RESIDENTIAL: Technically Tailored, Creatively Executed

Skyline Heating and Cooling deployed a stealth team to problem-solve a complex, expansive residential project in Castle Pines, Colorado.

This Castle Pines, Colorado, project required numerous renovations. The team had to conquer numerous logistical challenges to deliver an adequate amount of air to satisfy a large living space. 

During a walk-through with the general contractor of a roughly 9,000-square-foot residence undergoing widespread renovations, Ernie Tricarico initially figured the accompanying HVAC overhaul would be “not too intrusive of a project.”       

But this scenario shifted with aesthetic expectations to maintain the 10-foot ceiling height, calling for custom soffits and the homeowner’s desire for a multi-zone system upstairs that required six dedicated thermostats ducted to a new roof-mounted RTU unit. Not to mention, there was the overriding challenge of figuring out how to supply adequate air throughout living spaces on the main and lower levels.

Tricarico, Owner of Skyline Heating and Cooling in Denver, Colorado, is a “hands-on guy.” After 46 years of performing installs, he exercised a good amount of technical and artistic wizardry with an experienced “trick crew” he credits for a specialty in “artistic thinking” and problem-solving in the field — skills to adapt, innovate and execute.

The home in Castle Pines overlooks a golf course and is set into the mountains. Before Tricarico and the team’s installation, there were two boilers, baseboard heat and mini split heat pump systems.

With numerous logistical challenges to manage, the team was charged with maximizing a limited area for ductwork to deliver an adequate amount of air to satisfy the living space. And how the system “looks” was equally important to the general contractor, especially the homeowner. “She wanted the soffits to fit in well with the design, so some fittings had to be designed for transitional soffits so they would be unnoticeable and maintain the aesthetic of the living areas,” Tricarico says.

A quick snapshot of the project’s complexity: branch ducts measuring up to 150 feet long, with some rooms requiring three to six branch duct runs and others requiring up to 15. Add limited soffits and crawl spaces, confined spaces and more.
“It was necessary to react on a daily basis, and the crew grew accustomed to daily situations, figuring out resolutions and continuing forward with minimal delays toward project completion,” Tricarico says, crediting the team for the “magic” they performed, knowing each day’s impending challenges.  


Daily communication and coordination with the design team, general contractor and field installers was essential for success. Skyline determined a system to fit the project requirements best, and Tricarico says there were options.

Ultimately, the decision was to install 40 supply branch duct runouts with many turns and bends and up to 150 feet of ductwork runs to produce 50 CFM each. Tricarico says the design team had concerns during the early stages. “But once the system was air balanced, the report reflected an astonishing 110% total airflow outcome,” he says.  

Many system components were customized to achieve the homeowner’s desire to hide the system and keep the home’s generous headroom. These included custom-fabricated manifold plenums, duct hangers and supports, register boxes, and continuous floor register plenums.

Tricarico calls attention to the continuous supply floor slot diffuser with flagstone flooring in the great room. The solution: A custom continuous floor plenum that runs parallel within floor joists and connected 4-inch round branch supply ducts spaced every 6 feet into the plenum.

“We finished it with a continuous Titus bar slot floor grille that’s approximately 80 feet long along the inside of the exterior wall of the great room,” Tricarico says.

Skyline specified 4-inch welded-seam pipe in 10-foot lengths that require fewer joint connections to eliminate airflow restrictions. “No flex duct was used due to the long duct runs,” Tricarico explains.

In many ways, the project was Whack-A-Mole. For instance, stealthy sealing skills were required to install the constant volume duct system while working in confined spaces, allowing for 45- and 90-degree bends throughout. “Sealing duct joint connections were critical to maintaining a minimal duct leakage system,” Tricarico says. Supply branch duct runs were designed to flow parallel — along with over and under each other — to fit inside custom soffits.

Thoughtful planning and layout preceded the routing and installation of 40 4-inch duct runouts. “That included a detailed field labeled drawing of each takeoff collar to its designated floor register boot to allow for proper airflow balance of the duct system,” Tricarico says.

Foreman Anthony B. Drake Garcia, Business Representative/FST, allowed the third-year apprentice, Philip Brandenstein, to manage the detailed drawings. “It had an excellent outcome that the air balancer greatly appreciated,” Tricarico says.

“We’re proud that we designed a system that required precise field measurements, putting into practice the knowledge of how systems work to ensure that the homeowner would be satisfied,” Garcia says.

“Proper planning along with very detailed coordination and communication with the general contractor helped keep the project on schedule,” Garcia adds. “It required a combined effort from the entire crew of knowledgeable and skilled workers to make such a project come together.”

Overall, the system includes a rooftop 5-ton system with six duct runs, so every upper-level room has its temperature controls. A 5-ton system accommodates the main level, with a 2.5-ton system for the lower level.

Tricarico adds that the project involved next-gen, energy-saving technology to win the homeowner's tax credits and utilities discounts. “There was a big push for electrification incentives,” he says. “At first, we tried to devise a system to reuse the existing boilers and use new hydronic fan coils. But we decided to go for electric reheat coils and a backup in the fan coil.”

This aspect of the project introduced Brandenstein to residential field innovations. “I got exposure to the future of the furnace/heat pump systems in the residential field, getting hands-on experience with the new fan coil with electric heat backup and heat pump systems for the main and lower levels of the house,” he relates.

Also, the collaborative project between Skyline Heating and Cooling and the general contractor — involving a hands-on perspective from the homeowner — provided an uncommon opportunity to interact as a team, Garcia adds. “That’s incredibly rare in commercial sheet metal,” he says.

Not to mention, there was extensive planning but no formal blueprints.

“Using a rough hand-sketched drawing information showing a general idea of ductwork routing and locations allowed me the opportunity to design the duct run, routing myself as I performed the install,” Brandenstein says.  

Aesthetic requirements also required concealing rooftop ductwork so homes with views above the mountain would not notice mechanicals. Because the flat rooftop is white, the unit was painted upon completion to blend into the roofline, Tricarico says. “If you are on the golf course below, you cannot see it from ground level,” he says.

“All three systems satisfied the design team, system design, and customer’s wants, resulting in maintaining the residents’ comfort levels,” Tricarico says.