Hot topic: Making sure HVAC keeps its cool
One of your home's most important components is its HVAC
(heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system. No matter what type of climate
you live in, the HVAC system in your home will greatly impact your quality of
life. Happily hanging out in sunny Florida? Try making it though a steamy summer
day with the central air on the fritz. Likewise, a New Englander would have a
tough time making it through a January night without a good furnace.
HVAC systems often aren't up to snuff. Frequently, they are asked to perform way
beyond their capabilities. This is especially true in homes with additions. Most
homes - especially older ones - were built with HVAC systems designed to adequately
service the home's existing size, and that's it. If you have expanded your home,
most likely you will also need to expand or upgrade your HVAC system.
if your system seems to be doing okay, you might still want to consider upgrading
to a more efficient system. In the past few years, furnaces and air conditioners
have made great strides when it comes to energy efficiency. Even if your unit
is only 10 or 15 years old, you may see considerable energy savings by replacing
it with a more efficient unit.
Depending on your situation,
you may be able to simply add a supplemental heating/cooling source. For example,
perhaps the spare room you added would be adequately heated by a small coal stove
or even a space heater. However, for large additions, you will likely need to
replace and upgrade your main HVAC system.
up on BTUs
When it comes to heating and cooling, everything revolves
around BTUs. BTUs (or British Thermal Units) determine a system's heating or cooling
"Your HVAC contractor needs to do a heat loss
calculation in order to determine your needs. They will estimate the heat loss
and determine if you have enough existing BTUs," says Tom Kraeutler, co-host
of "The Money Pit," a nationally syndicated radio show dealing with
home repair and improvement topics.
Figuring out how many BTUs
you need is not a simple math problem. You must take many factors into account,
|Factors to consider |
size of your home/room.|
height of the ceilings.|
number and location of windows.|
number and type of major appliances regularly in use.|
Be leery of any contractor who "guesstimates"
your BTU requirements too quickly, such as simply going by the square footage
of your home. Many utility companies provide a service in which they will calculate
BTU requirements for customers at little or no charge. Also, many BTU calculators
are available online to help you determine your home's heat loss -- and your corresponding