Are you tired of your A/C unit taking up precious patio space? Are you done with its huffing and puffing, all within earshot of your Adirondack chair? Has your repairman ever scratched his head wondering where your broken system’s malfunction is, in the unit or somewhere inside the house?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may want to upgrade your central air system to a rooftop unit. Yes, these units are not cheap to install. But, their efficiency and secluded location may balance out the higher cost. That makes it worthwhile to check if it is right for you.
Commercial and industrial facilities have favored rooftop HVAC systems for decades, as their buildings’ flat roofs allow for easy installation and maintenance and save precious ground-level space. In single-family residential homes, however, rooftop systems are lagging in popularity. Most homeowners are discouraged by the higher costs and opt for central air systems instead.
If you have a central A/C, chances are it’s sitting on a concrete pad outside your home. While the location is ideal for installation and service, it also comes with several challenges. Being on the ground, the units are debris-magnets. Their easy access may encourage thieves and vandals, while children and animals playing nearby can cause inadvertent damage. Because of their reliance on the home’s forced-air furnace system to function, maintenance and repairs of central air systems may be tedious and expensive.
On the other hand, rooftop systems are largely out of harm's way thanks to their location. Unauthorized access to a rooftop unit is usually difficult, easily detectable, and there’s less risk of debris accumulating and clogging the mechanism.
Rooftop A/C systems bypass the furnace and circulate air via their ducts, so repairs and maintenance are limited to the unit itself. Because cold air descends, an HVAC system placed above the space it serves can operate with reduced fan speeds and consumes less power.
If you decide to move your system to the roof, you have some homework to do. You should find out an optimal size for your system, determine whether your roof can handle the added weight, and make sure that the roof will still protect you from the elements after your system is installed.
Before you purchase a new HVAC system, take the time to figure out what size it needs to be. Systems that are too small or too large are not energy efficient, and will not condition your home the way you want them to. A properly sized unit, however, will create a comfortable indoor environment and help reduce your energy bill.
To get a rough idea of your home’s conditioning needs, you can multiply your total floor area by the base heating factor of 25 British Thermal Units (BTUs). The product of this calculation will point you in the right direction but lacks accuracy as it excludes factors like the number of occupants, the local climate, the home’s insulation, and the orientation of windows. For a precise calculation that accounts for all these variables, call your HVAC contractor. They will work out the optimal system size based on “Manual J” - a standard calculation manual for HVAC systems.
Once you’ve established your system’s capacity, you’ll know its weight and dimensions. With this knowledge in hand, you can plan to install your unit. The first question on your mind should be, “Is my roof strong enough to support the added weight?”
Don’t rely on an HVAC contractor to answer this question for you; it’s not their job. Instead, hire a licensed structural engineer to perform a structural analysis of your roof. An engineer will examine your roof’s structure, perform load calculations, factor in the roof’s age and material composition to see if it needs any touch-ups before installation. Depending on your roof’s design and condition, you may need to reinforce, repair, or replace it.
After confirming your roof’s ability to support the HVAC system, you can figure out where to mount it. An ideal location will offer sufficient clearance around the unit to satisfy safety requirements and allow for easy maintenance access.
To ensure proper condensate flow during operation, the HVAC unit must be level. If your roof is pitched, the supporting curb, or the frame, must be designed to create a level surface. Your engineer can collaborate with the HVAC contractor to establish the optimal location for the unit and design its support structure.
Installing a rooftop HVAC unit will call for penetrations through the roofing membrane and assembly. These should only be made for ductwork and reinforcement as needed, not the footprint of the entire unit. Keeping penetrations to a minimum will enhance the unit’s acoustic isolation. Likewise, isolators may be needed beneath the unit to reduce the transmission of vibrations into the building.
After the unit is installed, the roofing contractor will have to ensure that the roof can still keep out the weather. This means providing adequate flashing around all openings made during installation.
Once the penetrations are flashed, your HVAC contractor can test the unit and walk you through the operation manual. And you’re all set to enjoy your new A/C!
If you’d like to take advantage of the many benefits a rooftop HVAC system offers, we can help. Our licensed, professional engineers will perform a full structural assessment of your roof, and recommend modifications to support your new unit. If your roof needs some work before the system can go up, we will strive to minimize your project costs and help you sail through the permitting process. To find out more, call us at (877) 892-0292 or send your inquiry to email@example.com for a FREE consultation and quote.
Design Everest is OPEN! We work remotely and are fully committed to taking on and delivering projects.
Design Everest’s remote working model can safely take-up and deliver your projects within the current government guidelines on COVID-19 (a.k.a Coronavirus). This applies to many of our project scopes, including architecture, civil engineering, structural engineering, and construction administration across California.
Design Everest is set up to remotely leverage digital platforms (virtual meetings, calls, emails etc.) in client-facing and internal operations. Over the years, we have advanced this ability to the extent that we can continue supporting new and existing clients across many of our projects. Even projects that need an on-site visit can be fulfilled safely via video calls or in-person visits, where permitted.
Note that the present government guidelines permit the delivery of essential services, including those related to construction.
YES, Design Everest's remote working model enables us to work safely with all clients, suppliers, industry partners, and internal staff as per government guidelines.
Design Everest can still support many of our types of projects (new or ongoing) safely. For example, new custom homes, accessory dwelling units, civil plans etc. We are committed to delivering these remotely and safely as per the current government guidelines. In case of any external dependency that is unavoidable/unavailable, your assigned Custom Success Manager or Project Manager will keep you posted on it and try their best to keep your plans in-progress.
YES, our remote working model enables us to be fully committed to ongoing projects. In case of any external dependency that is unavoidable, unavailable or unsafe, your assigned Custom Success Manager or Project Manager will keep you updated and try their best to keep your plans in-progress. If an on-site visit is not feasible via a video call, we will try our best to fulfill the visit safely, where permitted.
Some of our clients are already going ahead with their projects with us via video calls or virtual meetings. Your assigned Customer Success Manager or Project Manager is happy to help you with this, where needed.
There are multiple reasons for this. It's typical to plan the construction step in the summer. So, clients get started on the pre-construction steps (architecture, engineering, and construction admin) in winter or spring to stick to planned timelines.
Projects such as Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and Additions/Remodels enable clients to rent/resale and generate revenue. Meanwhile, many clients are concerned about protecting their families and businesses against earthquakes by retrofitting their homes and buildings. These are just a few of the various reasons why it’s still reasonable for clients to stick to their construction plans.
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To summarize, Design Everest is OPEN and able to serve new and existing clients, affiliates, suppliers, and industry partners.
Stay safe and rest assured that Design Everest can help you go ahead with your plans as per the recommended safety guidelines!