Building a two-story addition on an older home poses many challenges, and for a Minneapolis couple, a primary goal was to seamlessly blend the new with the old, both outside and inside. They worked hard to select building materials that would honor the architectural integrity of their 1922 Arts & Crafts bungalow. But they faced a dilemma: how to add central air conditioning – with its boxy, intrusive ductwork -- without ruining the charm of the home.
The couple, Jack and Brigitte Malone, had used window units to cool their home in the summertime. The units were loud and unattractive, and had damaged the wooden window frames with scratches and water stains. But the alternative -- installing ductwork throughout the house -- would mean cutting into crown moldings, lowering ceilings and adding soffits.
“Preserving the architecture in the existing part of the house, and making sure the new part matched that look, was very important to us,” said Jack Malone, the homeowner. “We didn’t want it to be obvious that you were stepping into a new part of the house, and we definitely didn’t want the air conditioning system to be obvious.”
The Malone’s design-build contractor suggested The Unico System, a non-invasive, small-duct central air solution that can be installed with little to no renovation. At a mere five inches in diameter, flexible ducting can be installed in wall, ceiling and floor cavities without tearing into plaster or flooring.
The HVAC contractor worked with the builder to develop a seamless installation that protected the original wood moldings and cabinetry in the existing part of the house, and extended to the new part in a similar manner.
“The Unico System turned out to be the right fit for the project,” Jack said. “We wanted an AC system that integrates into the whole house, that cools the entire house seamlessly. The Unico System gave us that solution.”
Jack said the system allows his family to enjoy the house year-round. “Our old window units were pretty loud, so it was fairly disruptive, especially when we had friends over for dinner. Now it’s much quieter.”
The Malone’s are also saving on their utility bills since installing Unico. “Before the renovation, we had five window units that ran constantly. They weren’t on a thermostat so they were using a lot of energy. Now we have zoned cooling, and even though we increased the size of our house by about one-third, our summer utility bills are actually lower,” Jack said.
Brigitte said it was a relief to get rid of the window units. She also likes the discreet round outlets. “Unless you’re looking for them, you don’t know the ducts are there, which I appreciate,” Brigitte said.