writing all of the below, I happened onto what is called a mini
spit ductless system. It's appears to be the perfect solution for my
house where there is one big area encompassing the kitchen, dining
table, and living room on the upstairs floot. That's where most of the
heat is. This system will allow me to mount a smaller unit (2 tons) on
the outside wall and feed the coils into an air handler inside to
disperse the cooler air without using my current ducting. It can
also provide some heat in the winter very efficiently. The cost will be
about a third of the options I had previously considered and it will
probably be more effective. It will also meet all permit restrictions
and is quieter outside. You should certainly look into it especially if your
whole house is not the problem.
Conditioners In The Tahoe Keys
I am writing this for my own benefit -- approval of an air conditioner
-- and for others who may find themselves in a similar spot. I am
curious if others share my thoughts. I would like to get a census of
opinions that I might add to my TKPOA permit application.
1. "You don't need an air conditioner in Tahoe" has elvolved over the
years to "OMG, it's hot in this house!"
2. Most Keys
lots are deep and narrow.
3. The best view being the lagoon behind the house led to houses being
built as wide as possible within the general five foot setback
limitation for the structure. The average width of a side yard could be
less than in the city at large.
4. Most furnaces and the main connection for ducting are in the back of
the garage towards the side. Since the air condensor
must connect to these items, the ideal spot for the air condensor is on
the side of the garage as close as possible to those things.
5. The city and county have three foot setback (from the property line)
rules for any sort of structure including an air condensor. The TKPOA
upped that limit to five feet in the Keys with no exception for air condensors.
6. The combination of the above will make it extremely difficult or
impossible to locate the condensor
unit in the best place for many home owners. This will result in
dramatically increasing the cost of an installation and degrading its
My Own Case Example:
learning about the Keys rule, I searched for equipment that would work
at my ideal location which is shown here as a white block -- side of
garage, close to furnace, and ducting.
The numbers were this: I had 6.5 feet to the property line. You will
note that my neighbor even has no windows in the area which is more
common than you would think in nearby houses. I found a condensor
that had a footprint of 29 by 29 inches and a height of 38 inches. If I
placed it 6 inches from the house, I would have a setback of 3.5 feet
meeting the city's and county's limit.
I went to the Keys office to ask how to proceed. A woman there gave me
the email address of a member of the Architectural Committee and told
me to ask them.
I did. The
response was polite and came quickly which I appreciated. It informed me of
the five foot limit and suggested I look into a "vertical" air condensor
implying I would not be approved for the unit I wanted. But it did
suggest an approval letter from one's neighbor can be helpful. It was a
sort of no, but sort of OK with that letter from the neighbor
submitted. This is obviously a kind of grey area for the committee and
board. They want to be nice, but they don't want to change the rule.
They don't want a letter from an irate homeowner calling them traitors
for giving an exception.
I can get that letter from my neighbor, but what about those who don't
have a cooperative neighbor? That's not a choice one gets to make.
Back to equipment, I had never heard of or seen "a vertical condensor" so I searched to
Above are the ads for the unit I had planned to buy (Goodman) and the
only similar capacity vertical unit I could find (Bard). As I
mentioned, the one I wanted was 29x29x38 inches. The Bard is
74.5x38.5x17.5 inches. That would be 20 petty ugly square feet attached
the side of my house. The Bard has a five year waranty from a company I
never heard of. The Goodman offers 10 years and is a well-established
company. The Goodman has an efficiency SEER rating of 16. The
Bard is 11. And, without a doubt, the Goodman is considerably more
Given that "The
United States requires that residential systems manufactured after 2005
have a minimum SEER
13", I have to wonder about the age of the Bard. Was it even made this
century or is there a spare part in existance? The Bard price is also
ridiculous because, I suppose, it can only be sold to someone who is
desparate to get air conditioning and has no choice for some reason. It
is true that the Bard
would meet the 5 foot setback in my case, but it's a terrible choice I
would not make.
I think our board should simply lower
the setback rule just for air condensors to the three feet limit of the
city and county. They can keep it at five for everything else--play
sets, sheds, whatever. Eliminating those things from some places does
not lead to exteme costs and negative consequences. Or, maybe they
routinely grant exceptions for condensors.
The heat has changed things and A/C will become a popular option. Let's
eliminate the nightmare of those extra two feet added by the Keys that
really serve no purpose in the case of an air condensor. A/C sytems are
only likely to be run on those hot days from perhaps noon to 7 PM when
windows can be opened in the old Tahoe style. (If
you feel noise needs controling, you can add rules about
decibels, not distance. Two
feet is not going to change acoustics. Modern air condensors are not
that noisy, and some can match diswashers though that adds to the cost.)
I know this thanks to a comedy routine of Lenny Bruce back in the
sixties. I will tell a part of the routine, but leave out the colorful
language so no one is offended.
There is a famous 1957 case of the Supreme Court on the criteria by
which a work was judged to be obscene or not. Up until that case, a
work was judged by how it might affect the minds of the most
susceptible. That was known as the Hicklin test. In this case, however,
the judges put that approach aside and said a work should be judged in
terms of "Contemporary Community Standards." They recognized that what
is or is not "something" could change over time, that an elder judge
might not be be
and that decisions should reflect the attitudes of average people not
I'll leave it to you to determine if this has any relevance to anything
including air condensors.
Axiom Of Interest:
If a neighbor puts an air condition between your mirror image houses,
the same air
conditioner put next to your house would not be noisier for them in
their house than
theirs is for you in your house regardless of the property line.
Other Things I Learned:
An air conditioner will require a unit of coils to be slapped on top of
or underneath your furnace to cool circulating air. That means the
ducting above you furnace will have to be shortened or perhaps redone.
There is also something called an air handler which can do this itself
if you don't have a furnace, but that requires another sizable unit.
In my own case, I am thinking about replacing my old furnace, so I
would not have to again redo the ducting if the furnace dies. Some
newer furnaces (in the 90% class) can be more efficient, but those
generate a sort of acidic exhaust which means you have to replace the
galvanized exhaust piping (usually to the roof) with PVC piping. That
may or may not appeal to you.
You can also consider a heat pump which is an air conditioner that
works in both directions so you can use it to heat your house as well.
These work pretty well and can be more efficent. They generate warmer
not hot air and may struggle as temperatures get closer to freezing.
can pair one with a furnace and some smart thermostat can figure out
which to use. We had one in D.C. for the years we lived there and it
worked fine (summer and winter) without a furnace. In my own
case, I don't want the hassle of another unit
and keeping it safe and clear during the winter. An air conditioner can
just be covered for the cold months.
The simplest way of choosing the size of an air conditioner: 1 ton per
500 square feet is likely to lead to something more powerful than you
need at Tahoe.
By In The Mean Time:
A powerful fan I bought at Costco some years ago can lower the
temperature in our house from the 80's to 68 overnight. It's pointed to
blow air out with other windows around the house opened to allow air in.
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