A new house is always exciting, a chance for homeowners to put an indelible stamp upon their home in a way that purchasing a pre-existing home just doesn’t allow for. With this power, though, comes responsibility—or so the trope states. Being able to make a decision involves familiarizing yourself with the subject so that you can take an educated stance.
There only a few systems in a new home where this is truer than with regards to your HVAC system. There are many types of both heating and cooling systems available with wildly ranging costs of both installation and energy bills. We have compiled some information to help you with your decision making process.
Your house’s HVAC system is a complicated structure, involving several different components. An average home will possess some mix of heating and cooling elements, including:
- A furnace
- A central air conditioning unit
- Means of transmission such as ductwork or radiators
- The thermostat
- Other considerations such as ceiling fans
The list of factors that you need to consider when evaluating the potential cost of your HVAC system includes the following:
- The size and scope of the construction.
- The brand and grade chose for each component.
- The type of each component chosen—for example, gas vs. oil vs. geothermal for heating.
- The complexity of the installation—it’s harder for technicians to work in an attic or a crawlspace.
- Whether ductwork is required or not.
- Finally, don’t forget your individual area’s cost of living.
The square footage of the installation is one of the most important considerations to have in mind upfront. An average, 1,200 – 2,200 square foot, single-family home will cost $1,000 – $4,000 in ductwork alone. The cheapest ductwork, flexible non-metallic, costs $1-2 per linear foot while the most expensive option is fiberglass board, which will run you $4.50-6 per linear foot.
New constructions sometimes come with ductwork—ultimately, it depends on the individual builder. However, even if there is ductwork already in place, it may not be the correct material or size for the system you select, which adds an extra layer of complexity to the decision. Definitely make sure you know what your home’s starting point is before moving too deeply into the decision making process.
Additionally, don’t forget to consider that as the size of your house increases, so to increases the power you need out of your furnace or central air unit, which will also increase costs.
Type of HVAC System
The first question which should be asked is what systems your climate requires. Those dwelling in the far northern regions has less need of air conditioning while those dwelling in regions such as southern Florida may not need a furnace.
From there, consider what your heating and cooling systems require. Central air conditioning requires ductwork, which, if desired, could let you save some money by opting for a forced hot air heating system, which could use the same ductwork. At the same time, if you want your house to have air conditioning but ductwork simply isn’t possible due to various factors, you could consider one of the newer ductless air conditioning systems which connect to an outdoor unit by the conduit.
Type of Heating
Of course, such a system would then let you consider installing any of a wide variety of other heating solutions, including baseboard or hot water.
Ultimately, each option has its own advantages and drawbacks, which must be measured against one another.
Electric heat is typically spread through a home by baseboard heat, which are elongated coils hidden behind an aesthetically generic shield and run along the edges of walls. Baseboard doesn’t typically stick out more than a few inches and is only around 4 inches tall on average, so it’s relatively unobtrusive. Electric heat has a reputation for being expensive and drying, however, and may require a humidifier be run during the winter months for your comfort.
Oil heat is frequently found as forced air, which pairs well with central air conditioning. However, oil can also be used for hot water boiler systems which heat water and pump it through usually bulky radiators throughout the house, causing ambient, long-lasting warmth. Oil is usually one of the most expensive options for heating fuel although, as always, factors ranging from geographic location to the current economic or political climate can impact this.
Natural gas is a brother to oil—it can be used in basically the same ways, except it tends to be cheaper to obtain. However, it has the tradeoff that not every place has access to a gas pipeline to provide the fuel. Unlike oil, which is delivered in trucks, natural gas has to be piped in. If it can be hooked up in your area, natural gas can power the same furnace or boiler systems that oil is used for, with the same advantages and drawbacks.
Solar and geothermal options also exist for more green-minded. While solar heating options are relatively new on the block and are thus expensive to install and maintain, geothermal systems can provide some of the lowest energy bills of all.
Geothermal systems work by the construction of a temperature well, of sorts, which the system draws from. During the summer, this is used as a heat storage area, pumping the warmth out of your home and replacing it with cool air from the ground—during the winter, this reverses, with the warm earth temperatures used to heat the home instead. This works because temperatures below the earth’s surface stay relatively constant year-round.
Whatever system you select for your home, it will be a permanent fixture of that home for decades to come. Some of the systems mentioned in this article can last for over 50 years, but others are not nearly as long-lived. Even after failure, though, future homeowners tend to keep the same type of system in a house—it’s usually much easier and cheaper to install an updated version of the same type of system that was previously present than it is to reinvent the wheel.