Choosing an HVAC system

Bob Vila
Choosing an HVAC System
.

View photo

Choosing an HVAC System

If you're considering a new system for your home, talk first to your architect or designer. Conversations with HVAC contractors will probably follow, although you or your designer may also want to consult a specialist – a heating engineer – in the event your building project presents unusual demands.

Talk through in detail exactly what your needs are. If your budget is tight, you'll need to identify essentials. If you can afford to think more broadly, consider the added comfort of, say, radiant floor heating. If you're unhappy with your present system or would like to add humidification or a filtration system, get bids for those costs. In most cases, extending your existing system or adding a smaller area heater will be the least expensive option.

[Click to find the right contractor for your HVAC system now.]

Here are a few other considerations:

The Air-Conditioning Option. As a rule of thumb, if local temperatures rarely rise above 85 degrees Fahrenheit, you probably don't need central air-conditioning. On the other hand, central air is often regarded by realtors as a valuable selling point, so if there's a chance you'll be transferred to another region or are likely to put your home on the market for any reason in the near future, central air-conditioning may be a good investment. Top-of-the-market houses get top-of-the-market prices because they have all the bells and whistles. For people with asthma and other allergy problems, central air with its ability to filter and "condition" household air can also have health benefits.

Beware of Oversize Systems. Strange though it may sound, too much heating capacity will make a system less efficient. It will cause the system to cycle on and off frequently, producing excess wear and tear on the components. The system may never reach peak operating temperatures.

To be sure your system is suited to your home, ask your HVAC contractor, heating engineer, or whoever designed the system to walk you through the calculation. The process consists of determining what the heating load is (based on an arithmetical formula that factors in the size of your home, its insulation, and the local climate). The system capacity should be no more than 25 percent greater than the calculated heating load.

[Be sure your HVAC system is well-suited for your home. Click to find a contractor now.]

Simple Is Usually Less Expensive. Staying with your existing system is almost certainly the cheapest route. If your system has enough capacity that it can be extended to heat (or cool) new spaces, that approach will probably be less expensive than installing an all-new system.

Buy Quality. Good shoppers don't always buy bargains. Buying durable boilers or furnaces that come with long warranties often costs more initially but, over the years, presents fewer headaches. Good furnaces often are guaranteed for twenty years, boilers for thirty, heat pumps for less.

Think Locally. Don't buy equipment that no one in your area can service. If the only HVAC contractor who'll bid your job is a long-distance call away, you could be asking for trouble. These sophisticated modern systems require occasional checkups by service people familiar with their design, installation, and individual characteristics. One industry study found that half of all service calls were the result of improper or insufficient maintenance.

View Comments

Recommended for You

  • Young designers' showcase: With luck, they'll be coming soon to a future near you

    Here are some of the best works by designers under 35 showcased at Milan Design Week.

    Spaces
  • How to Build a Dog-Friendly House

    The practicality of a dog door depends, of course, on where you live and the size of your dog. But having a built-in dog door is a great boon for both dog and owner. Have a look at Amanda Pays and Corbin Bernsens' dog door tucked into a corner of their laundry room. Above: A charming dog door…

    Remodelista
  • Mott's® Gluten-Free Fruit Flavored Snacks

    No Artifical Flavors. All Goodness. Mott's® Fruit Flavored Snacks Are 100% Gluten-Free. Try Them In 3 Different Flavors!

    AdChoices Mott's® Sponsored
  • Alternatives to putting 20% down on a home

    Raising a 20 percent down payment isn't an easy thing to do, fortunately, you don't have to.

    U.S. News
  • Mortgage Rates Have Stayed Low, So Should You Make Extra Principal Payments?

    Does it make sense, then, for homeowners to make extra principal payments? And if it does, what's the smartest strategy?

    MainStreet.com
  • Pay $1.3M For an Incredible Amount of Folk Music History

    Click here to view the full photogallery. In a bit of real estate news sure to delight history and music buffs alike, The Little House in Orangetown, N.Y.—a former gathering place for folk music elite like Woody Guthrie, Pete...

    Curbed
  • This Charming Country Cabin is Maine's First Passive House

    In It's Not Easy Being Green, Curbed pulls back the curtain on cutting-edge, environmentally friendly design, from urban passive houses to green tweaks on suburban living. Have a suggestion for an upcoming column? Pass it along. Photo via Go Logic...

    Curbed
  • 5 things you didn't know you could do with your router

    Here's how to extend its range, set up a personal cloud, and more

    ConsumerReports.org
  • Turn your yard from thirsty to thrifty with these tips

    Here’s how, according to the EnergySaver program at the Environmental Protection Agency. Group plants according to water needs. Because of their differing water needs, turf and shrubbery should always be separated. Know your plant’s water needs and avoid watering during the heat of the day when…

    ConsumerReports.org
  • Mapping the 11 Most Expensive Houses Ever Sold in America

    Nine-figure listings have been (relatively speaking) flying off the proverbial shelves lately, what with Connecticut's Copper Beech Farm selling for $120M last week and L.A.'s long-unsold Fleur de Lys going for $102M cash in late March. Both of these...

    Curbed
  • Get a Janitor's View of Versailles in These Unprettied Photos

    Photo via Messy Nessy Chic The Palace of Versailles looms so large in humanity's understanding of unrestrained splendor that it has inspired a whole host of sorry knockoffs. And while all that's been seen of the most famous American Versailles...

    Curbed
  • Proposed NYC Transit Hub Looks Like a Giant Sea Monster

    Rendering via Curbed NY Designed by NYC-based architects Chad kellogg and Matt Bowles of AMLGM, this tubular sea monster of transit hub could someday terrorize the people of Queens, N.Y.—at least according to the team's proposed plans. Called the Urban...

    Curbed
  • Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye Gets Irreverently Suburbanized

    Image via Architizer The landmarked and preserved architectural masterpieces of the world would undoubtedly look very different if they were subject to actual inhabitants. Taking the dissonance between aesthetic temples and lived-in homes and prying it wide open, the runner...

    Curbed
  • Über-Lavish, Highly Gilded Miami Penthouse Asks $8.9M

    Have a nomination for a jaw-dropping listing that would make a mighty fine House of the Day? Get thee to the tipline and send us your suggestions. We'd love to see what you've got. Click here to view the full...

    Curbed
  • The 7 dishwasher details that count most

    Combined with a good dishwasher detergent, the best dishwashers from Consumer Reports’ tests produced sparkling loads of dishes without pre-rinsing. If you haven’t bought a dishwasher in a while, you’ll be impressed by the following features.

    ConsumerReports.org
  • Is Miami the next Monaco?

    If Miami real estate is a bubble, it's still inflating fast, with the average sales price for Miami real estate up 19 percent in the first quarter.

    CNBC.com
  • With Rentals Atop Stores, Walmart Really Does Have Everything

    Rendering via Architectural Record It's easy to fault Walmart for disrupting "mainstreet" America by pricing out small retailers, but thing get a bit more complicated when the corporate giant engages in what looks like urban renewal. Coming soon to D.C.'s...

    Curbed
  • A Fashion Designer's Color-Blocked Cafe in Copenhagen

    A good friend of mine recently alerted me to a new cafe masterminded by fashion designer Henrik Vibskov (we both share an affinity for his avant-garde clothing). The cafe is located in Copenhagen's Papirøen (Paper Island), near The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts where my friend is studying, and…

    Remodelista
  • 5 Things to Do with... Artificial Turf

    When artificial turf came onto the scene in the mid-1960s, it offered several advantages over natural grass lawns, ea...

    Bob Vila
  • Free Associate in Style in These Chic Psychoanalysts' Offices

    Photo via Co.Design According to Mark Gerald, the intersection between interior design and psychoanalysis goes way beyond the rug-draped chaise longue depicted in innumerable New Yorker cartoons. "In some cases, the analyst creates a space consciously and intentionally," the therapist...

    Curbed
  • Midcentury 'Urban Tree House' in Cali Wants $1.225M

    Click here to view the full photogallery. While this bohemian, midcentury modern listing might lack the qualifications needed to actually count as the bona fide "urban tree house" the brokerbabble insists it is—really it's more surrounded by trees than...

    Curbed