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Special Report 07: Interviews with HVAC contractors - Electronic Edition
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Author: Mark A. Smith

[This is the Special Report 07 in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) Format. Our electronic products download immediately to your computer upon purchase.]


The third mechanical trade offers a place for you to save money while getting a better house. Look in on the secrets of cutting costs on the heating and cooling systems you must invest in. Eight pages revised and updated with new reader tips, web links and comments.

Topics Include:

  • Multispeed systems, zones, power dampers
  • Efficiency differences in furnaces from 80%-93%
  • Duct sizes, air filtration
  • SEER ratings for AC from 10 to 18
  • Web links for heat load calculations
  • Huge savings from installing flex tubing DIY
  • Internet suppliers of heating and cooling units
  • System differences in an ICF house
  • DIY radiant heating
  • Warmboard options
  • Mini-duct Hi-velocity systems
  • Staple-up radiant systems
  • Heat pump vs. gas heat
  • Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERV)
  • Geothermal options
  • Extreme overestimates of heat loads by professionals


Excerpt from Report:

"...Q: What do you suggest for a good job?

A: HVAC includes all the gas lines to a shut off. We leave a T for a plumber for Water heater, and leave a T for fireplaces, etc. Pin people down on what it includes. I will spell out includes ducts, thermostats, grills, etc. - a complete job, and I note about the gas valve.

A: Without looking at it, you'd be looking at $6,500 to $7,000. Two other furnace alternatives. There's a 2 speed and a 90 plus.

A: The best way is two furnaces. Overhead heat, or you could put in the floor upstairs. We have good craftsmanship. Size of duct. If it's straight and neat, size of pipe, how many runs there are.

A: Correlate the subs, esp. the plumber and us. Forethought 80% furnace next to a water heater, think of bringing in combustion air, a flue chase, sometimes people forget to draw that in. If there is no place for a flue get a 90% and go out horizontally. But you still have a hot water flue. You'll almost need more than one furnace.

Make sure that you have overhead supply in ceilings upstairs. On main, in the floor. Ducts in crawl space. Put return air from second floor down.

A: Properly sized equipment, try to put the furnace in the center of the house if you can. If clear at one end, it's hard to go all the way. Select proper equipment like the Day & Nite product. Get caring contractors

A: One furnace? In garage, or not? Main floor heat you want from the floor, and upstairs overhead. We lost quite a bit of air flow. With the crawl space, on the one hand, and the attic on the other, you have air flow loss. Unless you do a zone system. At the time of design, incorporate dampers. It costs $950 more and a second system, $4,100. "...

Sample Reader Tip Excerpts:

"My house on a 5-acre parcel would sell for $135,000. I paid $15,000 for 25 acres and have $65,000 in the house. The most expensive part of the house is cabinets, appliances, carpet is $5,000. I avoided central A/C and use window A/C. I have electric baseboard heat (no dirt, fans, repair, tune-up) because electricity is so cheap here and winters are mild. This type of heat is too expensive in some regions, except for a spare bedroom with only occasional use. My all electric 1,440 sq. ft. house has a $100 utility bill in January and $27 in May."
Bill R.
Moses Lake, WA

"I let a general contractor take my plans for a bid, and he said they'd be back in 5 days. They came back in a three weeks. Same thing happened with the HVAC guy. I finally decided to insist that they come to me to see the plans."
Melanie & Jeremy T.
Riverton, UT

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