Buying house with no Central AC. Info needed.

I am house hunting right now. Most of the houses in Philadelphia suburbs, that are in my price range, have no central air and in many instances no ductwork. I am considering buying such house and installing AC system, so I want to know ball park figure of hiring HVAC person to do these jobs (parts/labor). I tried to call a few local HVAC establishments. They offered to sent somebody to the house to make an estimate. Problem is I don't have house yet!
Here is the sample house that I am looking at right now:
70 year house with little/no insulation, single pane wood windows. Radiator heat. 230V circuit exists. Basement: unfinished, no cooling/heating needed: 1st floor: Living Room: 20ftx13ft Dining Room: 12ftx12ft Kitchen: 13ftx10ft 2nd floor: room 1: 12ftx8ft room 2: 13ftx11ft room 3: 12ftx12ft
There are three solutions that I came across doing research on the web: 1) Install standard ductwork and vanilla central air system. I am not sure if there is acceptable place to run the ductwork. 2) Install high-velocity system (space-pak?) with 2" ducts. I heard this system is not as efficient as others. 3) Install two mini-split systems. My sample house has 6 rooms, but I could not find any mini-split systems with more then 4 zones (install 2 systems - 2-zones and 3-zones?).
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On 20 Mar 2005 17:07:00 -0800, " snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com"

i have a house with electric heat. we have a 2 ton air conditioner on the main floor and i put window units in upstairs as required. kids don't need them. fans will do the trick on all but 2 or 3 nights in the summer. of course, if you have to have air, then make your offer conditional on the HVAC guy quoting and the amount coming off the price. it wouldn't be much work to put an air unit outside and some ducts to the main floor. an HVAC guy could tell you if you need a return air from upstairs. if you do, perhaps it could go thru some closets. or if you don't have closets under one another, make some. ...thehick
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This is Turtle.
I have never seen a house that central could not be installed in but the only difference was price of the way to do it or the way you wanted it done.
Now to try to give a price and a way to do a job on a example house or job and try to fit it to the next job. Well Every job and price is very different even with some small thing that one has and the other don't. Tring to get a price and a way of doing a job over the internet or newsgroup is , well , very hard to do.
They do make a 3 zone mini splits now days.
TURTLE
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Right again, Turtle. TB
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As I mentioned above, four-zones systems exist as well. See: http://www.enviromaster.com/products.asp
I will buy the house regardless of AC. At this point I am just looking for rough figure. Something like: " I had system X installed in my old 3-bedroom house and it cost me Y"
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: " I had system X installed in my : old 3-bedroom house and it cost me Y" :
I don't do the estimates, just the paperwork and I'm seeing a range from $5,200 -$11,000 for installations with new ductwork. Some also replaced the heating system. And it costs extra to remove the boiler and even more to take out radiators. I am in south Jersey.
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In the Notheast the nights cool down. I hate being hot so I installed a whole house fan. It does an excellent job of cooling down the whole house and many times we get cold and have to lower it. I also have two AC units in the wall for the days that are hot. These units are great for the rooms that we use the most. I have friends with central AC and it cost them and arm and a leg to run. You may want to re-think this.
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Nobody can give a price but you need someone real good, one known to do great work or you might be unhappy. Cost, 20-60000
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On 20 Mar 2005 17:07:00 -0800, " snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com"

I've got a split system here. Installation was fairly painless, except for repairing holes in the plaster walls.
What you need to do is run multiple compressors. This is actually advantageous from an energy savings standpoint because you can shut off unneeded zones entirely. The AC guy who installed mine recommended against having more than two zones on a single compressor for this reason. The smaller compressors are also more easily concealed and can be located closer to the zones they feed so they're more effective.
Steve Manes Brooklyn, NY http://www.magpie.com/house/bbs
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I live in the Philly 'burbs - 50-year-old split level without AC, 4 BR on 2 of the 4 levels. We have 60-foot-high oak trees shading the house and get by through all but a few days of the summer without AC. When absolutely necessary we use a couple of portable ACs in the daytime in my and my husband's offices as we both work at home. Ten years ago when we added a 2-story addition to the back of our house our contractor strongly suggested that we upgrade our 20-year-old heater because he felt it would be overworked with the added rooms. The HVAC guy asked if we wanted to add AC at the same time since it would be a lot cheaper with him already there. Both DH and I thought about it for maybe 3 minutes and mutually decided against it, and we still don't regret that decision. In our minds, AC is not necessary in this part of the country unless you're a wimp!!
Liz
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Put me in the wimp category. I lived in Philly for 35 years and used AC in the summer. It get plenty hot in that area.
I live in the NE corner of CT now. I use window units. The expense of central AC is not worth it for me to convert but I'd consider it if I was building new. On a hot and humid night, nothing beats the AC, at least in the bedroom.
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If it's a brick rowhouse I'd put in a mini-split system (heat pump) with a single compressor. With the brick -> cinderblock -> plaster around most of the house it will be to hard to find places to put the ductwork. Give us more details on the house.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com posted for all of us....

If you researched this on the MANY search engines available you would know that NO ONE can compare prices over the Internet.
Our crystal balls are all broke because WE AREN'T THERE!
Do the research, then get the quotes. That is what you will pay.
--
Tekkie

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Today, Seller accepted the bid on my "sample" house!!! :)
Steve Manes: Thanks for the info. How much did you get charged for complete install? BTW: EMI system (http://www.enviromaster.com/products.asp ) has individual circuits for each zone, so if everything else remains equal, single multi-circuit compressor should be more efficient and sightly then multiple compressors around the house. The more I learn about AC the more I lean towards ductless. Efficiency and capability to adjust temps in individual zones is very appealing.
Tekkie: It is interesting that you mention that. By doing research on the web I went through the college with minimal effort, was able to pull apart and put together drive train of my 2000 Mustang with no prior drive train experience, design some oddball electronic circuits, master linux, build some interesting wireless systems, etc. Surprisingly, I found very little concrete tech info on air conditioning and a lot of animosity, all that just adds to my curiosity
Liz: As far as AC is concerned, I am squarely in the WIMP category. I can deal with heat and humidity during the day, but humid summer nights with no AC destroy my sleep. Besides, I have a bunch of comp. equipment in my office that needs to stay cool.
Kathy: Thanks for the figure.
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On 21 Mar 2005 20:57:12 -0800, " snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com"

I haven't completed the installation yet. I did the top floor last summer because I already had most of the walls open for the copper, drain and electrical runs. Total cost for the two heads (I decided to leave the guest room on a window A/C) was $3200 for a 20k BTU unit

Each head has its own circuit but the more heads you have on a unit the larger the outside compressor unit required, which draws more power than a smaller unit. Ideally, if you have a couple of zones you want to shut down, say, at night while you're sleeping you'd put them on their own compressor so you could shut it down completely.

It's nice. The heads are a pretty obtrusive but some creative carpentry should hide them fairly well. Otherwise, they're very quiet and offer features you won't find in most ducted A/C, like oscillating vanes, remote control and zone timers.
Steve Manes Brooklyn, NY http://www.magpie.com/house/bbs
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