Historic Chestnut Hill Home Gets Ductless Mini Split Upgrade

Like many people who proudly own historic houses, our Chestnut Hill homeowners loved the look and feel of their six-bedroom colonial. From the outside, it looked like a step back in time.

And, inside, they retained so much of the old-world ambiance and decor while mixing in some modern amenities — particularly in the kitchen.

But, one upgrade they didn’t have was heating and cooling. The home still had radiator heat and ceiling fans. And, it just wasn’t cutting it anymore.

It’s not that installing an updated system was impossible — it just wasn’t desirable.

Problem: A beautiful, spacious historic home in Chestnut Hill didn’t have ductwork for air conditioning, and their radiators left them with cold spots. The homeowners didn’t want to change the look and feel of their home.

Solution: Installed a Daikin ductless mini-split. It provides heating and air conditioning for the entire home without requiring any remodeling.


Retrofitting ductwork in a home such as is expensive. And, the house would lose its rustic charm.

So, for years, our homeowners dealt with cold spots in each room during the winter. In the summer, they could either lug out window air conditioners from storage or sweat it out.

Then, our homeowners discovered Philly Comfort while searching for alternatives. When the more they read about ductless heating and cooling, the more excited they became about it.

In this case study, we’ll look at the limitations of this home’s old system and why forced-air wasn’t a great option.

Then, we’ll take a quick look at how ductless heating and cooling works, and how it fits comfortably into this old home.

Outdated HVAC in Older Homes

Homes built before the 50s generally don’t have ductwork. And, central air wasn’t available residentially until the 70s. So, homes built before those times either need retrofitting or make do with what they have.

The radiator heat in this Chestnut Hill colonial is notably hotter than forced air. It’s also not nearly as dry as what you get with a furnace.

But, it can take a long time to heat an entire room, especially with high ceilings. That’s when you end up with cold spots. They’re not ghosts, just areas that the heat hasn’t reached yet.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia didn’t get nearly as hot in the summer now than it did a century ago. And, all the electronics we use drive up the temperature as well. Open windows and ceiling fans don’t cut it anymore.

Challenges of Ductwork in Older Homes

On top of the new HVAC equipment, our homeowners would have to add thousands more for an HVAC company to design, fabricate, and install ductwork for a forced-air system.

And, after that, their home would never be the same — and not in a good way.

Installing it would mean building out soffits, or enclosures for it, all over the house. Rooms would have ugly, boxy bulges running along the walls.

And then, it likely wouldn’t even work that well. You lose air pressure the further away from the furnace the air travels.

That’s why our homeowners made do for so long — until they discovered ductless.

Ductless Heating and Cooling in Older and Classic Philadelphia Homes

Ductless heating and cooling is an excellent choice for older, classic and historic Philadelphia homes. Benefits include:

Let’s look a little closer at each one.

Non-Invasive Installation

You can install a ductless mini split to reach every inch of your home without changing the look and feel of each room. Instead of ductwork, mini splits use a narrow, flexible line set that pumps refrigerant fluid, or coolant, between the components.

Outside, a heat pump gets rid of heat in the summer. In the winter, it draws in warmth from outside, compresses and amplifies it, and sends it inside.

In your home, wall-mounted air handlers circulate the treated air. The heat, or thermal energy, travels through the coolant in the line set.

Since those lines are small, we can often run them behind the walls where you never see them. There’s no bulky ductwork or anything else disrupting the house.


Customizable Zoned HVAC

Zoned HVAC gets rid of those hot and cold spots we talked about before. Each air handler uses a separate thermostat to regulate the room, or area, or zone, where you install it.

Even within those small areas, the handlers make sure the heating or cooling gets distributed the way you want it. Specialized sensors detect even small temperature differences in a room. Then, small fans direct heating or air conditioning to the exact spots that need it.

That was a big deal for our homeowners. Not only would their new system not take up too much space in the house. It would also make it feel more comfortable than ever before.

Cost-Saving Energy Efficiency

After the cost to install this system — which we cover here — our homeowners will find themselves paying less each month on their utility bills.

Ductless uses a tiny fraction of the energy that window ACs and gas or oil heat require. As a result, these systems often start paying for themselves after a while.

They use INVERTER technology to maintain that setting rather than turn on and off a few times every hour to correct things when it gets too hot or too cold.

Consider it like highway versus city miles in your car: You use less gas cruising on the open road instead of stopping and starting all the time.

Ductless heating and cooling got rid of cold spots in the winter and finally cooled things down during the summer in this Chestnut Hill colonial.

Thanks to manufacturer rebates and incentives from the PECO Smart Energy Program, our homeowners even saved some money on the upfront cost.

Ductless Mini Split Installation in Chestnut Hill

Once our homeowners chose the system they wanted, installing it took less than a week.

First, we found an out-of-the-way spot at the back of the house for the heat pump. It’s narrow and has a side discharge, so we put it close to the stone wall without worrying about blocking the exhaust.

Inside, we installed the air handlers mostly in the corners of each bedroom. Since they circulate the air so well, it didn’t matter that they weren’t centered.

Downstairs, we added one to handle the mostly-open kitchen, dining room, and living room area. After that, we needed just one more for a study.

With most air handlers on exterior walls, running the line set outside was simple. The final touch was choosing a casing that matched the color of the home’s exterior.

Now, our Chestnut Hill homeowners have fantastic heating and cooling that they feel but don’t see. And, they barely notice it on their electric bill, either.

You don’t need to change the look and feel of your historic home to feel comfortable in it all year. Starting with a free consultation, Philly Comfort will help you find the perfect system for your needs.