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  1. #1

    HVAC Recommendation... Too many decisions!

    I'm building a new house in Kansas City. My HVAC guy wants me to choose a system and there are so many options I'm having a hard time selecting the best ones for my situation.

    First, here are some details about the house: It is a reverse 1 1/2 story... It has 2000 sq ft on the main level with 2 bedrooms (master and guest), kitchen, dining room, 2 baths, laundry roomk, hearth room, and garage. The lower level is 1200 sq ft and has two bedrooms (one of which I'll use as an office), rec room, and bath. The staircase to the lower level is open (not behind a door) and the lower level walks out to the back yard. All windows are Andersen 200 series double pane, Low E and doors are likewise, Andersen.

    My main concern is keeping the temperature balanced between the upper level and lower level. I work from home and will be using one of the downstairs bedrooms for my office. Therefore, I'll be downstairs all day working and I want it to be warm. I don't think cooling will be as big of an issue so I am primarily focusing on the heating. Coldest winters temperatures here are generally in the teens but can on rare occasions go into the single digits.

    When I originally talked to the HVAC guy we were going to go with a 80% variable speed heat pump with electronic damper-controlled zoning (5 ton, 5x system). However, he called me back to say he reconsidered and thinks a 95% 2 stage variable speed and no zoning is the better way to go. Both options would be about the same price.

    So, here are my questions...
    1) If my main goal is to make sure I have even heat throughout the house, and I'm not as concerned with it costing a bit more in my utility bills, am I better off with the zoning or using the 2-stage variable speed fan?

    2) Do I really need 95% efficiency? My system will be electric with a natural gas backup so I won't be using the gas that much. Any reason I shouldn't just go with something a bit less efficient and cheaper ... maybe 90% for instance? (I'm over on my building budget, of course, so want the best bang for my buck!)

    Any recommendations out there?

    Thanks in advance....

    Brenda in Kansas City

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Round Rock
    Posts
    3,520
    No matter what you decide for equipment. I wouldn't even consider going without zoning or 2 units on a 2 story house. To do anything less will be a lesson in futility and being uncomfortable as heck. Remember heat rises. As far as equipment, if you are going with heat pump, putting in 90+ efficiency heater would be a waste of money IMO. You'll obviously save on gas, but it will probably take quite a while to pay for itself. I do think variable speed is a nice feature though. It will be more comfortable when cooling and heating.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2000
    Location
    Indianapolis, IN, USA
    Posts
    33,916
    If it were my house, I'd likely do 2 smaller systems instead of one large (5 ton) zoned system. Just my personal view plus it provides redundancy so you have heat/cool somewhere if one unit is down. But I wouldn't go without 2 systems or a zone system. Heating usually isn't a problem but rare to have a comfy upstairs with 1 unit and no zoning. If I did a big zoned system, equipment would definitely be multi-stage with a panel that could handle it. Or for those who aren't particular on brand, the Evolution or Infinity would be best.

    We find that 80% and heat pump is cheaper heat than 95 and A/C in our area, which isn't that much diff from yours. Really little diff between 90 & 95 though as they are usually about the same machine with some tweaks to get the extra AFUE points.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Posts
    44
    It seem that your aim is a good even temps in the house #1 and #2 utility costs. The Variable Speed 80% furnace with Heat Pump in Kansas City should give you that. If you want to spend the few dollars more for the 95% you will in the long run save that back. Without the plans in front of me It is hard to make an exact recommendation. My fist thought would be in a reverse 1 1/2 would be have you look at a 2 stage heat pump, (Trane XL16i) with either the 95% or the 80% variable speed two stage furnace (Trane XV 95 or Trane XV 80). I would suggest when ducting the house to be sure it is set up in a way that zone dampers could be added with ease if needed. I think you will find that the variable speed furnace will keep the temps pretty even without zoning but not always.

    Good luck if you have any other questions feel free to send me an email or give the office a call.

    KC

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Round Rock
    Posts
    3,520
    Instead of investing in the 90 furnace. I would go for a 2 stage/speed heat pump. Then you would get the best of both worlds in heating and cooling. We've found that a variable speed air handler evens out temps to a point, but usually only in a single story application. Depending on house, it might work on a 2 story.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Midwest
    Posts
    194
    I would go with two units, it is easy to control the temps independently, you have some heat if one fails, and there may be savings on the ducting. Since electric heat is 100%efficient I am not sure ot the benefit of a high eff. backup gas heat. And, I might add, electric at 100% eff. doesn't mean less utility cost than gas at 80%. I don't think you will have any independent control of the first and second story temps without zoning or independent units. If you aren't going to be upstairs all day, or night, you can have some savings by running it at a different temp in both summer and winter.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Lancaster PA
    Posts
    67,755
    Either 2 small systems. Or a 2 stage VS zoned system.
    Contractor locator map

    How-to-apply-for-Professional

    How many times must one fix something before it is fixed?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Massachusetts
    Posts
    6,829
    Well it's plain to see this forum hasn't helped you with any of your confusion now, has it? 10-replies, 10-deifferent opinions. So I guess it's up to you to decide. Here is what I'd recommend if you were my client:

    1. Decide on a budget
    2. Decide on your primary and secondary goals. (Economy of installation, economy of operation, greenhouse effect, comfort, etc.)
    3. Decide on an installation company. The ideal company should do a Manual 'J' heat/cool load calculation and a Manual 'D' duct design. This ideal company will know the differences needed between designing for a heat pump vs. a fossil fuel system or a combination dual fuel system.
    4. Have the ideal company explain the plusses and minuses of multiple pieces of equipment vs. zoning. A good company will be well versed in both systems. Of great concern with a zoned system is exactlly what strategy will be used for airflow relief when a small zone is calling. (If the company can't describe in detail what relief strategy they'll use, then they don't know zoning.)
    5. Make your choice based on the above and I think you'll do just fine.

    Again, if you were my client, and based on the needs of the home, assuming a single system can handle the whole house, I think I'd recommend either 80% or 95% gas but definitely, in either case, 2-stage unit with variable speed blower; 2-stage heat pump with Hybrid Heat (Carrier or Bryant) or dual fuel (everybody else) capability. This allows you to use the heat pump as a primary source of heat when the temperatures are more moderate but still have the punch of a gas furnace if it really gets cold. Using a 2-stage heat pump you can size it to heat to a lower temperature and still be able to control the cooling in the summer. I'd also invest in a zone control system with built-in relief strategy (Carrier Infinity System or Bryant Evolution System) for best system balance in all seasons. As an interesting aside, I think you'll find the heat pump slightly more efficient when connected to an 80% variable speed gas furnace than with a 95% variable speed unit. I think the reason the higher efficiency furnace is less efficient for the heat pump is the recuperative coil interferring with airflow or static pressure but I'm just guessing. I just know the ratings are a little less with the higher efficiency furnace.
    If YOU want change, YOU have to first change.

    If you are waiting for the 'other guy' to change first, just remember, you're the 'other guy's' other guy. To continue to expect real change when you keep acting the same way as always, is folly. Won't happen. Real change will only happen when a majority of the people change the way they vote!

  9. #9

    Update....

    Thanks to everyone for your comments and suggestions. I spoke with my installer again and this is what we are thinking:

    1) American Standard 13 SEER heat pump, 80% efficiency, with natural gas backup
    2) Variable speed 2-stage fan
    3) Installation of separate trunk at the furnace to allow for "future" addition of zoning, if needed (extra $250)
    4) Humidifier... brand/type yet to be determined

    As I explained before, I am not as concerned about spending a little extra on my heating bill as I am in making sure I'm confortable when I'm working downstairs all day. Since the gas furnace won't kick in until the temps are in the 20s, I am assuming (so correct me if I'm wrong!) that the extra 15% efficiency on the gas bill is not going to amount to much .. or at least would take a long time to pay back.

    The installer assures me that the variable speed fan running on the "circulate" mode will give me an even temperature throughout the house so that it feels just as warm working in my lower level office as it does in the main level kitchen. But, just to be sure.... and to prevent alot of tearout later down the road... I thought it would be a good idea to split the trunk out now so I can do zoning if I want it later on. Installer says that will cost extra $250.

    I think I'd rather spend the $250 preparing for zoning (if needed) than to upgrade to 95%.

    Does anyone see any serious errors in this line of thought?

    Thanks again!

    Brenda

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    DC Metro Area (MD)
    Posts
    3,368
    That sounds like a good idea, but you should consider a two-stage unit. With a single-stage unit, when one zone calls, the condenser runs "full blast." With a two-stage unit, when one zone calls, the first stage capacity is used from the condensor. I'm not a pro so I'm not really sure how this is setup, but I'm guessing it's the zone panel that tells the condensor to run in first stage.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    The South
    Posts
    2,143
    Brenda

    Your approach is a mistake and a waste of time. It will cost you more to correct in the long run.

    And you should go for a two stg HP condenser if you intend to use zoning controls rather than two separate systems.

    I would want references to verify your dealer's HVAC zoning experience.

    I would also want to know what zoning controls he proposes to use.

    Sorry to be negative.

    IMO

  12. #12
    Wow... waste of time... didn't see that coming!

    Maybe I didn't correctly explain the setup. The heat would be 2-stage... it starts out at 60% whenever called and if that doesn't satisfy the heat requirement, it switches to 100%. I'm not sure if that is what you mean by 2-stage or if there is some "other" 2-stage. Can you elaborate?

    Just a little more info... furnace speced is 120,000 BTU.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    The South
    Posts
    2,143
    Brenda

    The chance of having uniform heat/cool, high degree of comfort without two systems or an expertly designed zoned system is slim and none.

    And you need a two stg heat pump condenser paired with your two stg var speed furnace.

    I don't mean to sound negative-just trying to head you off from disappointment with a non zoned single system for two floors.

    I would want to see the load calculations as well. 120 KBTU furnace even at 80% sounds too large for new home construction with good insulation qualities. HVAC is not the place to cut costs if this is your home for the future.

    IMO

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