Dear PoP – Central Air and Roll Down Door Installation?


“Dear PoP,

We recently purchased a home in the neighborhood that will require major renovation. Two big items on our list are installing central air and installing a roll down door in the yard for secure parking. Can you or any of your readers recommend a company that installs central air in old row homes and a company where we can purchase and have the roll down door installed? We are looking for a company who does good work at fair prices.”

I’d also be curious to know some central air installation recommendations. Though I did once wonder if it killed community cohesion?

Ed. Note: A reader suggested a put together an easy to find list for posts like this. I think it’s a great idea and I’ll work on a new section for home improvement recommendations or something like that.

52 Comment

  • \Poon\ (no joke, family owned) does an outstanding job with their roll up doors. Two of my neighbors have them and I have major Poon envy. They are not advertised anywhere and I’ve never been able to get a phone number for them except off one of their installations. Literally all 3 generations showed up to my house to take to quote the job. It was too expensive for me at the time; they are wickedly expensive, ~$10k for a 17′ entrance. However, they are the only game in town that I’ve found. Other installers have told me that the doors don’t technically meet code, so they won’t install them. I keep trying to track down a kilo or two to sell to make the cash. Otherwise, you’re stuck with a kludgy floating garage door installation.

  • My husband and I recently bought an old rowhome in CH too and had central heat and air installed. We used Argent Heating & Cooling, and they did a great job.

    • KL – Out of curiousity, why did you decide to get central *heat* too? Most people I hear say they prefer the old radiator heat.

  • We used to James A Wheat & Sons to install our A/C. I think they did a good job. We did get quotes from several places before we decided.

  • I’ve been wondering about the high velocity A/C systems, where you keep the radiators for heat, for my house. Any opinions on such a system, or any idea on cost?

    Everytime I see one of these posts I get interested in a roll door for my yard, but then i remember how much they cost and decide my rickety gate is good enough.

    • jal,
      I just got a bunch of AC quotes, including for high velocity systems. In the end, I wasn’t that impressed since they would have still required duct work outside of the walls & ceilings and cost several thousand more than conventional systems (and don’t qualify for the tax credit). And you can keep your radiators with conventional systems; I did.

  • Argent upgraded my friend’s boiler and did an average job. However, Argent tried to upgrade my boiler system to $5k of new pipes, when all I needed was 2 valves and a new water pump for $300. I apparently had “sucker” written on my forehead that day.

  • I used Argent for a CAC install a couple years ago and then replaced my boiler/hot water heater shortly thereafter. I bid the work out to multiple HVAC companies both times… Argent had beat other prices by $8-$10k, obviously times were different then, but Ron (bids DC jobs) was pleasant to work with both times…

  • If you have nice radiators and the heat runs well, the old boiler systems go for a premium in an otherwise nice house. People like the old world feel. If/when I install central air, I’ll go with the high velocity system with the compressor on the roof.

  • houseintherear

    I REALLY suggest considering ductless heat/ac. (Big unit on the roof, individual units that sit above doorways or high on the ceilings– they have them at Looking Glass, if you haven’t seen them before.) I have a 1200 foot carriage house (2 floors), with one unit downstairs and one in each bedroom. It cost me about $8k total.

    You can control the temp in each room separately. It can be on a timer, and all kinds of other fun techie things. It’s all run by remote control. And my bills, seriously, are EXTREMELY LOW. It’s all electric, obviously, and for this 1200 sq ft house with 15 ft ceilings, bills have always been under $120/mo. Last month, even with the bitter cold and heat running constantly, the Pepco bill was $67.60.

    It’s all the rage in Europe because of cost and “green”ness. Can’t remember the company I used, but I can look it up if anyone asks– There are lots of area companies that install these systems now, and they’re all similar in cost from the research I did before getting mine installed.

    • Hey, there. Consider me asking. Would you mind looking up the company you used and reporting back? This sounds like a great option. Thanks!

  • jal – high velocity is expensive… especially when it’s not new construction/total gut.

    As for the doors… I live in CH, no door, the only problem I’ve had in 3.5 yrs is someone taking a shit by my basement door and almost running over a latin fella who passed out in my driveway… my rear bumper was almost over his head.

    For the poster… if you are embarking on a massive renovation… I wouldn’t waste money on a garage door, if you have nice cars… they will get to them if they want them. It’s a false sense of security for the most part, just like a traditional phone line alarm system in DC… all phone lines are run from the utility pole in your alley… any half way decent crook would snip the phone line before breaking into your house… why waste the money.

    • blester01

      To counter the phone line being snipped, you can get a cell and battery backup for the security system. Even if our power goes out and the phone lines are down, our security system is still operational.

      When we did our rehab, we put in wired smoke detectors (if one goes off, they all go off- exceeds code) and our security company, N&D Security, was able to install a piece of equipment on their panel so in the event the smoke detectors go off the fire department is notified. Of all the security companies that I interviewed, N&D was the only one who could do this.

  • I used Wyant Heating and Air out of Frederick for an AC only install last summer – they were quick, less expensive than other bids, and I’ve been happy with the work. Because they came down from Frederick they wanted to start working crazy early, but they were respectful of the fact that most people were still sleeping at the time, and were quiet until a more respectable hour. I didn’t go with the high velocity system becasue I’ve heard they are pretty loud.

  • radiators are “old world feel”?

  • blip – A lot of people prefer radiator heat. It’s very efficient, and it doesn’t dry out the air the way central heat does.

  • I got a two-car wide roll-up gate installed behind my rowhouse last year. Went with Pooner & Sons. I think you can reach Alan Pooner (I think he’s the middle of the three generations) at 410.404.1416. They did a great job and gave us a 20 year warranty. They also took care of the historical/permitting nonsense. But we had to find our own electrician (and our choice was a massive fail).

    I also looked at using the Overhead Door Company. They’re at 301.937.1800. Sometimes they say they don’t do residential, but they eventually gave me a quote. It was a wash with Pooner, and ODC won’t do anything more than a one year warranty.

  • Roll Down Door
    N Pooners and Son
    +1 (410) 404-1416
    +1 (202) 737-0600

    Excellent Efficient not cheap

  • I used Climate Control

    Climate Control Service Co
    Highland, MD
    (301) 596-9408‎

    family run business with more than 30 years experience – super honest guys. I absolutely love them.

  • really? I’ve lived with the old radiator heat and it’s hugely ineffective and super expensive. coldest 2 winters ever.

    • oops, that was meant @Kate.

    • Sounds like a window/door and insulation problem… unless your boiler isn’t working properly. Radiator heat is generally better from a moisture perspective. Modern homes typically don’t have two systems because of the labor/material/equipment costs associated with installing two systems, ducts and radiator pipes, boiler and condenser.

  • Argent did mine, along with some follow up duct work. Ron Gallant is the sales guy I used. Great guy, good follow up, excellent warranty repairs (blower went early). He made great addiional recommendations (blown insulation in the acttic that made all the difference in the summer.

  • Radiators are the far superior heating option. A properly sized and functioning boiler is the key. If I could pick any option it would be hot water radiant floor heat, but I have the old radiators and they work great.

    Forced air heat is convenient because you can often piggyback on AC ducts, but the heat is very dry and less effective when positioned high on walls or near ceilings.

  • I’ve installed 3 high velocity systems in DC rowhouses using Rich Abernathy at Air Cool & Heating. They do a great job. High velocity are slightly more expensive (though not significantly so) but worth it when you don’t want a lot of visible ductwork and would like to keep your radiator heating system. (703) 360-7840
    His best installers are James & Anthony.

  • Check out Michael Bonsby – 301-990-7970. The AC contractor from the DC This Old House. The man has a passion for AC and will give you the right fit for your house – high velocity, conventional, mini split and VRF.

    They all have plusses and minus. Like someone else said, at the end of the day, I’d go with the ductless mini split or VRF. They install better in existing contruction. They allow for real zoning, and at least in our experience, our bills are ridiuclously cheap. It isn’t even funny.

    Get a heat pump. It doesn’t cost that much more and it gives you flexibility. It is a nice resale point too, as any home inspector will tell you.

  • Ductless mini split all the way. It’s really the smartest thing to do.

  • I just had my AC installed last week. I went with Polar Bear after recommendations from the Petworth listserv, researching them on Angie’s list, and getting quotes from 3 other companies. They were the best price and their design didn’t involve ripping up my 100-year-old house. (In fact, their design was less intrusive than the high velocity quotes I got.) Really nice guys and very clean/respectful with the installation.

    The ductless mini split systems were intriguing, but I was concerned with resale, that I would want to be able to advertise “central air.”

    • There seem to be two Polar Bear Heating and AC co’s. Do you have the address or phone number of the one you used?

  • I recently used this company:
    Garrett Air Conditioning, Refrigeration & Heating
    9090 Junction Dr #5
    Annapolis Junction, MD 20701
    Phone: 301-854-2700

    to replace my gas furnace. Garrett is recommended for price and quality by Washington Consumer Checkbook.

    I was very pleased with the company’s work.

  • If you have kids or plan to have kids, I would NOT buy a rolling door. It doesn’t have an emergency reverse switch which is required by the building code that DCRA supposedly enforces. Overhead door quit doing residential rolling doors because of the lawsuits. Eventually, poon will as well when the right lawsuit comes along. They ARE NOT safe for homes with kids, they may get crushed.

    Also, high velocity AC systems have a significantly higher failure/repair rate than conventional systems. Ductless is great, but for a house with multiple rooms, it could get really expensive for installation. Generally speaking a heat pump works well, is efficient, affordable, and easy to service. If you are interested in being more efficient you could separate each floor into a different zone with different air handlers and condensers.

    • You’re wrong. It does have an emergency reverse switch. I have one, and so far no kids have been crushed.

      And, it did reverse when I closed it on the hood of my friend’s car.

  • Pooner doors rock. Expensive but worth it if you want to feel secure. They’ll recommend Don for electric. I live in CH and can heat my car in the morning while i refill my coffee and no one can drive off with it. Plus, my son can play in the backyard and i don’t have to worry about some bum accosting him, and i’ve always wanted a BatCave. I put regular ac in house, ran the ducts in the attic and closets so only one bedroom has a bulkhead and the rest of the house has none. and kept radiators for heat. very happy. Resale, it’s all worth it.

  • hey KCK, the pooner doors have reverse mechanism when they bump into something. kids won’t get crushed. i tested it on mine.

    • It’s also supposed to have a sensor that detects objects moving through the door opening, which it doesn’t.

      Also, it’s supposed to meet certain pressure requirements it regards to the level of sensitivity. I’ve never seen a rolling door that meets that requirement under the IRC.

      • Sorry about the “old world feel” I meant “it looks old, so people pay extra for it”.

        Don’t let the death of a small child worry you about the doors. Unless the kids are playing with the switches or grandma goes out and presses the button while the kids are playing with the door open, you’ll be fine.

  • It’s against DC code for electric residential roll-up doors. The roll up doors are only approved for commercial use. Companies like OHD will install a custom door but you’ll need to find your own electrician to hook up the motor.

    fyi- there’s a reason why they’re not up to UL code- there’s a small risk of starting a fire and I don’t think there’s a safety mechanism to roll back up if something is caught under the door. I’m sure you’re homeowners insurance would flip.

    • DCdude is right. It should be UL listed, which means it’s been through an amazingly thorough safety test with VERY specific instructions for it’s use.

  • Who wants an old radiator on the wall? makes it a pain in the ass to put furniture anywhere

  • Oh, this is for anyone getting a new AC system. You should ask the company to do a “manual J calculation” for the new system. Manual J software calculates the optimal duct configuration for the house based on multiple inputs. Improper duct installation is the equivalent of turning a Prius into a SUV. Metal ducts are always preferred over flexible ducts and make sure ducts in unconditioned space are insulated.

  • Because you have a few projects, get a month subscription to Angie’s List. Most of the high rated companies offer coupons for service.

    HVAC- definately do the J calculation. You want the most efficient system, not the cheapest or most expensive.

    Have you thought where you’d place the condensor outside? In your estimates get a line item for placing it on the roof. The condenser can be noisy; if it’s on the roof you’ll never hear it and your neighbors will thank you. Hopefully you have roof access.

  • We also went with the Pooners and have been very happy. The door automatically goes back up if it touches something…I assume this would include a child but we haven’t tested it on one.

    • Every electric overhead door motor [even the cheapo Sears ones] since the early 1980’s has had an automatic return if the door strikes anything on the way down. We used to play ‘Indiana Jones’ and wait until the last second and dive under them – none of us were ever crushed or dismembered by overhead doors.

  • As we are well into our D.C. heating season (late Oct through April) here’s a short lesson from an old landlord on forced air systems and radiated heat:

    Enter a home that has radiated heat now in January or February and you’ll easily notice the difference -a cozy feeling as you first enter.

    Refrigeration, HVAC central heating/AC, and radiated heating systems are best understood beginning with the physics premise that spacial cold does not exist;
    it is an absence of heat.

    In northern climates, forced air heating systems are an unnatural very dry air heat system that is less desirable in many ways and less efficient as well.

    Gradual radiated heating systems are far superior to forced air for heating by retaining ambient winter humidity within living spaces. It’s better for the contents of a home, the house itself, and people as well, especially noses and throats.
    Two types: hot water and steam.

    Radiators heated with hot water circulating systems are better and easier to maintain than high pressure steam heated radiator systems. Steam radiators have a valve on one end, are noisier, can leak and stain flooring. (Hot water radiators have no valves.)

    Bulky radiators and subsequent space robbing perimeter baseboards with copper fins have been replaced in modern construction with radiant floor systems of serpentine tubing underneath sub flooring with slow constantly circulating hot water throughout the home flooring -nice in bathrooms.

    The tubing is seamless, continuous break free with no couplings to prevent leaks. This system while more costly up front, consumes much less energy in the long run, and is far more comfortable.

    Divert the cold municipal water to a system that sends the water deep into the warm earth below your property and returns up before entering the boiler and you have the most natural energy effecient heating system.

    The combination of both central air conditioning and a hot water circulating radiated heat system in a home is considered most desirable and the absolute best.

  • We have radiators and a high-velocitty SpacePac system for air conditioning. It works very well, and we didn’t have to put in all the ductwork.

  • We also used Polar Bear for conventional central AC. The unit is on the roof (looks like a roller coaster), a few ducts go through closets, and only one vertical duct had to be installed in a corner of the spare room. Most vents are in the ceilings. Installation was amazingly fast (2 days?) and the price was very reasonable (so we thought). The guys were friendly and efficient. And we kept our radiators, for sure.

    • Which Polar Bear did you use? There are 2 on Angie’s List: 3522 Water St and 1045 Wisconsin Ave. Thanks!

  • Pooner is the best roll up door company. They installed my doors, and I’m very happy with the work. They have been in business for over 50 years and are highly regarded as the best. They offer a 20 year warranty and 24/7 emergency service. I’ve had my doors for about two years, and they work great. They can be reached at 202-737-0600. Baltimore number, 410-323-0099.

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