Relative cost of HVAC schemes
OK, let me try this again. If you know your costs, and have had experience with hydronic infloor and underfloor whole-house heating, as well as ducted forced air systems using packaged dual-fuel units for heating and A/C, compare how you think the subcontracted total-installed systems cost would ring up for this plan.
Here is the main floor, which at 2200 sf, sits atop a full basement of the same size.
And here is the upper floor, at only 800 sf.
Twelve months ago, I paid a little shy of $30K for a hydronic heating package for this house, complete with tubing in the basement slab, Runtal towel warmers in the baths and Myson panel radiators as supplement heat in high-glass areas, the whole thing handled by a Weil McLain Ultra LP gas boiler.
So, where might my costs land for a turnkey package of ducted forced air HVAC, done with something along the line of a Lennox Elite Series dual-fuel model 13GCSX gas/electric packaged unit (or equal or better)?
$5000.00 total installed... forced hvac...
So many people ask what the costs are, but never seem to be interested in what one is getting for their money.
There are so many variables in a HVAC install that have a major effect on price and performance.
Submit a bid that has a system design that will work and the components are all installed to manufacturer spec... you won't get the job because the "cost is too high".
Submit a bid based on price, then- depending on the corners cut to get there, it could work "OK" or "not at all". The bidder might get the job, but the callbacks certainly aren't worth it.
Of course, everyone wants the bidder to explain things in detail, hoping to glean critical information to benefit the cheaper bidder or the homeowner DIY. Of course, the homeowner/builder does not want to pay for such a proposal.
"Prices" could range from $5,000 to $20,000. Depends on what you are willing to pay for.
Good. Fast. Cheap. Pick one.
OK, that all said, how does one design and specify the "right" HVAC system for a new home?
One that provides even heating and cooling, has air cleaning capability, has good controls and is zoned for maximum comfort, and works reliably. The HVAC contractor can think of himself as the Maytag repairman . . . no callbacks, ever.
I can guarantee you it is not a question of money, one for which the higher price paid, the better the package.
Who does one go to for such advice? Ask an HVAC contractor, and he'll say for you to use the highest priced most full-featured models of the equipment he carries and uses, and that might just be one manufacturer.
Ask a GC, and he will defer to his HVAC contractor, or he will tell you what he has been using lately, and then tell you it is great, no callbacks. Do you believe him?
>how does one design and specify the "right" HVAC system for a new home?For me, it starts by becoming clear with the clients on priorities. What do they value more: comfort or money or maintenance or ? Different priorities lead to different "right" systems.
"Who does one go to for such advice?"
An experienced personal friend in the HVAC industry.
You must educate yourself about the equipment available, load calculations, duct design and installation procedures.
That does not mean that you need to be able to do it all, but you must be able to understand why there are differences between bids. The knowledge- even basic, will allow you to ask the right questions to your potential HVAC contractors.
You are correct that the lowest price bid is not going to deliver the worst work, and the highest price bid is not necessarily the best.
An honest contractor will recommend equipment and features based upon what you want. That contractor may also make suggestions on where to spend or save money based on your needs. As a client, you should have a realistic budget in mind, but that number should not be made readily available. Based on what you want, someone with experience should be able to ballpark the average residential job relatively easily. Then you will know where your budget and the ballpark price stand.
Some contractors may be limited on brands of equipment they install. However, the name on the cabinet is not as important as the system design and installation.
Shopping for a HVAC system based soley on a "bid price" is the worst thing you can do because you probably won't know what you are paying for. Contractors do not want to spend a lot of time on a bid because 99% of the people out there shop based on a number, not value. Kind of a catch 22.
I do not have callbacks.
After 25 years in the business, our experience is clients who enjoy both indoor comfort quality and indoor air quality with the least amount of pain invest in excess of 10% to 15% of the construction costs in the HVAC system and building efficiency upgrades.<!----><!----><!---->
Those who spend less, ultimately purchased levels of discomfort, poor air quality or both and often spend more money to feed the building systems with energy.<!----><!---->
If you want my thoughts on why this is, let me know.<!----><!---->
Go for it, I like the long difinitive stories...
They usally tell a tale best.
Your 10 to 15 percent is ridiculously out of line, when I consider the numbers for what we are doing here in the Adirondack mountain region of far upstate New York.
I am a builder. New homes. And I employ the top plumbing and heating contractor in the area. Furthermore, we only heat with hydronic radiant infloor systems, bolstered by hot water radiators. No air conditioning.
These are expensive systems, and cost is well under your 10 percent threshold as a part of total building costs.
Finally, I believe that ducted forced air systems for HVAC are less expensive than the types of hydronic packages we are putting in here.
Furthermore, we only heat with hydronic radiant infloor systems, bolstered by hot water radiators. No air conditioning.
Gean what do you do when say the homeowner, like me wants 90% of the floors covered in hardwood flooring?
I love RFH, but some times its not the ticket! Back in the 80s we did a ton of in floor heat along with a ton of tile floors. The systems still work great 25 years latter.
The Mt house were doing right now is open for the type of heat were going to use,& its in one of the coldest places outside of Alaska.
Dont like Forced air systems, but we also like wood floors & we would like to keep the cost of the heating system less then the cost of the frame package.
So when we find the answer we will let you know!
The great majority of flooring square footage here, that all that expensive RFH is going under, is hardwood.
I could show you house after house, great big expensive packages at 4500 sf and up, with building costs beginning at $300/sf, moving up into the $450 range, with RFH under the wood flooring.
Our wintertime lows occasionally go to negative 50, with entire weeks going by in January and February with the high temperature being zero or so.
Without a Heat mass for the RFH, seems like a waste of $$ to heat that way. Do your systems that include RFH & hadrwood include gyp-crete & sleepers or the reflectors & tubes ?
Were building @ 10,200 ft. so any gas fired system already has a handicap.A Good natural gas boiler for a small 2000 sq.ft area starts at $4500, We can get a 90% Lenox forced air unit for under $1200 & $2000 more for ducting & labor.
Were working right now on the price for hot water baseboard heat & its getting close to $8k for a simple system using copper & then we have the baseboards to deal with.
What ever system is going to be used, the r values in the walls & ceilings will be increased. 2x6 walls with 2" of Dow board along with r-48 in the attics & good windows/doors. Might even try a gasket system pre drywall install.
Virtually everything here done with RFH systems has insulation done with sprayed urethane foam. 2x6 wallframes are code, and all walls get a minimum of 3 inches, with ceilings under the roof getting a minimum of 7. Window, door, electrical, and other types of openings are all sealed up with foam or sealants or combinations.
The higher end packages use above-subfloor packages like Wirsbo's QuikTrac. Otherwise, extruded aluminum track plates are screwed to the bottom side and the tubing placed therein. If going under, the joist bays are all sealed and insulated.
It is not inexpensive, but it certainly is comfortable.
Statistically the reply from Gene the builder is not shocking...
Here's what is published...
"There are 66.1 million homeowners in the <!----><!----><!---->U.S.<!----><!----> today, and more than half of them report at least some dissatisfaction with their home’s comfort level." Gary Upton, Decision Analyst "In a recent Honeywell survey, consumers ranked their top-three homeowner pet peeves that impact home comfort and livability: particles in the air (especially dust, pet hair and allergens), uneven temperatures and high utility bills." ARA Content Management "Overall, more occupants are dissatisfied (42%) than satisfied (39%), with 19% of occupants neutral. Of note is the relatively high percentage of responses in the –2 and -3 categories (27%)." ASHRAE Research Report.
A recent consumer poll by Readers Digest found builders as one of the least trusted of professions inbetween motor mechanics and car salesmen just above politicians and both Readers Digest and the American Institute of Architects found healthcare professionals as the most trusted. Most healthcare professionals have no problem supporting the research by Decision Analyst, Honeywell and ASHRAE who have monitored consumer satisifation for decades and the long term trend is not encouraging.
In my opinion - here’s the reasons why: <!----> <!----> There is a belief that indoor comfort quality and indoor air quality can be solved with a single HVAC system without considering the role of architecture and radiant transfer on human comfort or thinking that ventilation is a heating or cooling function. <!---->
The marketplace benchmark for HVAC is based on conditioning buildings rather than the body, which means not enough, has been done to educate customers on what comfort is and is not to what defines acceptable indoor air quality.<!----> <!----> Concessions are frequently made in both the mechanical and architectural details which compromise the temperature of the floor, air temperature stratification, humidity, draft, and building inefficiency, (which causes unnecessary cooler surfaces in winter and warmer surfaces in summer = discomfort). Incidentally, four of the five comfort measurable(s) have nothing to do with the quality of the air and of those floor temperatures and building efficiency are about controlling surface temperatures and the radiant exchange rather than air temperature.<!----> <!----> The term “air conditioning” is confused with cooling as opposed to conditioning air i.e. filtration, de(humidification) without cooling.<!----> <!----> Electromechanical cooling and heating are seen as solutions rather than improving building efficiency which requires no moving part, will not become obsolete, does not have to fed with energy and will last the lifetime of the building.
Now to respond to specifically to "ridiculous"… it is geography based...here are a few reasons why 10% to 15% of construction costs…<!----><!---->
Unlike the United States, <!----><!---->Canada<!----><!---->, as in other parts of the developed world are required by code to mechanically ventilate regardless of the heating and cooling system.cha ching...
Underslab insulation is required under all conditioned slabs. cha ching...<!----><!---->
There are parts of Canada which need both humidification and dehumidification.
Spaces conditioned with radiant with independent ventilation systems are better served by steam humidifiers rather than lower cost evaporative types.
Shall I go on….
Unless proven otherwise, statistics are saying over 1 in 2 North American's have not spent enough on their indoor environments to remove or avoid discomfort.
Edited 10/10/2006 10:48 pm ET by RBean
Edited 10/10/2006 11:39 pm ET by RBean
It would be much more meaningful if those statistics were tied to the type of home the HVAC system was in.
Tract home? Semi-custom? Full custom?
Around here, builders build to code- which is a minimum standard. Tract and "semi-custom" home builders are all about the minimum $$$ spent on things partially hidden by drywall.
I have worked with a couple of full custom builders that have the same mentality.
More attention to detail is given to the can lights than the HVAC system. Then the homeowner complains that they are uncomfortable.
The "lowest bid" mentality makes things even worse. I know HVAC contractors that claim to have lost bids on subdivision projects over $10 a house. The boss is still gonna make money though- a subdivision is where you will find the worst quality work. California would not be requiring HVAC system analysis (duct leakage) if the industry did quality work for builder prices (the homeowner has to get the ducts sealed if they do not pass when equipment is replaced- the builder still made his money and so did the HVAC boss). Of course, it is impossible to do quality work if the winning bid price is hack quality numbers.
I have done subdivision HVAC work for national builders. Cheapest cheap that you can cheap. The work is brutal. Throw it in as fast as possible.
Then there is the "I'm not gonna be here long" mentality. Lowest possible initial costs, but obscene operating costs. Maximum square footage for the lowest cost.
Builders and homeowners get what they are willing to pay for.
Your statistics, while interesting, are meaningless.
I bet there are a lot of "Well, I didn't want to pay the extra $XXX for ABC so I saved some $ and hired XYZ..." stories in those statistics.
And yes, there are truly shady contractors out there.
The stats made you think about their validity. Which is one of the things stats are supposed to do. I read the results and want to know “why”? So I ask, if 100 people are unsatisfied and the average is 50% then another 100 must be happy. So what criteria creates their satisfaction and why is it missing in the other half of the investigation. When you dig deeper it’s all of the above things you mentioned and many others. It makes for a great robust conversation!
One of the areas of debate is consumer’s value perceptions. The automobile manufacturers figured this out a long time ago and its been a gravy train for them. Understanding consumer comfort in cars has advanced way beyond the housing industry with tools like this thermal comfort manikin. ADAM as he is know is used by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in its Vehicle Technologies (FCVT) Program.
Stats from the automobile studies produce heated and cooled seats, independent climate controls in the front and back, relocation of air vents etc. Is it any wonder why people spend more on their automobiles then home environment systems - the auto industry has no shortage of research to convince consumers to have non essential features such as electric windows, heated seats and air conditioning to enhance driving pleasure.
When it comes to minimum housing standards, they are created for health and safety as opposed to efficiency and comfort. However, one large scale builder in <!----><!----><!---->Calgary<!----><!----> has since raised the benchmark by doing a blower door test on each new home. They use infiltration as a competitive tool against lesser quality builders. But what if each one of their new homes also had a comfort test using a device such as this comfort measuring instrumentation?
View Image<!----> <!---->
Like blower door tests, the instruments for measuring comfort exist as do comfort standards. But since efficiency and comfort are not mandated to be measured in housing they have only obscure meaning to the industry. So for those of you who can think beyond black and white, here's a rhetorical question which is food for a great debate...what would happen to housing standards if blower door and comfort tests became mandatory? I would suggest that consumers would spend more money on HVAC and building effciency than they do today and would be more comfortable as a result....just a hunch.
Edited 10/11/2006 10:55 am ET by RBean
Approximate installed cost of a basic Infloor heating system is $5-6/sf. No cooling. ~ $16,500.
For a gas forced air/AC system, good/basic $1200-1500/ton (estimate 5 tons in a 3.5 ton d/s and 1.5 ton u/s), and more aong the lines of $1700 for the heat pump with electric resistance supplemental. ~ $ 6000 to 8500.
As with any type of estimate, these numbers will invariable be wrong, but in the ball park.