Howdy knowledgeable folks,

First off apologies if I'm in the wrong forum. Homeowner = Yes. Equipment owner = Not yet. So, I'm looking for a little advice on HVAC for our little-mega-project in progress: 100-plus year-old house (almost original parts...), will be stripped completely, foundation redone, basement plus extension added, HVAC redone completely. Basically it's like starting with a (nearly) clean slate. House located in Montreal, Canada, will end up with roughly 2500sqft on three floors. I'm trying to make it as air-tight and insulated as reasonably possible.

I read through a lot of posts on a few forums (including this one) and I understand that brand doesn't really matter (other than maybe the warranty period offered... :P) and installation is key. I received three evaluations for new systems/installations from three different dealers: Trane, York and Lennox. The usual suspects around these parts... The roughly break down as follows (from most to least expensive):

Trane: X15i HP, 4TEE handler, Venmar Constructo 1.5V HRV
York: Affinity YZF HP air handler, Fantech passive HRV (not sure which model at this point...), Epurair filter unit
Lennox: XP14 HP, CBX26UH furnace, HRV3-150, HC10 filters

The tonnage, SEER, HSPF and general specs are pretty much the same. All rigid ducts planned, I even want to turn down main trunk insulation... My questions pertain to some of the technology offered. The HP's being pretty much the same, the difference is in the ventilation/heating units and HRVs. So the two general areas of interest are:

1. Variable speed vs regular blowers?
2. Active vs Passive HRVs?

...and how these two integrate together? Ex, will a VS blower combined with a passive HRV be less eficient than a regular blower with an active HRV? Will the "active" HRV be interfering with the main blower and throw the balance out of whack or just use more power? How do these systems behave during swing seasons when equipment is not used as much (but hey, you can open a window and it's nice outside!)?

Please enlighten me on the concepts and if you have an opinion on the equipment itself, well, I'm all eyes too!

Also, one dealer costed me a Zuba system (which a friend of mine has installed). Any opinions on those?

Thanks in advance!