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  1. #1

    Building a new home..2 units OR 1 unit with zoning? Newbie needs help..

    First off, I am an HVAC newbie so forgive me if I don't use the correct terminology below. Here we go..

    I am having a home built this spring. The home is about 3200 sq ft. 1600 on each floor. Attached floorplans. It will have an electric heat pump with propane backup. I am in southeast PA. I also plan to run a wood burning stove to supplement heat in the winter, although I know this shouldn't affect the HVAC design.

    I'm wondering if such a house needs 2 different heating/cooling units (I assume one in basement and one in attic) or does it just need one bigger unit, but with some kind of zone setup where dampers open and close the ductworks based on different thermostats?

    My understanding is that the builder will send the houseplans to the HVAC folks (he says he sends them to York) and they will come up with the best HVAC plan. I know they should use a manual J to figure things out, but how do I know that their decision is the right one? i.e. how do I know the builder doesn't say to use just one unit b/c he wants to save money?

    So my questions are:
    1. For such a home, just looking at the floorplans, does it appear I would need 2 units or just 1 unit with zoning?
    2. How does one make sure the builder's decision is the right one? I plan to be in the home for the long haul, and I've heard over and over to make sure they get the HVAC and ducting done right.


    Thanks in advance!
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  2. #2
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by lithnights View Post
    So my questions are:
    Q1. For such a home, just looking at the floorplans, does it appear I would need 2 units or just 1 unit with zoning?
    Q2. How does one make sure the builder's decision is the right one? I plan to be in the home for the long haul, and I've heard over and over to make sure they get the HVAC and ducting done right.


    Thanks in advance!
    A1: I would venture to say that you would get two systems, and two would be the better design than one system for a few reasons.

    A2: NOT ONLY YES, BUT HELL YES!

    Just like anything else, get a second opinion (and maybe a third), and see if you can get two (or may three) matching designs.

    There is a lot that goes in to a system to make sure you achieve optimum comfort control.

    When building, the biggest thing you can do to ensure you achieve optimum comfort control is: don't skimp on the insulation, and windows and doors.

    I don't care how great your system is, with out proper insulation, and good window and doors you are pissing in the wind.

    Please watch this video, one of the best ones out there imo. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g37riSkyZzM
    The opinions expressed by me are not that of my employer.


    insulation modern marvels
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g37riSkyZzM

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by NY2GA01 View Post
    A1: I would venture to say that you would get two systems, and two would be the better design than one system for a few reasons.

    A2: NOT ONLY YES, BUT HELL YES!

    Just like anything else, get a second opinion (and maybe a third), and see if you can get two (or may three) matching designs.

    There is a lot that goes in to a system to make sure you achieve optimum comfort control.

    When building, the biggest thing you can do to ensure you achieve optimum comfort control is: don't skimp on the insulation, and windows and doors.

    I don't care how great your system is, with out proper insulation, and good window and doors you are pissing in the wind.

    Please watch this video, one of the best ones out there imo. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g37riSkyZzM
    So when you say 2 would be better for a number of reasons, what would they be?

    Regarding the 2nd/3rd opinions, how would one do that if the builder is in charge of the HVAC and uses a certain HVAC sub? Does one ask them to go out and get a 2nd opinion, or does the homeowner find that 2nd opinion?

    I agree, insulation is key. I am upgrading the Silverline (by Andersen) windows to Andersen 200 series. I am planning on doing 2 inches of spray foam throughout the exterior and attic floor. The house is 2x6 (not 2x4). I am planning on having R50 or so in the attic.

  4. #4
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by lithnights View Post
    Regarding the 2nd/3rd opinions, how would one do that if the builder is in charge of the HVAC and uses a certain HVAC sub? Does one ask them to go out and get a 2nd opinion, or does the homeowner find that 2nd opinion?
    I would never build a house with 2x4 outside walls, 2x6 is the only way to go.


    This is your house, not the builders, so that would be your guys at your cost if any, not his. Nothing says you have to use the builders contractors.

    I am pretty certain the builder has shopped out who is going to do his work for the lowest rate, and that usually does not mean quality work.
    Last edited by NY2GA01; 02-24-2013 at 09:50 AM.
    The opinions expressed by me are not that of my employer.


    insulation modern marvels
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g37riSkyZzM

  5. #5
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    East Grand Forks, MN
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    Quote Originally Posted by NY2GA01 View Post
    I would never build a house with 2x4 outside walls, 2x6 is the only way to go.


    This is your house, not the builders, so that would be your guys at your cost if any, not his. Nothing says you have to use the builders contractors.

    I am pretty certain the builder has shopped out who is going to do his work for the lowest rate, and that usually does not mean quality work.
    I concur..

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by NY2GA01 View Post
    I would never build a house with 2x4 outside walls, 2x6 is the only way to go.


    This is your house, not the builders, so that would be your guys at your cost if any, not his. Nothing says you have to use the builders contractors.

    I am pretty certain the builder has shopped out who is going to do his work for the lowest rate, and that usually does not mean quality work.
    Noted. I've never built a home before so I simply am not sure of the options I have as far as subs. i.e. if I wanted a different electrician to do the work, I didn't think I could tell the builder to use ABC electric instead of his sub. I assumed the same goes for HVAC but I guess not.

  7. #7
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    I would probably opt for 2 separate systems to keep the air noise down (two 3 ton vs one 5 ton blower). I like geothermal system(s) but I also like the foam insulation. I would do some load calculations (to find the payback) as to the best bang for the buck.

    Remember, the better insulated home requires smaller HVAC. So the extra money spent on insulation saves on the cost of the HVAC equipment.

  8. #8
    Join Date
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    Quote Originally Posted by George2 View Post
    I would probably opt for 2 separate systems to keep the air noise down (two 3 ton vs one 5 ton blower). I like geothermal system(s) but I also like the foam insulation. I would do some load calculations (to find the payback) as to the best bang for the buck.

    Remember, the better insulated home requires smaller HVAC. So the extra money spent on insulation saves on the cost of the HVAC equipment.
    If you put a system in the attic, the attic roof must be insulated to avoid condensation problems with ducts winter and summer.
    Also fresh air ventilation is a must. YOu need a fresh air change in 4-5 hours when occupied to purge indoor pollutants and renew oxygen. A simple reliable device for thiw is a whole house ventilating dehumidifier like the ULtra-Aire. This will provide filtered fresh air to the whole house and maintain <50%RH during wet times of the year.
    Regards TB
    Bear Rules: Keep our home <50% RH summer, controls mites/mold and very comfortable.
    Provide 60-100 cfm of fresh air when occupied to purge indoor pollutants and keep window dry during cold weather. T-stat setup/setback +8 hrs. saves energy
    Use +Merv 10 air filter. -Don't forget the "Golden Rule"

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by George2 View Post
    I would probably opt for 2 separate systems to keep the air noise down (two 3 ton vs one 5 ton blower). I like geothermal system(s) but I also like the foam insulation. I would do some load calculations (to find the payback) as to the best bang for the buck.

    Remember, the better insulated home requires smaller HVAC. So the extra money spent on insulation saves on the cost of the HVAC equipment.
    I looked into geothermal but I simply can't afford it (even with the federal tax credit and the long term savings). Doing the spray foam based on the builder's cost estimates.

  10. #10
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    One other thought........I would keep all a the HVAC out of the attic. Equipment and ductwork.

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by George2 View Post
    One other thought........I would keep all a the HVAC out of the attic. Equipment and ductwork.
    If not in the attic, then both units in the basement?

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by lithnights View Post
    If not in the attic, then both units in the basement?
    I've done 2 systems in homes keeping both in the basement and I've had builders but the utility room on the second floor. With todays taller ceilings the ductwork can stay out of the attic.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by George2 View Post
    I've done 2 systems in homes keeping both in the basement and I've had builders but the utility room on the second floor. With todays taller ceilings the ductwork can stay out of the attic.
    Yes I've seen this before as an option. But with the current design, there isn't really a place to put such a utility room on the 2nd floor. The 2nd floor is huge, so it's not like room couldn't be found, but with the design as is, there's not a dedicated space. It's something I'll have to discuss with the builder.

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