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Thread: Central AC - a good investment? or not?

  1. #1
    Senior Member Geila's Avatar
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    Central AC - a good investment? or not?

    Last year I started thinking it might be time to invest in installing central AC. The several-years-long drought had taken a toll and we'd had a couple of pretty hot summers. When I asked some friends about their AC usage, they said that they usually set it at 78 degrees. Our house rarely gets that hot. We have lots of trees, an attic fan, a whole-house fan, and double pane Low-E windows. We also have good-sized Hunter ceiling fans in almost every room. All of this helps to keep the house cool, but I was having a hard time with the heat as anything over 75 felt very uncomfortable to me.

    So we bought a DeLonghi portable AC unit at Costco for around $300 as a temporary solution. The unit has worked great and our house has never gone over 78 degrees since getting it, it usually maxes out at 77. I'm not crazy about having it sitting in the middle of the house with a plastic tube sticking out the window, but you can't beat the price. I don't know how long this unit will last though.

    If we get central AC, we might as well replace the furnace which is at least 25 years old (although it still works fine and I have a hard time justifying the cost of replacing a perfectly good unit) but I know that it's the practical thing to do. We also have original 1961 ductwork which makes sense to replace, and we have asbestos that will need to be removed. I suspect they might need to do some electrical upgrades as well to handle the new load from the AC. Our all-inclusive quoted price last year was around $12-14K depending on the units selected. Labor cost is high in this region.

    I've been thinking about whether this investment makes sense. We live in a low humidity area, the summer heat is relatively short-lived, and we have a single floor ranch house. On the other hand, doing it now has several benefits: I'm home so can take care of all the arrangements, dh is working so financially it's a good time, and being in our 40's means we would enjoy the benefits for an extended time. Still, it's a lot of money and this year the weather has been really nice. We've barely used the portable unit at all.

    Can you guys help me think this through? Does it seem like a good investment?

    I'd be interested to see what you guys set your thermostats at. In the past anything higher than 75 was very uncomfortable for me. But now that I'm working out and getting in a good sweat in the mornings I find that I can tolerate heat much better. Recently our house got to 78 and I still felt comfortable. I was pretty shocked.

    ETA: We're in the SF Bay Area and will probably retire in this house.
    Last edited by Geila; 7-7-16 at 1:53pm.

  2. #2
    Moderator Float On's Avatar
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    WE got a portable DeLonghi 4 years ago when our central AC went out in August and we were on a 6 week wait list...it was a life saver! It still works great and we use it in our upstairs in our oldest son's bedroom. The upstairs is an attic remodel 500 sq ft with dormers. It's not hooked up to the central heat/air but instead has a heat/ac wall unit (like in a hotel) the DeLonghi portable is a nice addition because the hotel wall unit really is only made for 300 sq ft.

    My brother in Oregon recently broke down and added central air. They didn't need it the first 15 years out there but I think weather patterns have really changed.
    I personally can't imagine not having central air but I live in a humid region and don't handle heat well (I'm not a person who sweats or even glistens/glows...instead I trap heat and turn red and get hives) so to me it would be a worthy investment if I intended to live in the house 5+ years. Your resale would be higher because people just expect central ac regardless of the region norms. If it's not bothering you, you might consider setting aside and saving in a separate fund for a future possible install. It might be a better pay-off if you sell to have a brand new one installed at that time or you might have to consider selling with an allowance for central heat/air install.
    Float On: My "Happy Place" is on my little kayak in the coves of Table Rock Lake.

  3. #3
    Senior Member JaneV2.0's Avatar
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    I had central air--until it quit. But really, it's only usually noticeably hot here (western Washington) for a couple of days a year. I didn't even break out my fan last year.

    It really depends on where you live and personal preference.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Geila's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Float On View Post
    WE got a portable DeLonghi 4 years ago when our central AC went out in August and we were on a 6 week wait list...it was a life saver! It still works great and we use it in our upstairs in our oldest son's bedroom. The upstairs is an attic remodel 500 sq ft with dormers. It's not hooked up to the central heat/air but instead has a heat/ac wall unit (like in a hotel) the DeLonghi portable is a nice addition because the hotel wall unit really is only made for 300 sq ft.

    My brother in Oregon recently broke down and added central air. They didn't need it the first 15 years out there but I think weather patterns have really changed.
    I personally can't imagine not having central air but I live in a humid region and don't handle heat well (I'm not a person who sweats or even glistens/glows...instead I trap heat and turn red and get hives) so to me it would be a worthy investment if I intended to live in the house 5+ years. Your resale would be higher because people just expect central ac regardless of the region norms. If it's not bothering you, you might consider setting aside and saving in a separate fund for a future possible install. It might be a better pay-off if you sell to have a brand new one installed at that time or you might have to consider selling with an allowance for central heat/air install.
    Aren't those DeLonghi units amazing? I'm so glad to hear yours is still going strong after 4 years. We use one to cool our 1500 sq ft house and it chugs along beautifully.

    I'm surprised to hear that people in Oregon have AC. When I visited years ago it seemed so cool and pleasant.

    You're probably right that most buyers would expect AC. I know we're one of the few last holdouts here. Most people we know have it. I'm thinking that come menopause I will want it pretty badly. And since we're going to retire here, it might be worthwhile. I'm just surprised at how little the heat is affecting me this year.

  5. #5
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    Here in Central Texas, one would just about die without central AC. Hard to imagine living in a place where it is an option. I say that if it is your forever house and evidently global warming is upon us, go ahead and do it.
    And of course, if you have the funds available.

  6. #6
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    In Indiana we pretty much need it due to very high humidity and heat combined. We keep ours at 76 and use a portable fan when we are sitting instead of cranking on the AC. We do sleep upstairs and use no sheet or blanket in the summer. Keep our bedroom ceiling fan on low all night. Just barely cool enough for comfort. We do have a power attic fan due to the structure of the roof to keep air circulating.

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    We have two window units, One is big and permanently in the kitchen and will do the living room and dining room well but not so good in the bedrooms. Two years ago we got a wee little window for the master bathroom- the only room with two windows and we put it in today in fact, keep it in through early September. It's a godsend on the week or two of sweltering heat and humidity here in Maryland Piedmont. The house with both on stays at 75 or so- kitchen cooler due to the unit being there. At 67 I am seriously considering central air for our small rancher that has baseboard heat. We plan to stay here as long as we can and hauling out that little AC is hard. I'm waiting for a newer system being invented for ranchers with no ductwork. My friend got the Mitsubici high on the wall unit, but I just think they are ugly. Not that the window unit is beautiful, but the kitchen one is covered with a curtain when not in use and the bathroom one leaves. I used to be able to handle the heat. No more. So, at 40 I would say go for it if you even have an inkling you want it.

  8. #8
    Senior Member JaneV2.0's Avatar
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    I'm not sure what you describe would be a good investment--you'd have to check real estate sites to see what the typical return is. But if an extensive retrofit of your current system makes sense to you, I say go for it. I wouldn't suffer through yearly heat waves just to get my frugality badge.

  9. #9
    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    I agree it's a personal opinion. We had central AC when we moved in in 1985, and I'm sure that made my house a 1974 McMansion when the house was built. I know I didn't grow up with AC.

    It worked great, until it stopped working about 8 years ago. For 3-4 years I refused to buy a new unit--that was during our housing crisis and I had no money to throw at it. I enjoyed opening the windows and hearing nature sounds. When the heat got really bad, we relied on a window AC unit in my home office, and DH and I would bunk in there. We didn't have to do it all that often.

    But when our furnace failed in fall 2010, we figured it made sense to replace the AC unit. We got a high-efficiency one and got a tax credit for it.

    So the questions to ask are: how much are you suffering in the heat now? Are there alternatives for a whole-house system? Can you comfortably afford it? Since you're retiring in the house, I would consider your needs above any return-on-investment.
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  10. #10
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    Central AC - a good investment? or not?

    We bought a house with an electric forced air furnace. We are on the coast in Oregon. We wanted more efficient heating and bought a ductless heat pump which has been amazing. Our electric bill went down half the first winter we had it. The plus thing we didn't plan on was the air conditioning that comes with a ductless heat pump. We have used it for two summers now because it has been so hot here on the coast. We only use it during the really warm periods. I would recommend one of these to anyone. Our house is 1,600 sq. ft. and have had no problem with a smaller unit to heat and cool. I edited this to add that the original cost of the unit was $3600, but with the local electric utility rebate and the state energy rebate we ended up paying only $1,200 for the unit.
    Last edited by Sonora Shepherd; 7-7-16 at 10:12pm. Reason: Add information

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