Many new homeowners throughout the United States find that the homes they’ve purchased do not come with existing HVAC systems, and must arrange to have them installed once they take over the property. However, you’ll have to ask yourself some pointed questions before you can have your new HVAC installed—such as where you are going to put the indoor unit. Contrary to popular belief, there is no universal “correct” answer to this question. However, you will find that some areas in your home will be more advantageous than others for HVAC positioning. The two most popular spots in the house to install an HVAC unit are the attic and the basement.
Which option is best for you? Below you’ll find a list of circumstances that might compel you to place your new HVAC in the attic, along with a list of situations that would make an attic HVAC inconvenient. Have a look at what we’ve put together so that you can make an informed decision for yourself next time you need to install a new HVAC system.
The Arguments Against Putting an HVAC System in the Attic
The first thing you should know about installing an HVAC system in the attic is that some people—including both homeowners and HVAC experts—don’t recommend doing so. Here are the top three reasons that an HVAC attic installation might not be advisable:
- High temperatures: If your attic tends to get hot, it can make your air conditioner less efficient. Some people argue that the heat in your attic will warm the air your system has cooled before it even has a chance to move through the ducts in your attic and into the rest of your home.
- Accessibility: Not every home has a hatch that is easy to access. As such, it can sometimes be difficult for a professional to reach your HVAC with the tools they will need during an AC service call.
- Pests: Some pests prefer to make their homes in attics. Conventional reasoning suggests that if you want to minimize the chances of a mouse or bird finding its way into your ductwork, you should install the ductwork for your HVAC system elsewhere.
There is undoubtedly some validity to each of the arguments listed above. However, it is critical to understand that these points are not applicable in all cases. In fact, attic HVAC systems can be very beneficial for some homeowners—especially for those who have taken steps to avoid these problems.
When Are Attic HVAC Systems a Good Idea?
So when might you think about installing an HVAC system in your attic? Consider these counterpoints before making your decision:
- An unsealed attic does tend to be the hottest region in a home during warm or sunny weather. This environment can heat the air in your ducts as soon as the air conditioner cools it. However, installing your ducts in the coolest part of your home is not necessarily any smarter, since it can cause the opposite effect when you run your heater during the winter. You don’t want the warm air from your furnace to lose most of its heat while moving through cold basement ducts. As such, instead of thinking about where to place vulnerable ducts for best results, why not just protect them? Either seal your attic and put the ducts there, or put them in the basement and insulate them thoroughly.
- Undoubtedly, limited access can make it difficult for contractors to access your HVAC when it needs to be serviced or maintained. For every difficult-to-reach attic, though, there is another home where the attic is accessible and spacious. As a rule, if your contractors can reach the attic to install your HVAC system, they can probably reach it again whenever it needs work. You’ll also want to think about when you’re most likely to call for service. Will it be in the summer when everybody else is clamoring for HVAC technicians, and their prices are likely to be higher? If you want to save money and call for service in the fall or winter, the attic might be the most accessible place for them to work. After all, your basement is probably going to be freezing unless it has been completely finished. Bottom line, most technicians will tell you there isn’t a massive difference between servicing a basement HVAC system and servicing a system up in the attic.
- Some pests prefer the attic, but other pests prefer the basement (or the garage, or that big storage closet of yours). The truth is that if some pests can make their way into one part of your home, then other parts of the house are probably vulnerable too. Pests are not an HVAC issue. They are a more general house issue, and they are something you should deal with regardless of where your heating and cooling systems go.
It’s also worth noting that putting your HVAC system in the attic can be a big space saver. If you want to be able to use your basement space for more than just storage, then getting your HVAC system out of the way might appeal. Without all the furnace/air conditioner hardware and ugly ductwork, the basement can be a great spot to put a rec room, a home theater, or even an extra bedroom or two. Installing your HVAC unit in the attic can free up space for these uses. Especially since most people don’t make use of their attic space, it makes sense to move the HVAC system to the attic to free up basement space.
Not Sure Where to Install Your HVAC System? Ask a Professional
Choosing attic HVAC systems is not necessarily a bad idea. In fact, it can sometimes result in better energy efficiency, less noise, and lower risk of water damage. If you want specific recommendations on where to place your next HVAC, contact a licensed professional today and ask to speak with someone who can provide additional details.
Valley Comfort conducts HVAC system installation and repair services in the following communities: Santa Rosa, Napa, Rohnert Park, Healdsburg, St Helena, Calistoga and Windsor.