Every day, contractors are hard at work installing HVAC systems that are designed to keep their customers comfortable during the most extreme temperatures of the year. These systems range from minimum-efficiency units for budget-minded homeowners to expensive, high-end heating and cooling equipment designed to provide ultimate comfort, energy efficiency, and IAQ.
Having designed so many systems for others, it’s natural to wonder what kind of HVAC equipment contractors would install in their own homes if money were no object. Their answers just might surprise you.
The dream home for Ken Misiewicz, CEO of Pleune Service Co. in Grand Rapids, Michigan, would be a 2,500-square-foot log house built on the Keweenaw Peninsula in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. All the mechanical equipment would be installed in the ranch-style home’s walk-out basement, which would have full access for service and maintenance.
To keep his house perfectly comfortable, Misiewicz would install a Rheem Prestige Series furnace and air conditioner with an EcoNet controller. “The controller integrates the modulating furnace and air conditioner with the Rheem heat pump water heater and also provides Wi-Fi access. I would also install a Triangle Tube Prestige boiler to provide in-floor radiant heat on the main floor, only so there’s no wasted heat in the basement.”
Quality and dependability are the main reasons why Misiewicz would choose this $18,000 system, followed closely by comfort, efficiency, and ease of use. To make sure the system operated at peak performance, he would seal the ductwork throughout the house and insulate the ductwork in the basement as well as ensure tight construction and quality windows and doors.
Rich Morgan, president of Magic Touch Mechanical in Mesa, Arizona, is a fan of Tudor-style homes with their steep roofs and multiple gables as well as contemporary homes that make use of natural light and sustainable materials and offer a smooth flow from indoor to outdoor spaces. Given that his dream home would be located in the Big Sur area of Northern California, he figures a contemporary-style home would make the most sense.
“My dream home would not be a McMansion. I just need it to be big enough for guests to stay a few days but small enough for them to want to leave after that,” said Morgan. “A four-bedroom home around 2,000-2,500 square feet would be more than enough to keep me happy, and I don’t want to clean anything bigger than that.”
Morgan believes a contemporary home in Big Sur is the perfect candidate for a Mitsubishi multi-zone ductless heat pump. “I would utilize recessed ceiling cassette air handlers and design an outdoor open-air style mechanical room to house and hide my outdoor equipment. In my experience, this type of system is hard to beat in terms of low noise, precise comfort, and energy efficiency. I would also install a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) for the times I wanted to keep the home buttoned up tight and not take advantage of the ocean breezes.”
To ensure peak performance, Morgan would meet with the architect during the design phase of the home and explain the type of HVAC system he envisioned.
“When most architects design the home, the mechanical systems are an afterthought. They’re stuffed in wherever they fit. I would start by showing the architect what my mechanical system would look like and make sure it was incorporated seamlessly into the design of the home,” he said. “And, since my niche in the HVAC industry has long been the whole-home approach, my home would be properly insulated, sealed, oriented, etc.”
Morgan estimates that his dream system would cost about $35,000, which is most likely less than one year of property taxes for a home in Big Sur. “But, I can’t think of a more beautiful setting to wake up to every day.”
Mike Atchley, owner of Atchley Air Conditioning and Heating in Fort Smith, Arkansas, said his dream home would be a 4,000- to 5,000-square-foot French-country-style house located no more than 20 minutes from his company headquarters. “I would want everything to be on the first floor, other than a couple of bedrooms upstairs for kids or guests. I think four bedrooms would be great, along with a separate office, a large dining room, a large utility room, and a craft room for my wife and kids.”
Atchley acknowledged his dream HVAC system has changed over the years and will likely change in the future as technology evolves. But, for now, he would choose geothermal heat pumps along with a high-efficiency gas boiler, which would provide in-floor radiant heat. “I love geothermal heat pumps with inverter compressors for the unmatched comfort they provide through multiple stages of heating and cooling with zone controls. And nothing offers better comfort than radiant floors.”
IAQ accessories rank highly on Atchley’s must-have list, including high-efficiency filters that would last at least six months. “I want something I can change in five minutes, twice a year. If I had to pick something today, it would probably be the Carrier Infinity air purifier. I would also install a high-output UVC light in the return plenum to prevent any mold-like growth from taking up residence in my geo unit. In addition, I would install a Nortec steam humidifier to keep the wood trim from shrinking and the door knobs from shocking in the winter.”
As an Aeroseal dealer, Atchley would seal the duct system and insulate the walls and attic with spray foam. He estimates his dream system would cost upwards of $100,000, but, at that price, “I’m not sure we would be able to afford that craft room after all.”
Also a fan of geothermal heating and cooling is Scott Savidge, technical leadership team member with Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning in Rochester, New York, who insisted he would incorporate earth-loop technology into his dream home. “My house would be a 2,500-square-foot ranch with a full basement that would be located high up on a hill, so I could look down on the countryside below. It would have a built-up second floor of approximately 900 square feet that would have wall-to-wall windows so I could enjoy the views. Vaulted ceilings throughout would present an openness to the home.”
In addition to geothermal technology, the home would have radiant heating throughout, which Savidge noted is among the most comfortable and efficient system available, if designed properly. “Each room or area would be zone-controlled for added efficiency and comfort. The cooling system would be a fully ducted system utilizing perimeter cooling supplies to saturate the home and minimize velocity noise. For humidity management, I would incorporate ducted dehumidification units that can maintain humidity and comfort levels in the shoulder seasons without the need for cooling.”
IAQ accessories would also figure prominently in Savidge’s home, as he would incorporate photo hydro ionization (PHI) cell units into the ductwork to kill viruses, bacteria, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In addition, he would utilize high-MERV media filters with multiple filters on each system to achieve the best filtration possible. With a spray-foamed exterior and tight construction, Savidge would also install an HRV to provide efficient air exchange for the home.
With a vast array of PV solar panels that would meet all the electricity needs of the home, Savidge estimates the cost of his entire mechanical system would be in the neighborhood of $250,000. “I don’t really dream of a vast home; instead, I would prefer a more modest home that incorporates higher technology and still retains a simplistic character.”
Savidge’s colleague, Steve Carpenter, also of the technical leadership team at Isaac Heating & Air Conditioning, would also choose a geothermal system for his dream home. “My house would be a 2,200-square-foot ranch-style home on 35 acres of wooded land with a pond. The house would feature an open floor plan with four bedrooms and two full baths as well as a full 10-course basement.”
Along with the zoned, forced-air geothermal system, which would include a desuperheater loop to the water storage tank, Carpenter would install a tankless water heater; an HRV; a ducted whole-house dehumidifier; UV lights in the supply and return ductwork; an electronic air cleaner; a home automation system that could control lights, heating/cooling, and window blinds; and a solar PV system to offset electrical use. He estimates the total cost of the mechanicals to be around $125,000.
The exterior walls of Carpenter’s home would feature 2-by-6-inch construction and would be insulated with two-part closed-cell spray foam. “Every penetration from the basement to the attic would be air sealed, and the attic would have a maximum R-value of cellulose insulation in it. All the lights would be LEDs, and the ductwork would be sealed to achieve minimum cfm loss.”
As can be seen, the definition of a dream HVAC system can vary greatly from one HVAC pro to the next. What doesn’t change is each individual’s desire to build the house correctly and ensure the systems are properly installed. If those two requirements are not met, a house can quickly turn from a dream home to a nightmare.
What would your dream HVAC system include? Send your thoughts to email@example.com.
Publication date: 6/20/2016