team at American Vintage Home is pleased to report that two such HVAC retrofitting options exist — high-velocity mini-duct systems and ductless mini-splits. Learn more about HVAC retrofitting to determine whether your North Shore home could benefit from these solutions.

What Is HVAC Retrofitting?

The idea behind HVAC retrofitting is to improve an existing home’s heating and cooling system. It involves updating or installing equipment to promote optimal function and boost home comfort.

The types of homes most likely to need HVAC retrofitting are those built around the 1950s or earlier. These historically significant homes have charming characteristics worth preserving. That’s where solutions like SpacePak®, Unico®, and ductless mini-splits come in. These HVAC retrofits add efficient, reliable air conditioning with minimal damage to a home’s historic features.

How Do High-Velocity Mini-Duct Systems Work?

SpacePak and Unico systems operate similarly to conventional central air conditioning — they extract heat from inside the home and release it outside using refrigerant, which flows between an indoor air handler/evaporator coil and an outdoor compressor/condensing coil. The difference lies in the air distribution system.

Mini-duct systems feature air ducts that are one-fourth the size of traditional HVAC systems, measuring just 3 inches across. These flexible ducts can fit in tight spaces, making them ideal when retrofitting older homes with air conditioning. To have the same cooling effect, the air must simply move at a higher velocity.

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How Do Ductless Mini-Splits Work?

If you prefer an entirely ductless system, consider installing a mini-split. This is essentially a wall- or ceiling-mounted heat pump able to provide efficient heating and cooling with electricity. The indoor unit connects to an outdoor unit through a small conduit in the wall. Each indoor unit contains a built-in air handler, so there’s no need for a ducted air distribution system. And since multiple indoor air handlers can link up with a single outdoor unit, whole-home comfort is possible without obstructing your windows.

Benefits of HVAC Retrofitting

Installing a high-velocity mini-duct system offers these benefits:

  • Small, airtight, leak-free ductwork suitable for vintage homes
  • Superior humidity removal
  • Excellent design flexibility
  • Large selection of outlet designs to blend with your decor
  • Better air mixing for more consistent indoor temperatures

A ductless mini-split system could be right for your home if you’re hoping to enjoy these benefits:

  • Lower energy consumption than traditional forced-air systems
  • No need for routine duct cleaning
  • Fast, easy installation
  • Sleek, unobtrusive indoor units
  • Remote controls to independently adjust the temperature in each room

Call American Vintage Home for More Information

Are you still deciding between SpacePak, Unico, and a ductless mini-split? No matter what you choose, American Vintage Home has you covered. We’ll assess your home, take note of your heating and cooling goals, and recommend the product best suited to your needs. With decades of experience and a passion for servicing vintage homes in the Chicago North Shore area, we’re the perfect team to perform your HVAC retrofit!

Call us at (847) 999-4595 or contact us online to learn more about your HVAC retrofitting options.

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