Oh high-rise boy, the pipes, the pipes are cooling

It’s been a typical May in Chicago’s whipsaw weather, with temperatures soaring and plunging, sometimes within the same day.

When the room turns chill in their luxury high-rise apartments first-time renters head for the thermostat. Long-time renters just chill. They know their thermostat is merely a wall ornament during parts of the year, and know the pipes are cooling.

Welcome to the seasonal misery of the 2-pipe heating / cooling systems installed in many luxury high-rise buildings.

Two-pipe systems deliver either hot or cold water to an apartment and fans then circulate either hot or cold air throughout the unit. Switching from cold to hot may take several days, making it impossible for residents of 2-pipe high-rise buildings to maintain a comfortable temperature when the weather is highly variable. That’s a cold fact that many discover to their dismay but learn to cope with and others get hot about.

A number of luxury condominiums are built with four-pipe systems, which are more expensive to install, but can deliver both hot and cold water to the air-circulation systems. Four-pipe systems give residents more control over the temperature in their home.

If you’re highly sensitive to temperature variations, be sure to inquire about the type of heating and cooling system in the unit you’re renting. You can’t take it for granted that your $3,000 a month buys you year-round comfort.


  • Sally 4 years

    It generally doesn’t take anywhere near ‘several days’ for a two-pipe system to go from cold air to warm air (and vice versa). That’s propaganda that building management in both rental and condo buildings use as a justification for not providing what the weather dictates. Most two pipe systems (even older versions) should be able to switch from heat to air conditioning the same day (by afternoon, if the conversion process starts in the morning). When building’s fail to do this, it’s often more to do with cost and lower standards, not mechanical limitation.

  • Sally,

    Individual systems vary, as you apparently know.

    When night and day temperatures vary as widely as they often do seasonally in Chicago, and when dealing with 100s of people with varying preferences, switching over isn’t a casual decision, whether or not it can be done within a day.