Need HVAC Recommendation for 8 Plex

5 Replies

Hello there, first time posting, hoping you all can help.  My business partner and I just bought our first investment property, an 8-plex in KCK.  The building is now vacant, after a grueling 2 months of long work... but that's another story for another day. Regardless, we're in full rehab mode now, and that's why I need your advice.

The building currently has a single pipe, self-venting, boiler system fed off of a central gas line with a single temperature control in one unit.  But it's seen better days.  Many of the units are now missing the window AC units that were once in 2 rooms per unit, and several of the radiators (approximately 5 out of the 24) are gone too.  The electrical system is individually metered and I plan on having each of the new tenants take on those costs themselves.

So, what's the best option for me now?  

I'd love to provide both heating and cooling to the units and have the tenants pay for it, as much as is feasible.  Obviously, since this is our first deal, we're limited on our money to put into the system.  We budgeted $10K for a new boiler, but I don't know if this is the best choice going forward. 

It should also be known that it's not unusual for units in the area we're investing to use window units for cooling.  

Let me know if there's anything else you need to know.

I do commercial HVAC building system design for my day job, however not multifamily. From an investor perspective, I would agree that you want the tenant's paying for their heat and cooling. I personally can't really imagine buying a property that didn't allow me to do that. I'd have nightmares about tenants leaving windows open all winter.

But, if you're talking about 8 split systems, with new ductwork, that's going to exceed $10k easy. I'm assuming the existing is baseboard heaters with window unit AC and no ductwork anywhere? 

If this were me, I'd consider the following and go from there:

Scenario A: There is an existing furnace w/ ductwork.

In this case, I'd verify to see if your electrical service could handle 8 outside ACs with internal electric furnaces. If it can, get a bid and see if it's feasible for you to go this route and meter separately.

Scenario B: There is no ductwork.

For this one, I'd go back to your original plan. Upgrade/repair/replace existing boiler items that need it, go w/ window AC units and see if you can legally have thermostats that have a maximum setpoint of 72 degrees. If your boiler is capable, that should keep the apartment warm and discourage any open windows in the winter nonsense. Charge rents accordingly for picking up the winter heating bill. Since electrically metered separately, they can keep it as cold as they want in the summer.

Just my thoughts.

Hey @Dustin Beam , thanks for the comments.  There's no current ductwork, but it could be put in since I have a basement and attic with access to the spaces.  

I was more thinking about going with some sort of ductless split with a 2 single units with 8 zones and setting that up with one to run for the top floor (4 units, 2 zones / unit) and one for the bottom floor (something like this: https://www.totalhomesupply.com/54000-btu-multi-f-max-multi-zone-mini-split-air-conditioner/p/LG-LMU540HV).  I don't know if this is even feasible though, and whether I'd still end up paying for a vast amount of the HVAC costs since the main outdoor units would have to be on my common service.  

This at least seemed to get me the ability for the tenants to set their own temps in their units and provide both heating and cooling, but I don't know if it's really viable.  Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Originally posted by @Skye Coleman :

Hey @Dustin Beam, thanks for the comments.  There's no current ductwork, but it could be put in since I have a basement and attic with access to the spaces.  

I was more thinking about going with some sort of ductless split with a 2 single units with 8 zones and setting that up with one to run for the top floor (4 units, 2 zones / unit) and one for the bottom floor (something like this: https://www.totalhomesupply.com/54000-btu-multi-f-...).  I don't know if this is even feasible though, and whether I'd still end up paying for a vast amount of the HVAC costs since the main outdoor units would have to be on my common service.  

This at least seemed to get me the ability for the tenants to set their own temps in their units and provide both heating and cooling, but I don't know if it's really viable.  Any thoughts would be appreciated.

I considered suggesting mini splits (with ductless AC) as an option but decided against it because of cost. And I don't know of a way to split the bill with the system you linked. That outdoor unit will need to be on a breaker, and that breaker will be on a single meter. So if that's the case, you won't be able to separately charge accurately the electricity for it. You might be able to back charge for it by dividing the total bill by number of units, but I'm not sure of the legality of that and it might be a headache.

It is also basically a 4.5 ton unit. 1 ton of cooling for an apartment is probably not enough unless they are pretty small. Just some food for thought. 

You may just want to get an HVAC guy out there and talk it through with them to get a bid. Layout and exterior space can make a big difference. For instance, if you have a basement for the furnace, ground space for the condensing unit, and it's a studio apartment...then that greatly simplifies installation. If you're tight on space both inside and out, then that makes things much harder.

Here's a data point on cost for you. We recently put a forced air heating and cooling system in a 2 bedroom, 1000 sq ft house that we BRRRR'd. It originally had baseboard electric heat and window air. $6500 installed. They had easy access to the crawl space under the house to run the duct work.

I think you will be looking at significantly more than the $10k you've budgeted to convert your 8 plex to a forced air system.  In order to separate the cost you will have to have a air handler and compressor for each unit.  We have a 14 plex and that's how it's set up.  I'd figure on at least $6k+ per unit to put that kind of system in.

Good luck.

Gotcha, thanks Dustin.  That's what I feared.  

Any suggestions for good HVAC contractors in the KC area that I should reach out to?  The units are all pretty small (550 sq ft) so maybe there's a few other options to consider.

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