Texas is known for its hot weather. Houston and Dallas are no exceptions. When you are building a new home, you want to ensure the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system (HVAC) can withstand the Texas heat and winter cold…while not breaking the budget.
And, yes, Dallas does dip into freezing temperatures in winter, while some Texans living in older homes complain of utility bills in summer reaching $500 plus!
The good news is, many newer homes feature green building design that can drastically reduce the energy cost. Green design aims to, among other things, increase water and energy efficiency of the home while reducing pollution. Some techniques and materials may include green roofing (radiant barriers), wall and roof insulation, insulated windows and doors, and water conserving fixtures.
One of the most important components of a green home is the HVAC system, particularly the air conditioning system. When working with a builder it’s important to understand whether the base system they offer will meet the needs of your family. Some concepts to become familiar with include:
The seasonal energy efficiency ratio is a standard of performance of a unit equaling the cooling output during the warm season divided by the total electric energy input. The higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the unit. In the South, units are required to have a rating of at least 14. Anything above this (16, for example) may provide a higher efficiency, but will cost more and it may take longer to see a return on investment.
Tons in the HVAC world are not measurements of weight; they measure the capacity of a unit to remove heat. Thus, 12,000 Btu/h (British thermal units per hour) refers to one ton of AC capacity. Minimal HVAC standards are about a one ton capacity per 600 sq. feet. Energy Star rated homes should have one ton per 1000 sq. feet. So, for instance, a 2,000 square foot home requires a two ton unit for energy efficiency, and so on.
Dual vs Single Stage Blowers
A standard single stage system runs at only one speed. The system always runs on high, whether you need it or not. The dual stage blower uses a compressor and, often, a variable speed air handler to adjust the air flow into the home, resulting in more energy efficiency and lower cooling costs. With a dual stage system, you don’t get that sudden, loud blast of air coming through the vents every time the A/C kicks on.
Another key component to your HVAC system is the systems that control when it comes on. Today’s thermostats can be very sophisticated and automatically adjust your system based on time of day, or even the humidity in the air. Two systems like the Nest thermostat and Ecobee are common choices for many new homes.
Nest smart thermostat
Ecobee smart thermostat
The last thing you want to consider in understanding your HVAC system is ease of maintenance. Chores like changing filters are important, but they can be a hassle if the task requires you to get in your attic and crawl over insulation to change the filter each month. Ask questions about how your HVAC system needs to be maintained.
A few more HVAC maintenance tips:
The blog for everything about buying new home construction (and resale homes).