Problem: A ranch home garage was converted into a living area and playroom. But, it wasn’t connected to the furnace. So, it was too cold in the winter.
Solution: Installed a ductless mini-split with an outdoor heat pump and air handler in the garage. Now, the room has heat in the winter and AC in the summer.
The old garage hangout is a staple of suburban America. Using that space for recreation is great - unless it’s too hot or cold. That’s where a ductless HVAC system makes all the difference.
Compass Heating and Air got a call from a family in Elk Grove Village, IL. Like many of the towns near the O’Hare International Airport, this one has plenty of ranch homes. They were common models during the suburban housing boom of the 50s and 60s.
These quaint, one-story homes offer a lot for a young couple with kids. But sometimes, you just need a little extra space.
That’s where the garage comes in. Park the car in the driveway, and put a TV and some video games there instead. It’s great, until winter hits.
Then, that cold air blowing off Lake Michigan brings the temperature down below freezing most of the time. And while the summer isn’t quite as severe, a garage gets pretty hot. Even though this one has a small window, these spaces weren’t made with airflow in mind.
For years, people used space heaters or window air conditioners to make their garage more liveable. But, those options use a lot of energy, which cost a lot of money. This family wanted to do better.
And, of course, they called us. We’ve got a great track record and plenty of online reviews, of satisfied customers in Chicagoland. This home would be no exception.
First off, let’s talk about the challenges of heating and cooling a garage. And, some of the extra benefits that come with doing so. There’s more to it than you may realize.
Mid-century suburban houses usually came with central heating. And, it was often a furnace with ductwork. You’d see radiators and things like that in townhomes and apartments in the city.
But residential central air wasn’t around till the 70s. Some people retrofitted their HVAC systems to add that. Others kept using window or wall units. Or, they used ceiling fans and open windows.
And, at some point, people figured out they could get more living space with their garage. This ranch's design works well for that. There’s a door connecting it to the laundry room for easy access. And, it’s already got a window. So, the man cave doesn’t literally feel like a dark cave.
But, these garages don’t have ductwork and vents. So, they stay cold in the winter and hot in the summer.
You could throw a space heater in there. But those use a lot of electricity and take a long time to warm a whole room. Plus, they’re fire hazards
Then, you could carve out part of the wall and put in an energy-guzzling air conditioner. Or, pull a window unit in and out of storage every year.
Either way, you’ve got a loud AC blaring. And, a burglar can easily push the unit out of the way and crawl in.
Of course, you could add ductwork to connect to the garage. But, that’s really expensive. And, it could throw off the rest of the house. We’ll get into why and how a little later.
Today, however, there’s a better option.
Some benefits of adding ductless HVAC in a garage playroom are:
In a nutshell, the mini-split works similarly to central setups. But, it’s much more efficient.
Outside is a heat pump. This provides the warmth or cooling. Inside are air handlers, or panels. They distribute the treated air.
Refrigerant lines connect the two. The lines are narrow and run through the walls like electrical wires. That makes installing in a house like this a breeze.
We put the air handler near the ceiling alongside the window. It’s barely noticeable and matches the white walls.
Just one pushes enough air to warm or cool the entire garage. And, it does so quietly. That’s a big deal in a cozy space.
These things are literally as quiet as leaves rustling. You can hear the TV and people talking with no problem.
And, don’t worry about anyone getting in through an opening. The lines connect behind the panel. The hole for it is only a few inches wide.
Sure it looks nice, but does it work? It sure does. In fact, you could treat your whole house with just a few of these if you wanted. They’re just as powerful as a furnace or central air. Sometimes, they work even better.
And, that can make a difference for the rest of your house. This garage is right next to the living room. But, it didn’t have climate control before.
So, in the winter it made the living room a little chilly. And, it was like a heat box in the summer. Our family’s central systems had to work extra to control the temperature there. And, since there’s only one thermostat inside, it would use more energy for the whole house.
With a mini-split, the air handler has a thermostat and works on its own. Now, that exterior room is treated properly. That makes the temperature in the living room easier to control.
Ok, let’s talk money. Obviously, a mini-split isn’t cheap. But, it’s less expensive than you may realize.
The other benefit to these is that they use much less energy than similar units. As a result, they are Energy Star-certified. And, that gets you money back.
ComEd in the Fox River Valley offers rebates to homeowners who install Energy Star appliances in their home. In this case, our family got a $900 rebate. That’s almost a grand off the total cost.
Now, the family paid much less than the initially expected for their new rec room. And, they’ve got the same climate control as they do in the rest of the house. Maybe even better.
Does your garage playroom need heating and cooling? Contact us, and we’ll design a system that’s perfect for your home.