Home Science Series Part 2 : HVAC

You would be hard pressed to find the HVAC system New Era Homes employs in any home under $1M.

Once we develop the shell of the home, we install a lifetime HVAC ducting system using a rigid piping system. The most common practice is for builders to use a flex duct system (think Slinky). Unfortunately, the flex duct delivery system is so poor that the Department of Energy states that it accounts for 30-40% of air loss in a home. This means that you can have the highest performing, most energy efficient furnace in the world, but if you have a flex duct system, you’re still throwing money significant away. It is similar to your heart – you can have an awesome, strong heart but if the veins and arteries are lousy the heart needs to work harder and eventually leads to serious health issues. The same principle applies to HVAC systems.

There are two main reasons why the rigid piping system HVAC system is rare to find in houses under $1M. One, subs experienced with this system are hard to find because it is used so infrequently in home building. It is challenging to install and costs the builder considerably more but the payoff to the home buyer is significant. We are all taught that time is money. To build a rigid piping system requires 3x the time investment of all flex systems and the piping material is over 4x as expensive. Buying a new home with a minimally designed HVAC system results in a lower up front cost–but that savings is erased after the first service call to remove and replace damaged or compromised flex duct.

The rigid piping system that New Era Homes employs has only 10 feet of flex tails at the very end and is built like a plumbing system. There are no 90º corners which become dead spots for air. The rigid metal piping also allows us to mastic seal and insulate with R/12 insulation; code is only R/8. And finally, we can duct test it. We will not close up the duct system until we know we have less than 5% air leakage. A typical flex duct system can account for 30–40% air leakage. This means your money is flowing out of the ducting and not into your home!

To take it a step further, we install multiple return airs in each home so that air moves continuously when the unit is on. This process delivers a consistent degree of comfort from one end of the house to the other.

A perfect heart with lousy arteries is obviously not a healthy circulatory system. You have to take care of your arteries and your heart to properly deliver blood flow to the body. Similarly, you need to have both a great furnace and great ducts! Check out House Science Part 1 to learn what you should be asking a potential homebuilder about walls and insulation.