Objective HVAC recommendation?
Wendy Stout
January 12, 2013 in Other
We are building a 1 1/2 story dual generation home in Oklahoma. The upstairs and downstairs will have separate HVAC. Upstairs is going to be only for company now or later in our lives for caretaker/grandchildren. We live in the country so there is either rural co-op electric or propane; no natural gas is available. How do I find an objective answer to what kind of HVAC system should we have installed? Salesmen will tell us what they want to sell us, not what is best for us.
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Try Googling "HVAC recommendations (with your zip code); I think you'll get the answers you need there.
0 Likes   January 14, 2013 at 5:11AM
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Wendy Stout
Thanks but all that showed was a list of HVAC companies. That's not objective. They want to sell me what they install.
0 Likes   January 14, 2013 at 6:26AM
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Elyn's Library
Contact your local government agency that issues building permits. They may be able to give you some suggestions and/or recommendations as well as letting you know what the local building codes and/or restrictions may be for the kind of building structure you want to build.
0 Likes   January 14, 2013 at 9:23AM
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Wendy Stout
I am looking for the pros and cons of electric heat vs propane heat vs heat pumps vs ??? whatever else there is. Every retailer just tells me their system is best. I can call local retailers but that is not the information I need.
0 Likes   January 14, 2013 at 12:59PM
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Your state extension service may have information available

Do you actually have a local government agency that requires permits?
0 Likes   January 14, 2013 at 8:48PM
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Elyn's Library
In order to accurately compare propane vs. electric vs. heat pump (Do you have access to a geothermal source?) vs. solar vs. ??? requires some technical information and calculations. Sounds like you have some research ahead of you. Here is a place to start - http://www.ehow.com/about_5709587_propane-vs_-electric-heat-pump.html

You should also consider what kind of stove or range - electric vs. propane. What kind of water heater - electric vs. propane. What kind of AC - if any. What kind of clothes washer / dryer you will have.

Your water source will also impact some of these decisions (well on-site or city water), as well as whether you are on sewer or will install a septic system.

Lots of things to plan for and they will all have an impact on what you choose for HVAC.

There is no simple or easy answer we can provide. It might be worth your while to put your ideas together and then contact a professional architect. S/he can then offer suggestions for how and where to place your house on your building site so you can get maximum benefit and minimum negative impact from the sun and any other site specific issues - trees, other buildings, slope, roads, easements, driveways, wind pattern, etc. etc. S/he should also be able to advise you on any specific building code regulations - i.e. location of propane tank of which you should be aware.
0 Likes   January 14, 2013 at 9:02PM
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We talked about the same issue recently when we were building our new house. Hubby used to do HVAC work years back and we still had a difficult time making a decision. Propane wasn't an option for us, but we ended up going with a geothermal heat pump. It was more expensive than an electric heat pump, but I think we're going to see some savings with it. Hubby did say that they have made the electric ones so energy efficient now, that he wasn't sure if we'd see the savings. Our geothermal is basically a water sourced heat pump. Instead of drawing in the water, they use some type of gel or something so you are using the same liquid and not having to put in a well to operate it. We've been in the house since August and so far, so good.
Now, having said all that, your HVAC is only as good as your insulation. Make sure you get your house well sealed.
1 Like   January 15, 2013 at 4:10AM
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Wendy Stout
Thanks for your comments. Geothermal will not be cost effective for us as we are on solid bedrock! We have caulked every bit of studwork to reduce air infiltration. We have been told that elastomeric paint on the siding also inhibits air infiltration. We originally planned to have several electric heat pumps. But downstairs has many small areas (walk in closets, separated bathroom areas, master porch, mudroom and pantry) that might not receive the air flow that you would have in large open areas. Right now we are thinking of a 4 outlet electic heat pump for upstairs. That area will be used less than 5% of the time, just for company and when we get old and someone comes to take care of us! There is an exterior door at the top of the stairs. Downstairs we cannot decide between all electric or a high efficiency propane furnace.
0 Likes   January 15, 2013 at 8:06AM
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Elyn's Library
We've had propane for heat and electric for AC in a gas-pac unit for more than 20 years - not just for heat, but more importantly, our hot water heater and my cooktop are propane. And when the power goes out - as it does out here in the country, especially in the winter - it is lovely to still be able to cook and/or take a hot shower. My range is an elderly Jenn-Aire that has the propane cooktop and an electric convection oven - so no baking when the power goes out. Although the power outages are seldom more than a few hours or a day or two at most, knowing I can still have a nice hot cup of coffee no matter what is somehow very reassuring.

Now when the power goes out in the summer and there's no AC - different problem.

The unit we installed when we built the house lasted for 18 years. We replaced the entire unit about a year and a half ago and the new one is MUCH more efficient.

Here's some basic information about gas-pac units. http://www.ehow.com/facts_7255132_gas-pack-home-heating_.html
0 Likes   January 15, 2013 at 9:53AM
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Wendy Stout
Thanks for the comments. We started this as a remodel of an old farmhouse. By the time we finished removing what was bad, we literally have just one original room left. We rebuilt on the same footprint with the addition off the kitchen of a pantry and mudroom. The propane tank and septic are existing. I have a propane stove. We limited the windows on the south and west sides as cooling is more of an issue than heating. (Although that is not true today! We are living in an RV while we build and the water is frozen!) The summer afternoon beats into windows so the front porch roof shades the summer sun and allows the lower winter sun to enter. The master bedroom sunroom, kitchen and dining room have large east facing windows overlooking 5 acres of meadow and pond.
0 Likes   January 15, 2013 at 10:14AM
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Sounds like you are going to have a gorgeous place when you're done!
0 Likes   January 15, 2013 at 10:55AM
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Wendy Stout
Thanks creeser. That's the plan!
0 Likes   January 15, 2013 at 11:20AM
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Elyn's Library
Sounds like you've planned carefully - nice! That morning view across pond and meadow sounds absolutely beautiful.

The "new" gas pac unit we have is from Carrier. I was very impressed when they installed the unit originally - they made sure both DH and I knew how to trouble-shoot if we had any problems and even checked back with us after we'd had the unit for a couple weeks to make sure everything was functioning properly. And they are the only contractor I've ever worked with who called back on the one year anniversary of installation to ask if we had any problems or questions - very impressive.

Don't know if that level of service is company policy, or is just from our installer - but I sure am sold. Unfortunately, I'm located in northern California.
0 Likes   January 15, 2013 at 11:41AM
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Wendy Stout
I am checking with the library to find the manual J. Load Calculator and the climate zone map. We will have three contractors give us estimates and I want to know enough to know if the contractors know their stuff!
0 Likes   January 15, 2013 at 12:34PM
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