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Thread: Darkroom HVAC

  1. #1
    David Brown's Avatar
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    Darkroom HVAC

    I built my current darkroom in a space that already had a small window AC embedded in the wall (before we bought the house). I have been using it for cooling (please, no lectures about how you don't have AC in your darkroom and you do just fine - I live in Texas for heat's sake) and a small oil-filled radiator for heat in what passes for winter here. Efficient enough, but I had intended from the beginning to replace it with a unit that both heats and cools.

    However, procrastination set in. My father always told me that there was nothing more permanent than a temporary solution. Yes, Dad.

    Still, Fall is approaching, and I had considered going ahead and doing it this year rather than getting the radiator out again. I even had a contractor out earlier this week to give me a bid on a mini-split unit, but that turned out to be too expensive, so another window unit will have to do. I have a darkroom workshop scheduled 3 weeks from today, so do I wait until after, or get the new one in before hand?

    Fate has answered all my questions, as this morning the old unit quit! The motor is frozen up and it's not worth fixing. How's that for timing and motivation? I've got film to process, prints to make, and a workshop to prepare for. Off to the appliance store!

  2. #2
    Bob Carnie's Avatar
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    David

    You may also at the same time consider humidity control, if you are going to stabalize your darkroom with heat , go the whole magilla with humidity .

    this will be of great help with alternative processes where humidity is a huge factor.

    Bob

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    David Brown's Avatar
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    Thanks, Bob. I'm pretty much a silver print guy, no "alternative processes" unless one considers the darkroom to be one, itself.

    Adding humidity is hardly ever a real issue in this part of the country anyway.

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    Bob Carnie's Avatar
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    We see great fluctuations in humidity up here as well as temps, though we do not get the extreme heat you are use to. But -30 celcius with windchill can be pretty disheartening thats why there are so many snowbirds in the USA south during Jan - March.

    I hope to be one of those people some day.

  5. #5
    ROL
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Brown View Post
    I even had a contractor out earlier this week to give me a bid on a mini-split unit, but that turned out to be too expensive, so another window unit will have to do.
    How "too expensive"? The units are cheap. Perhaps other bids from other qualified installers would be more to your liking. As a silver printer in a confined environment, I find excess humidity within the space also used for enlarging to be a frequent problem (i.e., like every work session) addressed quickly with my mini-split's options.
    Last edited by ROL; 09-21-2013 at 12:17 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  6. #6
    David Brown's Avatar
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    I agree that the units appear cheap. Under a grand all over the internet. However, they require a qualified and equipped AC tech to install. I talked to three, and all three were over $3K! If I had been persistent, I probably could have bought a unit online, did the physical install myself, and had a tech come out for the hookup-for a couple of hundred in "service call" fees. The other issue with the mini-split was air circulation. I would have to have added an exhaust fan and air intake. Not undoable, just another step and expense.

    But, then, I just got home from buying a perfectly adequate window unit for about 30% off @ $450 (good time of year for that) and I'll have it in soon enough.

  7. #7
    Ken Nadvornick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Carnie View Post
    You may also at the same time consider humidity control, if you are going to stabalize your darkroom with heat , go the whole magilla with humidity.
    Another vote for humidity control for anyone else reading this not from Texas. Mine is a daylight basement darkroom built out by me from the wall studs. Even though I initially installed a vapor barrier all around and sealed the concrete floor, humidity persists. So I finally gave in and purchased a small inexpensive 9-liter capacity floor dehumidifier.

    Wow. What a difference. Especially in the summer time. During the winter it can take 2-3 weeks to fill the unit when set to 50% humidity. During the summer less than 48 hours. Huge amounts of water are removed. I was amazed.

    Most of my darkroom work is done during our long winters. So during the summers I now store all of my cameras and equipment in the darkroom to keep everything dry and fresh. Can't afford to miss any of the short periods of nice weather we are barely allocated around here.

    Ken
    "They are the proof that something was there and no longer is. Like a stain. And the stillness of them is boggling. You can turn away but when you come back they’ll still be there looking at you."

    — Diane Arbus, March 15, 1971, in response to a request for a brief statement about photographs

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    A heat pump or combination is expensive. I would just replace the AC in kind.

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    David Brown's Avatar
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    As I said in post #6, I had already bought the replacement unit (which both cools and heats) and it is installed and working.

    The old unit was installed in the wall under the only window. http://newdr.blogspot.com/2010/05/window-pain.html

    I figured that since I would probably end up with a bigger unit, I would have to install it in the window and fill in and cover up the hole. While the new unit has more capacity, it is the same physical size - simply serendipity - and so it went back into the exiting opening. It was the path of least resistance. I still have some trim carpentry and caulking to finish, but all is well.

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    What humidity would people recommend? Here in Colorado it is very dry (33% today) and dust is a pestilence.
    “You seek escape from pain. We seek the achievement of happiness. You exist for the sake of avoiding punishment. We exist for the sake of earning rewards. Threats will not make us function; fear is not our incentive. It is not death that we wish to avoid, but life that we wish to live.” - John Galt

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