After 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.

Air 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.

Some Observations:

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

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 performance.


My Own Case Example:

Before 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 find one.


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 to 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 quiet.

Given that "
The United States requires that residential systems manufactured after 2005 have a minimum SEER rating of 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 could 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 ar
e 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.)

An Aside:

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 au courant, and that decisions should reflect the attitudes of average people not the extremes.

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. You 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.

Getting 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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