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How Should You Heat an Old House?

Old House

Though older houses offer classic charm, heating old homes can sometimes be problematic. Often, these houses were built in a different era of heating options. Residents of the past frequently had to put up with inconsistent performance and chilly rooms in winter. Today, however, newer technology provides better options for heating old homes effectively and efficiently.


The system consists of a downsized outdoor heat pump about the size of a large suitcase and a compact, low-profile air handler located inside the room. The two components are connected by a narrow conduit that contains wiring and a refrigerant tube and requires only a three-inch hole in an exterior wall.

  • The outdoor unit comprises a coil and a compressor powered by energy-efficient inverter technology. The indoor air handler incorporates a coil and high-efficiency blower fan.
  • In winter, the coil releases heat extracted from outdoor air and the fan disperses warmth into the room.
  • In summer, heat pump functions reverse and the indoor air handler blows cool air to maintain comfortable temperatures.
  • Room temperature is controlled by a dedicated independent thermostat.

One outdoor unit can serve up to five indoor air handlers in separate rooms with individual temperature control in each room. Because no ductwork is needed, installation is simplified. A two-man crew can generally install a ductless heat pump in a single day.


Another heating option for rooms without ductwork in older houses is a radiant floor. The system utilizes a grid of plastic tubing installed beneath the flooring that circulates hot water. The water heats the floor, which in turn gradually radiates gentle heat that suffuses the room. Radiant heating is very steady and consistent, without the temperature swings of forced-air heating. Dust and other particulates also arenandrsquo;t stirred up, so indoor air quality benefits.

Since installing the system requires substantial dismantling of the floor, the best time to install radiant heating is when youandrsquo;re already doing other renovation work on the house.

For more advice about heating old homes, contact Valley Heating, Cooling, Electrical.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the South Bay Peninsula and Santa Cruz areas of California about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems).

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