The cost to heat and cool your new home begins and ends whenever the system turns on and off. This may be an unusually obvious explanation, but it is absolutely that basic. If your house is located in an area where the temperature is always 73 degrees day and night, all year long, you wouldn’t spend a penny on temperature control. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t that fortunate, and we have to make sure that our systems are designed with efficiency in mind.
We’ve already discussed the importance of insulation and making sure that there are no weak areas, but the heart and soul of the temperature control side of your home is the actual heating and cooling system. So let’s look at some of the basics that will help you talk the lingo with your builder.
First of all, find out what type and rating of HVAC (Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning) system is being installed? This is a question that you need to ask up front! You’ll find that there are many different brands and models, but they all have two things in common: All heating and air conditioning systems have a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating) and knowing the value of each of these ratings will save you a boatload of money.
Most buyers will accept whatever unit the builder puts into a home, but you DO have choices, and knowing exactly what type of system and the rating of this system will help you to be the knowledgeable buyer that you need to be. So, let’s look at each of these ratings and how they will affect you both in considering your upfront costs, as well as the long term gain or loss.
By far, the most common source of heat is that is found in new home construction is Natural Gas Forced air heat. This has been the popular choice of builders and buyers for at least 30 years in most areas of the country. The problem was that many of these units were not efficient, and have over the years proven to be great wasters of the precious energy that it took to run them. In many cases, 35% or more of the heat went straight up the flue and never made it into the home’s heating ducts. So, since 1992. the Department of Energy required all furnace manufacturers to produce furnaces that were at least 78% efficient. In other words, 78% of that furnace’s heat was sent into the home, rather than out of the home.
The measurement of the furnace’s efficiency is called an Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency rating known as AFUE. All furnaces now come posted with this rating, usually in the form of a yellow “Energy Guide” label. The higher the AFUE number means a more efficient furnace.
The higher number will also indicate a higher price that the manufacturer will charge for the unit, so my best advice is to consider the amount of years that you will live in the house, and determine whether the additional cost is worth it to you or not. If the additional cost of a more efficient won’t equal the savings in energy cost for the time that you plan on living in the home, then it isn’t worth the additional expense.
Consumer note: Although the energy efficiency rating will help you in determining how much you will save, it ABSOLUTELY has no bearing on the quality of the furnace or on how long it will last! Many buyers make the mistake of thinking that the extra money that they are paying for a higher efficiency rating is also paying for a higher quality furnace. This is not the case! So, please check out the furnace manufacturer’s warranty, research the model number’s reviews, and then ask the builder if he offers an extended warranty on the mechanical systems that go beyond the manufacturer’s warranty. Taking these simple steps will keep you warm all the way down to your toes on those cold winter nights.