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Central AC Retrofit in 1940s/50s Townhouse?

Katie Jane Morgan
3 months ago

I live in an old townhouse in southern California that gets EXTREMELY HOT in the summers. We're talking recorded temps of 100+ degrees Fahrenheit INSIDE. Since moving in a few years ago, I've wanted to get central AC installed, but have heard from neighbors in the complex that it's very difficult to do.

The homes have basements with gas heaters and ductwork throughout connecting to floor-level vents in each room on both floors. Some neighbors have mini-split systems that cool just one floor. Others have portable AC units attached to casement windows (no window units for us, I'm afraid, that would be too easy). One neighbor has central AC and loves it, but claims it breaks down about once a year and they have to call a repair man out to fix it (not sure why it breaks down regularly - perhaps because it's a retrofit?). The homes that have mini-splits and central AC have removed their gas heaters and those with portable AC units still have them.

What I'm wondering is where the truth lies in all these accounts...

  • With a home that has existing ductwork and vents, would it really be so difficult to have central AC installed and working normally?
  • What would be the cases in favor/against opting for a mini-split over central AC?
  • Is retrofitting such a home (without having to install additional ductwork, etc.) possible?

Thank you so much for reading and for your input!!

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