Am I moving to a decent apartment or a human kiln?
April 26, 2011 7:05 AM   Subscribe

Has anyone survived a Texas summer (or a similar hell-like environment) living in a second story 110 year old building that has floor vents for air conditioning? Yeehaw.

A little background - I will be moving to an apartment that I fell in love with in Denton, TX in May and snatched it up early. It was built in 1900 and while the bottom floor is commercial space, the top floors are being converted into apartments. The location is golden, the view is amazing, and the place is huge. Best of all, it's ALL BILLS PAID. I immediately paid the deposit and signed a year lease.
Here in lies the problem. Having had only 30 minutes or so to observe the place on a cold cool March day while it was being renovated, I sadly looked over a very important aspect - the air conditioning. Last week I snapped a few pictures and looking through I realized I saw no wall vents, only grills on the floor. I have seen these grills in houses up north where it was optimal for heating. Knowing that cold air sinks, especially on the second story, I am worried about the AC system. The building is a concrete block, so maybe it will insulate well. Either that or it will quickly become a kiln and melt me and all my belongings.
Has anyone had experiences with floor vent AC systems in a hot environment? Would investing in window units help? Would a concrete structure insulate well enough I won't have to worry? I know there are still a lot of unknowns but I would love any insight or advice from people who've had similar experiences. Thank you so much!
posted by hillabeans to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
I've lived in a house with floor vents. It didn't seem much worse than those with vents in othe locations, except that furniture had to be placed with a little more care to avoid smashing the vent covers.
posted by The Lamplighter at 7:10 AM on April 26, 2011

It sounds like standard central air to me. That's the best kind of AC I've experienced in the South, even with the vents on the floor. Are there ceiling fans? Those can help redistribute the warmer air at the ceiling with the cooler air at the floor.
posted by kimdog at 7:11 AM on April 26, 2011

I lived in an Oklahoma house with floor vents. It was no problem. We had these curved plastic covers that attached to the vents with magnets that would push the cool air into the room (away from the wall). The most important aspects to keeping the house cool were opening doors as little as possible, and keeping the windows well-covered (e.g. with mini-blinds) during the day.
posted by neushoorn at 7:21 AM on April 26, 2011

I've never *lived* somewhere like that, but just having lived some places with air conditioning in weird places on the whole, running a fan seemed to generally do the trick as long as there was enough actual cold air output to deal with the size of the space.
posted by gracedissolved at 7:38 AM on April 26, 2011

No big deal. I grew up in a house with those.
posted by amro at 7:38 AM on April 26, 2011

There are temperature minimums and maximums that landlords are required to keep apartments in. It varies from place to place. If the building is not kept at those temps, you may have to legal right to withhold rent (or partial rent). Look up a tenants' association in Denton County or Texas in general and they should be able to inform you of your rights.
posted by Neekee at 7:40 AM on April 26, 2011

Don't you want the cool air to stay near the floor where you are, rather than milling around uselessly overhead? Seems like floor vents are a good idea for AC.

I've lived through summers in Baltimore with an anemic window AC, and standing right in front of the thing all the time to stay cool was impractical. I think with floor vents you could shift your lifestyle to floor-based in the summer (think Japanese style, with mats and low tables), to maximize your exposure to the lovely coolness.
posted by Quietgal at 7:46 AM on April 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Our house in Austin (built in the mid '70s) had floor vents and keeping things cool during the summer-fall-spring was not an issue. Do not bother with window units. We had ceiling fans, which were also very helpful. As long as the place is well-insulated (concrete should do this well, I think, but the bigger factor will be the fact that you are directly under the roof & the hellish sun, so insulation above your apt is key), there will not be an issue of cold air "sinking" to the point that it is absent. It's not like you will stand on a chair and notice that it is any warmer three feet off the floor. The biggest factor will be the age of the HVAC system and (as mentioned above) its ability to push out enough air at a cold enough temp to keep the space cool.
posted by puritycontrol at 9:09 AM on April 26, 2011

What you (may) want is a circulating fan. Using these (and properly -- to move the air around, not so much to blow it on you) I've made many a hot room livable. Ceiling fans work if you can install them, of course (and use the summer setting).
posted by dhartung at 10:33 AM on April 26, 2011

I worked in an warehouse that had no AC. It would reach the high 80s low 90s on a hot day. The local coffee shop owner had spent some time in Saudi and recommend HOT coffee. I thought he was crazy.

I took his challenge and WOW a cup hot-as-I-could-stand coffee made me comfortable all afternoon.
posted by Fuzzy Dog at 10:51 AM on April 26, 2011

I use a circulating fan like dhartung linked to above to help distribute the cooler air from our not particularly elevated window unit.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 11:03 AM on April 26, 2011

what are the floors made out of? I'm in the northeast, but my parents have air conditioning ducts in the floor of their tiled kitchen floor (which is on top of about 4 inches of concrete) and it stays very cool in the summer. My dog will stretch himself out to take up as much space on the cool floor as he possibly can on hot summer days...I think he's got the right idea.
posted by inertia at 12:33 PM on April 26, 2011

I've visited and inhabited a few of the older buildings in Denton that were converted to apartments. If there was any renovation whatsoever in the past forty years, there's bound to be some form of cooling (usually central air.) Most Texas summers are just too unforgiving without it.

There were floor vents in one of the older houses I lived in and they did a decent job of keeping the place bearable in conjunction with ceiling fans. On especially hot nights, I also used a smaller oscillating fan.

In my experience, "All Bills Paid" down here often precludes the existence of window units for cooling, as they are pretty inefficient come August, and can get pretty expensive to run constantly just to keep a few hundred square feet bearable.
posted by ktrey at 1:28 PM on April 26, 2011

Response by poster: To answer questions:
There are no ceiling fans. I will have to invest in some circulating fans.
I will definitely look in plastic vents to push the air into the room.
As for the coffee, I LOVE drinking hot coffee on a hot day. I've never heard of anyone else doing that.
The floors I'm pretty sure are wood planks covered by carpet.
ktrey, thanks for the insight. I guess I'll have to work the power of fans.

Great information guys, thank you so much!
posted by hillabeans at 1:38 PM on April 26, 2011

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