Attract High-Potential Tenants With Central AC in Your NYC Brownstone

It’s not just your imagination, summers really are getting hotter–especially if the current scorcher is any indication. Therefore, it’s more important than ever for you as a homeowner or seller to make sure your brownstone is equipped for record high temperatures if you want to attract high potential tenants. 

Here’s what you need to know about getting central A/C for your NYC Brownstone. 

Ducted vs. Ductless?

Ducted air conditioning or ductless air conditioning (aka wall-hung units aka mini splits) will be your two options when it comes to central A/C renovations. The traditional ducted units are what people typically think of when it comes to installing central air conditioning. Putting these in can involve heavy ductwork, which requires copious amounts of construction to hide all the unsightly mechanical parts. With installation, there is also no getting around tearing open the walls to install the ductwork. If you are going to go this route, it’s recommended to do it as part of a larger renovation. 

Then there are ductless units! These units are easier and quicker to install–no ductwork is required–and therefore the whole process is less expensive. Though not exactly what we would call cheap. These ductless units can also provide heat and are a less invasive option that is catching on with both tenants and landlords. These ductless units can go above the ceiling, under the floor, in front of a window, or in a recessed space. A great location for these is a dropped ceiling in a closet, pantry, or bathroom. There are even some cases where you may be able to retrofit an existing heating duct to accommodate a new ductless system, drastically reducing the amount of installation work. 

Both types of units rely on outside condensers (the outside part of your air conditioner that removes heat from inside of the home and releases it outside).

For whichever type you decided to go with, whether ducted or ductless, be sure to talk with an HVAC technican/expert to see how these units can best be used to cool your home. 

How Much Will It Cost?

Costs can vary widely depending on the house, the parts, and the kind of labor needed. Keep in mind that due to inflation, the cost of parts and labor has also rapidly increased. 

For a four-story brownstone, estimates place the cost anywhere between $62,000-$100,000, depending on whether you get rooftop work done (such as adding condensers on the roof, which is common).

Rooftop installations can add over $10,000 in filing fees from the Department of Buildings, $2,000 for a crane to hoist it all up, $5,000 to $20,000 for steel dunnage (or support), plus other fees to meet fire department code standards. 

One advantage of ductless units is that they require less outside condensers. 

Is It Worth the Investment?

Absolutely! High potential renters will shun a property if it doesn’t keep cool. If a tenant is going to spend $5,000-$20,000 a month, they expect to have functioning air conditioning.

However, you can save money by putting A/C only where the tenants need it when it comes to ductless cooling.  

Another benefit of having ductless units is that they make it easier to charge tenants for electricity, since each system is clearly earmarked (the same goes for heat). The ductless unit gives the tenant individual control over the thermostat and then they can absorb the cost if they crank it up and leave town.

Also, according to Energy Saver, the U.S. Department of Energy’s consumer resource on renewable energy technologies at home, ductless units are about 30 percent more energy efficient than systems with ducts. 

Installing these air conditioning systems will be pricey. There is no doubt about that. But they are absolutely worth it in terms of the resale value you will receive. Not only do higher income tenants expect central air conditioning, but they will also walk away from a home that requires too much upfront repairs or enhancements to improve the A/C. When it comes to selling or renting, it’s better to put your best foot forward. 

Should I Do Heating Too?

Many people prefer to stick with their radiators and just spend their money on air conditioning. Yet a ductless air conditioner provides cooling and heating. With a ductless air conditioner, you can do away with traditional mechanical rooms, getting rid of the boiler and use the ductless as the sole source of heat. Or you could just use the boilers during the coldest two months of the year and use the ductless air conditioners during other times in order to save money. These ductless units are economical because they can help you heat zones rather than the entire building. 

This is also a great way to reduce your carbon footprint, which is why the New York State Clean Heat Program offers rebates and other financial incentives to switch from fossil fuel to electrical heat pumps. (Rebates are also a proposed part of the Inflation Reduction Program that was recently passed, though will probably take time to be implemented–sorry).

To learn more about improving your home, check out our article on 5 Effective Strategies for improving indoor air quality.


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