We are about to begin building a new home and a home recording studio that will be above the detached garage and I thought Id ask a few questions here, Id appreciate any suggestions you folks my have.

First off I have a general contractor for the project, he has given me a couple of companies he works with for HVAC but with our agreement, I can look at other options and so I would like to get some information to make a reasonable bid form.

The house is about 3800 sq ft craftsman style, 2500 Sq ft bottom floor and about 1800 sq ft upper floor. The house will have quality energy efficient wood clad windows with Low E and Argon throughout.. the design is wood frame, with rock and brick exterior. 2x4 walls, standard insulation exterior walls and under raised floor, Im thinking R38 in the attic. Right now the contractor said I would probably need a 5 ton down, single unit and 3 ton split system up. The studio over the garage will be either a 2 or 2 ton unit (similar to another studio I had)

We are leaning to a dual fuel heat pump with propane gas system, the house were in now has a heat pump and on cold nights it just does not heat like were use to, so we turn on the aux gas and it gets toasty warm n those nights.. so, I think for us, the dual fuel will be our choice for all the systems. (one exception may be is on the studio to use a electric backup rather than gas just because of the gas line run).

Our contractor gave us a budget, but of course, he used pricing for a single heat, heat pump, 10 SEER for all the systems, and I really dont think that is what we want. Given the move in date of this house probably wont be until the first couple months of Jan 2006 the new specs will be 13 seer, so, I think I want to go to at least that level unless you guys tell me different! I know it sounds crazy, but Id like to find a good Price/performance point for the project and I know one can spend lots of money chasing efficiency and never realize the pay back.

Our past two homes out west one used the Rheem system, and the other Trane.. fortunately we didnt have any problems with either home, both continued to work well and the last home, we were in the home for 14 years with out a service call!

The contractors that our builders work with offer Trane mainly, there is an American Standard dealer locally and not to far away a Lennox dealer.. so all seem quite well known for their products..

The Nashville area has hot and humid summers, and the winters are quite mild, although this year we have seen some 10 degree weather and quite a few evening below 30 degrees which at that point, I turn on the gas Aux (or it comes on by itself.. being use to Gas Heat.. the heat pump just doesnt t cut it on its own). I also am looking for Quiet Units I hate to hear AC units craning away all the time. Our Lennox systems were pretty quiet.

So, I guess what I am asking is, am I going in the right direction to go to the 13 seer? What kind of premium over 10 seer will it cost, and then add to that, dual fuel, I am really thinking Im going to get quite a shock over the standard 10 seer system the contractor gave us a budget for.. but will the upgrade be worth the cost?

And am I on the right track with Trane, American Standard and Lennox names? Are there ones I should cross off the list and or add?

The studio application will have other issues on supply lines, lengths of duct work and large supply and returns to keep the noise to a minimum.. I realize this will be special and cost additional over the standard installation.

Finally.. I am interested I addressing the Energy Star program through the local utility Company Middle Tennessee Electric, they have some stringent install requirements that most installer will cost me more than the rebates.. any comments? Is it worth it?

I know this is a lot of questions , and I do appreciate any replies from you professionals Id rather be armed with information than to walk through these decisions blind.

If you would like email me replies to davidi@yahoo.com if you have a number that I can call you at let me know, Ill call on my nickel..

Again, thanks. Dave Kirkey