Will luxury high-rise dwellers be shivering in September?

by Joe Zekas on 8/26/14

Chicagoans experienced cooler than normal temperatures in July, and the Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a cold winter.

Anyone who’s lived in Chicago for any length of time is keenly aware of how volatile temperatures can be. New residents of “luxury” high-rises, however, are often unaware that may not be able turn on the heat when the temperature plunges or summon cool air when it soars.

A surprising number of luxury high-rises have 2-pipe heating and cooling systems that deliver either hot or cold water to the units, where fans distribute heated or cool air. It can take as long as several days to switch a 2-pipe system from cold to hot or hot to cold.

Some buildings with 2-pipe systems have electric auxiliary heating coils (pdf) that enable heat to be generated when the system is delivering chilled water. Condo assessments that include heat in a 2-pipe system typically do not include the cost of electricity for the auxiliary heating coils.

When you’re paying $1 million or more for a luxury condo or thousands a month for an apartment, you might take hot and cool air on demand for granted. If you’re moving to a building with a 2-pipe system, you can’t. Know what to expect before you buy or rent.

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