Renovations from PoPville – A Fixer Upper in Park View Episode Four – Central Air

Ed. Note: We used to feature these renovations from PoPville back in the day but it’s been a while since I’ve found folks willing to share. A good time for me to say, which I sadly realize I have to say, if you have negative comments about the reno please consider keeping it to yourself. Critiquing the renovations is not the point of these posts. It’s simply to show what some folks have done. If you like it, obviously, feel free to let them know but again – well let me be clear – don’t be a jerk. Thanks. Sorry to have to preface with that. I really do love these features and am fortunate that 2 or 3 three more folks have also agreed to share their renovations. These renovations can be extensive – like a whole house gut or simply a 1/2 bath added, floor refinished or even smaller. It can be a whole series of posts or just one. If you’d like to share one of your projects please email princeofpetworth(at)gmail thanks and thanks for understanding!


You can read episode three from this series here.

It’s funny because I read and hear a lot of comments from people saying they wouldn’t purchase a house if it didn’t have central air. However, if you take a walk around DC many homes do not have central air and you’ll notice lots of window units! I did a little research before we even purchased and discovered installing central air was a significant purchase, but it wasn’t too bad. I think it’s a good investment efficiency wise and obviously for resale since so many people apparently expect central air. I’ve never lived with window units and I heard mixed reviews on how well they work. However, I did live without air conditioning during the first year of college and that wasn’t pleasant for a few months out of the year! So we started getting quotes shortly after we moved in, which felt kind of odd since it was already October at that point and air conditioning was definitely not needed.

Getting central air quotes was a much better experience than getting window quotes! Some companies wouldn’t even consider installing central air as they only did replacements for whatever reason. Polar Bear Air Conditioning & Heating said they would give us a 20 percent discount if we installed central air by the end of February because that’s usually a slow time of year and not many people are thinking about getting air conditioning work done. After reading more of their reviews and even a few comments on PoPville, we finally decided to go with Polar Bear in January and planned to start the work end of February.

The job was supposed to take about four days and it did, but that was spread out over about a week and a half due to the snow storms and ridiculously cold temperatures. They finished cutting the holes and installing the ducts and vents pretty quickly. They installed the ducts in our closets, which is good and bad. We lost some closet space, but at least they’re hidden away. And the one in the office is actually exposed because we removed that closet awhile ago. Then it was time for the roof work and it was about five degrees outside so that was out of the question. Luckily, they finished by the end of February and we now have central air! It cost $13,600 to have central air installed in the house. Polar Bear recommended a contractor to box in the duct work for us as well. They also repaired a badly damaged door frame in the office room and it looks like new again! I am very happy with the boxed in duct work and I know I will appreciate the central air this summer.

16 Comment

  • Very interesting, thanks for the information. I’d be interested to hear who was recommended to box in the ductwork.

    For comparison, I recently had an entirely new HVAC system installed in my home and it was about $14K the (but it included a furnace). I found the prices to be wildly different from contractors so this is one area where it really pays to do homework and meet with a lot of people.

    • It was just a general contractor that Joe Kelly (Polar Bear owner) recommended. I can provide you his information via email if you want. The general contractor does everything including kitchen and bath renos. The prices do vary wildly, but I have pretty much found that to be the case for everything in home renos thus far!

      • We had totally different experiences with each company we considered for the HV system – I bet I can guess who was expensive and pushy!

        We went with Energy Systems Inc, a small family owned company based in Lothian, MD. They were AWESOME! I would definitely recommend them.

        Glad to hear you’re happy with your project, too! We lived in our house for 6 years before installing Central Air. I never knew why people made such a big deal out of it as a deal-breaker for not buying a house… but i guess everybody has their thing. That said, High velocity is great – super efficient – and I’m really happy we did it. My electric bill dropped a ton….

      • This gives me lots of hope for installing central A/C in my house. Could you please provide the name of the general contractor used?

      • Great price, who was the general contractor that you used?

  • You knack for finding the perfect photo for every post astonishes me.

  • That’s a great price! We paid a bit more than that to have a high velocity system installed last May. It was SO worth it.

    • Really? We actually received a quote for high velocity and it was pretty high, about 22k! Also the sales guy was pushy and kept calling me during work hours asking if I had made a decision. Sounds like you like the high velocity system? I heard and read mixed reviews.

      • We just finished doing a High Velocity using Energy Systems (mentioned above) and it was a little under $16k. Also, I should note that we received an off-season discount and paid with a check which gets you some discounts. So far, very pleased with their work.

  • Great info. Really surprised that the project was so “cheap” (relatively speaking) and done so quickly, since I’ve heard much higher numbers before and assumed that it must be a huge hassle if you’re living there while it’s being done.

    • It was so cheap (in part) b/c he gave us a discount for doing it in the winter. The price pre-discount was around $17k. But yeah I really like Polar Bear–they’ve done some work on our radiator heating system too. It was a bit of a hassle living here while it was done. TONS of dust, which was annoying and there was a smell in our master bedroom for a few days from cutting the drywall. It bothered me so much I slept with the window cracked! And every other day I’d find dry wall debris under my couch, bed, etc.

    • There are very few outfits that really know how to retrofit ductwork and systems into DC rowhouses. Lots will quote but they will quote very high, I suppose to hedge their bets, especially if they don’t know what they will find in the attic or they don’t send a really competent person to look at the house. You will also find lots of opinions about how it should be done, which equipment should be used, where it should be located… everybody seemed to have a different idea and the prices were all over the place (between 14K and 25K for the work I had done). A lot of places will tell you that it has to take a lot of soffits/additional duct runs in your living space, but this isn’t the case for most houses if they know what they are doing.

  • I realize that a am a minority – but central air is actually a turn off for me. I live with window units and I love it. There is no need to cool an entire house when you are only occupying certain rooms. (for example when sleeping). But the reason for my preferences may be because I grew up in extremely hot climates, and my partner is from a cold climate. What we consider comfortable is different, so at night he can stay in one room with the room a/c blasting, and I stay in another without any a/c. Most people cannot believe that I only use a/c for a couple weeks out of the year. And I still use comforters to sleep, even in June, here in DC.

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