Author Topic: This Old House dilemma  (Read 2854 times)

crooner1

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This Old House dilemma
« on: May 30, 2016, 07:14:39 AM »
We live in a small town in Iowa where the ave. home price is around $200k. We just received the home inspection report on a 125 year old house. We have an accepted offer of $142K. Report came back with some concerns about electrical in a couple rooms needing to be grounded that the homeowner will most likely fix. However, the inspector opened our eyes to the fact that there is no a/c on the 2nd story (3 bedrooms), and the heat is gravity feed. The bedrooms have separate electric heat registers in each room. Do I walk away now? Any idea how much it would cost to put central air into 2nd story?

EXLIer

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Re: This Old House dilemma
« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2016, 07:31:39 AM »
Adding HVAC depends on the layout of the house.  Could range from relatively easy to outright cost prohibitive. 

I'd get an estimate from a reputable HVAC company while also looking into mini-split systems as an alternative if you are dead set on the house.

Rezdent

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Re: This Old House dilemma
« Reply #2 on: May 30, 2016, 07:47:03 AM »
Is this for your personal residence?  If yes, consider upping your badassity instead of immediately rushing for HVAC.

Because, if people are living there now, and you are considering living there, suggest you talk to them about how it's worked for them.  You might be surprised, older house were designed with better air flow.

Full disclosure:  We live without A/C in Central Texas, so I am thinking "Iowa would be a piece of cake compared to us".   Price tag for full HVAC would be about 30k for us.  Not worth it when we are healthier without it.


former player

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Re: This Old House dilemma
« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2016, 07:57:40 AM »
I tend to agree with Rezdent: humans have been living in the house without a/c on the first floor for the last 125 years.  Why would you need to break that run? 

Just about every house in the UK built or modernised in the last 60 years has some form of gravity feed central heating, town gas where available and oil tank where not.  They tend to be robust, relatively cheap to run and easily controllable.

If the house has sash windows that slide vertically, they can be opened so that there are gaps at the top and bottom which allows hotter air out of the top and cooler air in at the bottom.  The house should also be designed with windows on opposite sides of the house to help with ventilation and air currents.  Maybe higher ceilings?  Perhaps some trees planted for shade?

ender

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Re: This Old House dilemma
« Reply #4 on: May 30, 2016, 08:07:11 AM »
Can you put in an attic fan?

I live in Iowa too and would say that there are only a few days in summer where you really want AC but a lot of the time you could have an attic fan (pulls air through the entire house).

Drifterrider

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Re: This Old House dilemma
« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2016, 04:34:44 AM »
  Price tag for full HVAC would be about 30k for us. 

Why would an HVAC cost so much?  Just how big IS your house?

crooner1

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Re: This Old House dilemma
« Reply #6 on: May 31, 2016, 05:10:44 AM »
Thanks for the advice everybody. The A/C install in the attic would be around $7500. The inspector wasn't able to see the attic because there wasn't a scuttle access. We will need to get up there to see the insulation as well. The house is 1800 sq ft. Still talking it over at this point.

Rezdent

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Re: This Old House dilemma
« Reply #7 on: May 31, 2016, 05:40:33 AM »
  Price tag for full HVAC would be about 30k for us. 

Why would an HVAC cost so much?  Just how big IS your house?

This was around the prices quoted when I looked into it fifteen years ago, maybe prices have fallen since then.

It's a rambling old farmhouse.  It's not so much big as it was built over four different decades with tiny core and three additions with their own attics.
Plus there's no convenient central spot for the handler, so options were pricey.
I'm so happy that I didn't do it.  I learned that quality of life is much better without it.

Drifterrider

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Re: This Old House dilemma
« Reply #8 on: May 31, 2016, 08:08:59 AM »
Was just curious.

My house is more modern (20 y/o) and doesn't flow air well (limited windows on the ends of the house).

I have central A/C but I mainly use window units for my bedroom and TV room.  Only cool the rooms I'm using.

lthenderson

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Re: This Old House dilemma
« Reply #9 on: May 31, 2016, 08:21:57 AM »
We live in a small town in Iowa where the ave. home price is around $200k. We just received the home inspection report on a 125 year old house. We have an accepted offer of $142K. Report came back with some concerns about electrical in a couple rooms needing to be grounded that the homeowner will most likely fix. However, the inspector opened our eyes to the fact that there is no a/c on the 2nd story (3 bedrooms), and the heat is gravity feed. The bedrooms have separate electric heat registers in each room. Do I walk away now? Any idea how much it would cost to put central air into 2nd story?

Having lived in Iowa all but a few years of my life, I would disagree that the average home price is $200k in any town. According to the web, the entire state averages around $132k.

Old houses can be difficult or easy to put in a second floor A/C depending on the construction. Many put in an attic unit and the second floor just becomes a second zone from your first floor. Another option is to put in a window A/C unit. I wouldn't walk away from the house over that if you like that house and feel you have a good deal to other comparables nearby. Since most houses in Iowa are air conditioned, fixing the lack of second story air conditioning would likely help increase the resale value.

ender

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Re: This Old House dilemma
« Reply #10 on: June 01, 2016, 06:03:57 AM »
Having lived in Iowa all but a few years of my life, I would disagree that the average home price is $200k in any town. According to the web, the entire state averages around $132k.

+1

I can't even think of any areas that I would say that is true. Maybe some of the college towns if you want to live in the town itself, Iowa City/Ames might be close if you include all housing in them? But none of the metro areas are even close to $200k average.

SimplyMarvie

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Re: This Old House dilemma
« Reply #11 on: June 01, 2016, 10:20:57 AM »
Have you considered European-style Air Conditioners, the kind that mount on the walls of the bedrooms, rather than running a full HVAC system? (Apparently, these are called "ductless mini-split air conditioner units" in America). We've had them in our last three houses, both in Europe and in the Caribbean and they've been wonderful. They're individually adjustable, so you only run the A/C in the rooms you're in, and only to the level that you desire it to be cool. I love them and would prefer them over centra air in the future.

KMB

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Re: This Old House dilemma
« Reply #12 on: June 01, 2016, 01:08:37 PM »
We live in a small town in Iowa where the ave. home price is around $200k. We just received the home inspection report on a 125 year old house. We have an accepted offer of $142K. Report came back with some concerns about electrical in a couple rooms needing to be grounded that the homeowner will most likely fix. However, the inspector opened our eyes to the fact that there is no a/c on the 2nd story (3 bedrooms), and the heat is gravity feed. The bedrooms have separate electric heat registers in each room. Do I walk away now? Any idea how much it would cost to put central air into 2nd story?

I'd be more concerned with the electric heaters on the second floor. I'd ask the seller for copies of their utility bills. Electric heat is 4-5 times more expensive than gas. If this is an old drafty place those heaters could add significantly to your electric bill.

Get some window shakers for cooling on hot nights. Low first cost and they'll work fine for the 3-4 weeks you'd want AC.

MayDay

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Re: This Old House dilemma
« Reply #13 on: June 01, 2016, 07:41:17 PM »
Hi.  From Iowa. 

I'd probably walk or ask for money towards it just because everyone (and I do mean everyone) else will want AC, so if you ever sell you'll be screwed.


It wouldn't both me personally if I planned to live there forever.

Unless you are in what, Ames, IC proper, or west desmoines there should be plenty of other cheap houses available.