If you want your new home to be comfortable, you need to consider its ‘comfort’ upfront. Heating and cooling troubles continue to top the list of complaints from new home purchasers across the country. That’s the joint message from Canadians for Properly Built Homes (CPBH) and the Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Institute of Canada (HRAI).
“The issue is you don’t really know what your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system in your home is going to be like until you see some extreme weather, when it becomes hot or it becomes cold,” says HRAI president Warren Heeley. “We’re trying to get consumers to realize you want to do as much as you can in advance so that when the initial system is set up, it’s going to give you as much comfort as possible.”
New home buyers will spend thousands on upgrades like stonework, wrought iron balusters, under mount sinks, chrome fixtures or built-in surround sound systems. Yet they fail to consider the possibility of upgrading your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. In fact, most assume it will perform well simply because it’s new. “The message we’re trying to get across is that comfort – which is what you want to have in your home – is also an important thing to have on your list,” says Heeley.
“The building code sets minimum standards to ensure safety, yet there’s nothing requiring a minimum level of comfort,” he adds. It’s only after they move in, when one part of the house is always colder than another, rooms are stuffy or family members start to complain of health issues related to poor air quality that homeowners start to question the design, installation and commissioning of the HVAC system.
To raise consumer awareness about the problems associated with poorly performing HVAC systems, HRAI and CPBH issued a joint statement and are recommending home buyers follow these preventative steps:
- Include a clause in your purchase agreement indicating that you want the right to have the HVAC system inspected by your own independent expert before the drywall is up, and that you can get out of the deal if you aren’t satisfied with the report.
- Ask your builder about available HVAC upgrades, including the options of a higher efficiency fan motor, sealing the air ducts, or adding an air cleaner or humidifier.
- Ask your builder to conduct an air balancing test to determine whether air flow is adequate.
- Before taking legal possession of your home, ask for copies of the municipal building inspector report, heat loss/gain calculation and confirmation that the air ducts have been sealed, and then have an independent expert review the content.
The recommendations are aimed at new home purchases, but Heeley says the message about comfort applies to replacing aging HVAC systems as well.
“What we’re suggesting is good practice right across the retrofit and the new home,” he says. “Typically, people are thinking they want their furnace replaced. They’re not thinking what size, what efficiency, how is it going to work with the air distribution in there currently. All of those provisions apply at any time, whether it’s new construction or an existing system.”
By Dianne Daniel