HVAC Systems for Tight Spaces

The final challenge of fitting all the necessities into the barn's small space fell into the laps of TOH general contractor Tom Silva and TOH plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey: how to incorporate heating and cooling systems without crowding the already cramped rooms. "With no basement and very few interior walls, ductwork wasn't an option," says Tom. That ruled out using a forced-hot-air furnace as well as a conventional central air-conditioning system.

Instead, Richard brought aboard some slick new gadgets. To cool the rooms, he chose a split system, which has an outdoor condenser and a wall-mounted unit on each floor. A compact, wall-mounted condensing boiler provides both heat (via radiant flooring on the first floor and baseboard radiators upstairs) and domestic hot water. "In the past, designing these small boilers to stay quiet has been an issue," says Richard. "You've got all this flame with a small amount of water, so it's like a tea kettle." Condensing boilers are highly efficient: They capture extra heat from the water in flue gases, which would normally be lost up the chimney. To do this they actually have to operate at a lower temperature. As a result, says Richard, "this unit is about as quiet as a refrigerator. It's a whole new way of thinking about boilers, because you really can put them anywhere."

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