In 1973, Norman Pitt and his wife moved into a 14-room Civil War-era home in the Fishtown neighborhood of Philadelphia.
The Victorian house had all the original woodwork, and the mantlepieces throughout the home were untouched. Because of this, the Pitts didn’t want to disrupt the historic charm by adding ductwork for forced heat and central air. So, every spring they put in nine window air conditioning units throughout the house.
As you can probably imagine, this was extremely cumbersome and inefficient. But the Pitts thought there was no other way - until they found out about Unico High Velocity air conditioning systems.
An Antique Home in a Revitalized Philadelphia Neighborhood
When the Pitts bought their Fishtown home in the seventies, manufacturing was declining in the traditional working-class areas of the city. Many residents were moving to the surrounding suburbs and the community was struggling.
Then in the eighties and nineties, Center City, Philadelphia began re-emerging as an exciting, livable urban area.
As the revitalization spread, housing prices increased. As a result, younger residents and artists in search of more affordable housing pushed the development into the neighborhoods adjacent to Center City.
In Fishtown, coffee houses, art galleries and music venues such as Johnny Brenda’s began to appear and attract a new generation of visitors and residents to the area. And over the last five to ten years, the turnaround has been even more dramatic.
New construction has been filling every vacant lot and new restaurants and businesses are attracting even more residents to the area.
And in the middle of all this rebirth lies a carefully preserved, 14-room home built in the 1860s.
Preserving the old home
The Pitts’ home had many hallmarks of an earlier era. For instance, the kitchen had two separate areas split by a wall with a wood burning stove. The stove also had two faces -- one for winter cooking and one for cooking in the summer.
The far side of the kitchen was also used in the summer to keep the heat away from the living area. Eventually, the couple removed the wall to have one large kitchen, but kept the original stove as the centerpiece.
So while the Pitts made some small changes, adding ductwork was not on their list. Doing so would mean building out compartments in the rooms to house the ductwork.
Suddenly, you’d have enclosures -- about two feet wide and nearly a foot deep -- jutting out of walls and taking up closet space.
Fortunately, a high velocity system could cool the entire home without disrupting it!
How Unico High Velocity AC Works
High velocity air conditioning works by circulating air through small, flexible supply tubes. This process, in contrast to central air and traditional ductwork, has three main advantages:
It has a smaller “footprint” than central air
It's much quieter than conventional AC
It circulates the air more efficiently
The big attraction for a high velocity system in this home was that it wouldn't change the look and feel. The vents are small, round pieces -- only five inches wide -- which makes them easy to blend into the room. Then the supply tubes are run through walls and in the corners of closets, making them out of sight.
Since high velocity systems spread the treated air through the room more evenly than traditional AC, we can put those small vents in out-of-the-way places, like behind doors. And, we can install different colored ones that blend in better. Check out how well this vent (right) blends in. You may have to look closely!
High velocity offers whisper-quiet AC
An added benefit of the Unico system? It keeps the house cool and quiet at the same time. That’s thanks in large part to the noise-dampening insulation around the supply tubes. The sound attenuator material is similar to that of a gun suppressor.
Check out our experiment showing exactly how it works!
Here, you can watch as the insulation reduces the loud sound of an air horn to a muffled “whoosh” sound. And the more outlets you add to the home, the quieter these get. With enough, it’s possible to make the sound of the system unnoticeable by human ears.
Generally, you get down around 29 decibels. For comparison, that’s quieter than a library (30 decibels) and only a little louder than rustling leaves (20 decibels). Usually central air rates between 59 to 76 decibels. That range covers people talking in a restaurant all the way to a car going by at 65 mph.
Installing High Velocity in a Civil War-Era Home
At first, Norman worried that installing a high-velocity system would disturb the architectural integrity of the house; but he was pleasantly surprised when it didn't!
Even the original, ornate ceiling plaster was undisturbed.
“The blades ECI used cut right through the old plaster and lathe and did no collateral damage,” Norman said. “They were really skillful about finding places to locate the ducts and vents.”
Now, the Pitts no longer have those old eyesore window air conditioners. Their entire home is cool all summer, and they don’t even notice where the air is coming from.
The revitalization of Fishtown may come with some added noise and parking challenges. But the Pitts are happy to be living in an exciting, prosperous part of the city - and in a quiet, cool, and comfortable home.
If you’re looking for a year-round comfort solution for your home, click the button below to learn more about high-velocity systems. Or, call ECI Comfort at (215) 245-3200.